Art Maker: Izzy Heltai, singer-songwriter

  • Northampton singer-songwriter Izzy Heltai, seen here in his apartment, has just released a new EP, “Only Yesterday.” STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Northampton singer-songwriter IzzyHeltai, seen here at his apartment, has just released a new EP, “Only Yesterday.” STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Izzy Heltai says one key inspiration for his songs are the fields, forests and rivers of the Valley, and the New England landscape as a whole. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • IzzyHeltai says one key inspiration for his songs are the fields, forests and rivers of the Valley, and the New England landscape as a whole. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • IzzyHeltai says one key inspiration for his songs are the fields, forests and rivers of the Valley, and the New England landscape as a whole. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Northampton singer-songwriter IzzyHeltai, seen here at his apartment, has just released a new EP, “Only Yesterday.” STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Published: 4/25/2019 4:24:55 PM

Like other artists who have been drawn to the Valley’s pastoral landscapes, Izzy Heltai finds musical inspiration in the hills, forests and fields of the region — and New England landscapes in general. And the young singer-songwriter, who recently moved to Northampton from Boston, has turned that inspiration into success, winning notice at new songwriters’ competitions at places like the Kerville Folk Festival in Texas and the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival in New York state.

Heltai has also played sold-out shows at historic Club Passim in Cambridge, showcasing what one critic calls “a voice that is equal parts gruff, sandpapered scratches, unfiltered and open just enough to let the story out and smooth.” Just keep an eye on him if you’re hosting a meal with any fruit salad: one quirk about him, he says, is that “I am definitely known to eat an absurd amount of fruit in one sitting.”

Hampshire Life: Talk about the work you’re currently doing. What does it involve, and what are you trying to achieve?

Izzy Heltai: This month I’m releasing a four-track EP, “Only Yesterday.” This collection of songs is the culmination of what my sound is becoming and sets a trajectory for where it’s going from here. It is in accurate depiction of where I’m at with my artistry for the moment. I’m transitioning out of a world that is strictly “folk” and carving out the space I want to inhabit with a unique set of songs that add some grit and uniqueness to a genre that can sometimes lend itself to redundant melodies.

HL: What do you draw inspiration from? Do you ever have any “Eureka!” moments?

IH: A huge part of what sparks inspiration for me is the landscape of New England. I grew up in Boston and took the first chance I could to get out of a city. I fell deeply in love with the natural beauty and comfort these mountains and small towns provide.

HL: Name two artists you admire or who have influenced your work. What about their art appeals to you?

IH: Anais Mitchell and Paul Simon. Anais, hailing from Vermont, has always written in vivid depth about landscape, nature, and so many things beyond herself. She is also one of the most incredible performers I’ve ever seen.

Paul Simon’s songs have shaped the way I’ve always listened to music. I’ve been obsessed with Simon and Garfunkel since I can remember. Plainly put, he has not only written consistently some of the best songs ever written, but has also continued to push the boundaries of what songwriting has been and can be.

HL: What’s the most recent exhibition/concert/book reading/other event by another artist or group that you’ve attended and enjoyed?

IH: The Parlor Room in Northampton is one of the best places to catch live music. The last show I went to there was Peter Mulvey with opener John Smith. I adore Peter Mulvey and try to catch him every time he’s in town.

HL: Do you listen to music while you’re working? What kind?

IH: Unfortunately, listening to music while trying to write music simultaneously doesn’t work out so well for me. But some artists I’ve been digging a lot right now include Gregory Alan Isakov, The Dixie Chicks, Henry Jamison and Haley Heynderickx.

HL: What do you do when you’re stuck?

IH: If I’m stuck, I like to keep my mind as productive as possible. Reading anything, from children’s stories to great works of fiction, keeps my mind active … If I’m stimulated by stories in any capacity, I know I am garnering the thought processes and pathways I need to write my next song.

— Steve Pfarrer

Izzy Heltai will play The Parlor Room on Sunