Izzy Malik: Pop with Heart

Izzy MalikThe 2014 High School Nation (HSN) Tour heads to Sacramento this Friday, September 19. Over the past decade, the music tour has given up-and-coming artists the chance to perform at local middle schools and high schools, as well as providing students free entertainment at a time when school art and music program funding is at an all-time low.

We got the chance to chat with HSN artist and Northern California pop songstress Izzy Malik about her new self-titled EP, her admiration for activist Malala Yousafzai, and why we should all dream big.

1. How would you describe your new self-titled EP to our readers?
I’d say my EP is very dance-in-your-room pop with a lot of rock, country, reggae, and hip-hop influence. I took inspiration from artists of many genres and didn’t want to limit the sound, so you can get a little bit of everything in there, as I enjoy all sorts of music and wanted that to be conveyed to my listeners.

2. Your song, “Malala,” is about Pakistani women’s rights and education activist, Malala Yousufzai – definitely not your typical pop song fodder.  Why did you choose to focus on her for your first single?
When I heard Malala’s story on the news, I’d just come home from school as a senior in high school. I found it so totally nuts that someone would have to go through so much to get an education and wanted to bring awareness to the plight of girls who fight for their basic right to an education. The fact that she’s from Pakistan also had a huge impact on me. I still have most of my family there and a house in my childhood neighborhood was bombed. It’s crazy how hard life is there and I thought the more awareness I could bring to this grave injustice, the higher the chance that things could change. Also, I think it’s kind of nice for school-going kids to realize how lucky we are and how one should never take their education for granted. This is the plight of countless Muslim girls in developing countries, and Malala is a shining example and a very strong voice for this cause and I wanted to honor her and show her my support, which she will always have.

3. You often tell your fans to “DREAM BIG.” Is this motto of yours inspired by her life story?

Definitely. When I say “DREAM BIG”, Malala is one of the people I have in mind. When I say that, I’m encouraging the fans to reach for the stars and never let adversity hinder their ambition and drive to achieve their goals and not to let a single individual or organization tell you you’re not good enough or it’s impossible. Anything is possible; it just depends on how hard you are willing to work and how much you believe in your dreams. That’s the deciding factor; it’s in nobody’s hands but your own. You decide your fate and you make your own destiny. Just be persistent and work hard all day, everyday.

4. You grew up in Merced, which isn’t too far from Sacramento. Have you ever visited the Capital City? Any interesting stories from your time here?
I actually went to a Big Time Rush concert here in Sacramento when I was sixteen! It was so cool because I got to meet them and gave them a CD of my music. It was when I was first starting to get into actually recording and they were so sweet and supportive. I had an amazing time and got to see some of the city before and after the concert, which was super cool! I always found their music fun and uplifting, and they also led me to one of my other favorite bands, One Direction! The second single off my EP, “Just Another Boy” is actually dedicated to/inspired by Harry Styles. Basically, that trip to Sac was pretty life-changing.

5. How are you juggling the college grind and pop stardom? (Are you living a double life like Hanna Montana?)

It’s pretty hard managing my time between school and my music, but I think I’m making it work! I’ll be doing online courses from Berkeley and UCLA this semester since I’m touring. My family and friends are super supportive of my career, so I’m really lucky with that!

6. You’ll soon be performing at middle and high schools across the country for the 2014 High School Nation Tour. What advice do you have for tweens and teens interested in entering the music business?
My advice is to keep working at it no matter what. You’re going to get a hundred “no”s before you get one “yes”, and that’s okay, because when people find out how awesome you are, it’ll totally be worth it. You just have to keep working on making yourself better and have a positive attitude. That way, you’ll be able to accomplish anything.

Izzy will share the stage with Drake Bell, Dakota Bradley, Jacob Latimore and others this Friday, September 19 at one lucky Sacramento school (sorry, we can’t reveal the location — it’s a surprise!) For more information about the High School Nation Tour, click here.

Follow Izzy’s journey to pop stardom by visiting her website and connecting with her on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Tumblr and Instagram.

***This blog post was written by Sacramento365.com’s Content & Social Media Coordinator, Jamila B. Khan.


Sac365 Top 10: Sneak Peek for the Week of June 9, 2014

Sacramento_PrideSacramento Pride
A few highlights
Art Mix: Pride
Crocker Art Museum, Thurs 5pm-9pm
Pride Festival
Capitol Mall Greens, Sat 11am-5pm

Old City Cemetery Tourunlucky_13_WordPress
The Unlucky 13

Sac Historic City Cemetery
June 13
Fri 6:45pm, 7:30pm & 8:15pm

Hear 13 stories about poor souls being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Father’s Day Weekend
Diesel Days
CA State RR Museum
June 14-15
Sat & Sun 11am-5pm

Take dad out to the museum for special train rides & displays this weekend.

To get the complete Sac365.com Weekly Top 10 Events direct to your inbox every Monday, Sign up here!

“In Cahoots” with lead singer, Christina Cramer

In Cahoots brings their "sweet & sour pop rock" to Marilyn's on K in Sacramento this Sunday, April 28.

In Cahoots brings their “sweet & sour pop rock” to Marilyn’s on K in Sacramento this Sunday, April 28, 2013 at 8pm.

Whether or not you’ve heard of the band In Cahoots before today, soon enough you will be blasting their exquisite tunes in your headphones, car speakers, and at home on your sound system. That is, if you aren’t doing so already.

The band hails from the rainy city of Seattle, Washington and they will be performing in Sacramento at Marilyn’s on K this Sunday evening. I was lucky enough to speak with the band’s lead singer, Christina Cramer, and learn more about her fascinating story of how she came to be the rock artist she is today, how she’s involved in the arts, and how she and her fellow In Cahoots band members build a community on tour.

Alexandra Auger: I read that you have taught vocals and songwriting at Seattle’s School of Rock, how long were you an instructor there? How does teaching others to do something you love affect your view of your craft?
Christina Cramer:
I taught at Rock School for two years. During the summer, they held all day classes. What amazed me was how voracious the kids were about learning instruments. I taught voice, band, and songwriting, and was shocked at how quickly the kids became proficient at both writing and performing music. The key aspect of Rock School is forming bands. Once kids learn an instrument, they form a band and learn how to cooperate with each other.

I have to admit, they taught me a great deal about team work, and collaboration. My band is like a family; we love each other we but do get into petty fights. These kids showed me how to take the high road, and let go of my musical ego. When my band gets into a petty fight, our egos tend to get in the way, and the kids reminded me to be more flexible. When the kids get together to form bands, they are far more flexible because they are just so excited to work together.

Christina Cramer in the studio.

Christina Cramer in the studio.

AA: It should be known that you are a professionally trained music theorist and jazz performance artist. Where did you do your training?
I started singing at the age of 7 in children’s choirs. Gradually, I got more involved in classical music in church, and jazz in Island Sound, a Seattle area musical ensemble. In high school I fell in love with rock ‘n’ roll and started learning guitar. I also studied music theory and jazz at Cornish College of the Arts.

AA: What made you turn to music?
I was in sports and I was terrible. I remember hiding my soccer shoes so that I wouldn’t have to go to practice. Then I got into music and I was good at it. In my middle school choir, I was awarded “Most likely to succeed.” Receiving that award meant a lot to me, and I still remember it to this day.

AA: What was your experience level prior to being trained? Did you teach yourself to sing and play notes or did you decide you wanted to leave that to the professionals?
My singing level prior to training was just singing my heart out in the shower. After being trained, I learned how to breathe correctly and take care of my voice so I could perform for hours at a time. I taught myself how to play guitar in high school. Once I had the basic chords down, I took lessons for about a year to master more technical aspects of guitar. I think that I’m lucky, because I have a broad background in music. After immersing myself in jazz, classical, pop, and theory, I discovered that songwriting was my strength, and I started to carve out a musical path with my own songs.

AA: On the band’s Facebook page, it mentions the song, “Borrowed Time” (listen in the video above) was written by you and it was a finalist in the John Lennon Songwriting Contest—now that is awesome. How was that experience?
Music is so subjective. While I’m proud to have been noticed for the song “Borrowed Time,” I question the notion of songwriting competitions. Writing music is such a personal activity. The idea of judging a person’s intimate thoughts and emotions in a musical form seems impossible.

