During the first two weeks of lockdown, Jake Isaac picked up his guitar and went to work. The British singer-songwriter immediately started writing what would become his upcoming album, Honesty. Amid a worldwide pandemic and protests, something shifted for Isaac from the moment he wrote the first track “Good,” opening the floodgates into a introspective and reflective look at life, love, and equality… in the most honest way possible.
“After I wrote ‘Good,’ I thought I should probably keep going, so it felt really good to write, because it came easily,” says Isaac. “Then there was this weird beauty in the fact that I don’t know when I’m ever going to be able to play these songs live for anyone, so I’m just going to enjoy this moment.”
Following up 2017’s Our Lives, and his sixth EP Things I’ll Tell You Tomorrow (2019), Isaac takes a different turn on Honesty, tapping into his more soulful roots.
“After I wrote the songs, I deliberated on whether to release them because they were leaning on more soul vibes,” shares Isaac. “With all of the racial injustice that was surfacing globally, I suddenly thought that if I neglect my more soulful roots as a singer-songwriter I’d be doing myself an injustice, especially in this climate. I’m learning. We’re all learning to grow and be comfortable in our own skin, so authenticity was starting to ring loudly in my head.”
He adds, “I’ve been fearful that you don’t get a lot of soul, singer-songwriters. It’s still a loose genre. It’s either one or the other. I was battling between being authentic and wanting to be accepted in a genre which is still loosely defined. I went down that rabbit hole, and I’m glad I’ve committed.”
On “Good,” Issac unravels a side of the male psyche rarely uncovered, one dissecting the internal insecurities around relationships and love that men are often reluctant to admit.
“Honestly, in any relationship that I’ve been in, I’ve always felt like I just don’t qualify,” says Isaac. “It’s one of those just insecurities. There’s always something way in the back of my head, deep down in my heart that says ‘dude, you don’t deserve to be loved’ which, among my guy mates, is something we don’t really talk about. It’s just the whole idea of ‘I’m rubbish on my own, and I’m only cool when I’m with you, and I hope I don’t mess it up.’”
“Good” also taps into inability some men have to emotionally articulate themselves. “We’re rubbish at it,” he says. “I try and articulate what I mean outside of the conflict or outside of a situation, but sometimes guys just hold things in, keep quiet, and hope it blows over.”
From this perspective, the honesty of these emotions is an overriding theme on “Good” with Isaac crooning If you knew me then you’d know I loved you… If I lose you I’d be lost / I’d be hopeless with UK artist Tertia May sharing the lyrical load of the conversation. May is one of several artists who Isaac tapped for Honesty, which also features India Arie on “Gold” and Wildwood Kin (“Wake Up”), among others.
“In between writing, different people crossed my mind per song, and sonically it just felt right,” says Isaac of Honesty‘s collaborators. “Her [May] voice contributes to the conversation, and it’s the same with India, and Sam Henshaw, who is on one of the songs on the album, and offers another male perspective in that song. I wanted to bring in voices that contribute to the dialogue in each song.”
Entering a “new era of creativity,” Isaac credits his recent single “New York” as a turning point into his more soul-fused songwriting. Isaac recently performed the song from London’s RAK Studio on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”
“From that song, I was starting to lean into a little bit more of an honest feel in my songwriting, so it was only fitting to use the word honesty on the second album,” says Isaac. “I also started leaning into a more simplistic soul element, which I’ve been neglecting.”
Prior to releasing Honesty in 2021, Isaac is producing his first short film, which he says follows the dialogue between a couple. “It’s just different things I’m working on to elaborate on this honest conversation,” he says.
“There’s a progression,” says Isaac. “It’s a journey. I’m here now and, and I don’t feel like I’m trying to figure out who I am as a songwriting. I feel like I’m just being, whoever comes out and being holistic with that, and it feels great.”