AA: How did you hear about the competition?
One of my close friends in college, Sean VanDommelen, won the whole contest. He encouraged me to enter into it.

In Cahoots performing live. Photo by Shane Williams.

In Cahoots performing live. Photo by Shane Williams.

AA: As your band is from Seattle, have you ever been to Sacramento before?
This will be In Cahoots first time in Sacramento! We do have several friend bands in Sacramento and understand the city provides a very tight knit music community. One thing we are very much looking forward to is getting out of rainy Seattle. I’m sure unloading gear won’t seem as bad when we’re not being drenched in rain.

AA: What do you enjoy doing when you travel to a new city?
One of our main goals at home and on tour is fostering community. We’re looking forward to getting to know our fans in Sacramento, as well as other bands in the area. The motto of this tour is “turning strangers into friends,” which is what is so exciting about heading down to Sacramento!

AA: How do you reach out to your fans in order to achieve this motto?
We make sure to tell people, “Please come say, ‘Hi.’” We find that people really respond to our friendly vibe. People are really great; they even bring us food. Not all venues that we perform at have food, so  people have been really kind and gone out to pick up food for us. We have also crashed at people’s houses through making friends with them at shows. We’re trying to make a sense of community and it has been really rewarding.

AA: Do you have a pre-show routine to get you charged and ready to perform? Or, are you more of a, “relax and be reflective” pre-show type of person?
The rest of my band is a bunch of easy going guys who just have a beer and a high five before the show. I’m more high maintenance. I get prettied up in the van, do vocal warm ups in the bathroom (and sometimes startle unsuspecting bar patrons), drink pineapple juice, and rewrite the set list a bunch. I’m a nervous wreck before a show, but once I’m onstage, all the tension melts away.

AA: How would you describe the sound of your band? I saw on your site that it notes the band’s influences include the Pixies, Foo Fighters, and Led Zeppelin.
We’ve been told we sound like, “Heart and the Foo Fighters had a baby.” I wouldn’t say they are particular influences on me but that is what some people take away from our sound.

Christina Cramer performing with In Cahoots at SXSW.

Christina Cramer performing with In Cahoots at SXSW.

AA: What is the ultimate goal for the band?
We all have our own individual goals as artists but collectively, we share the same goal. We would all like to quit our day jobs and continue music as our sole profession. For example, our lead guitarist is a dentist and he doesn’t enjoy it. He is a guitar virtuoso so naturally playing music is where his passion lies.

AA: In your opinion, why are the arts, such as music, important? Why do you think people tend to overlook them? For example, people who remove funding for the arts in school before anything else is slashed.
I think the arts are important for kids. It gives them a new way to look at the world. I have also found that music is related to math. I discovered this while studying music theories; I saw the connection between studying music and studying math. Theatre, just like music, is also important for kids who are sometimes not as great at sports. They find a way to express themselves and find fulfillment they otherwise would not have.

AA: The other band performing at Marilyn’s on Sunday night with you, Ghost Tribe Fires, is also from Seattle. Did you know them before this show?
Yes, we met them through our label when we went to SXSW. They are a boyfriend-girlfriend duo and they’re very good. We really bonded with them in Austin at SXSW.


The musicians whose art I worship can break my heart when they treat their fans poorly, but when speaking to Christina Cramer, I knew she’d never do that to her fans. I was immediately put at ease because of her friendly, sweet disposition. I had a fan girl moment when talking to her about her song, “Borrowed Time,” and she didn’t laugh at me. She was as kind and gracious as could be. These are the traits of a truly wonderful artist.

Not only is their music sensational, but they take time to connect with their fans and fellow musicians. In Cahoots is a prime example of what it means to “work hard, be kind, and amazing things will happen,” as famously said by Conan O’Brien. Moreover, you now have the opportunity to be a part of their community. In Cahoots will be performing on Sunday at 8pm at Marilyn’s on K. Tickets cost $5 (that’s right, I said only five dollars!). Get your live music in.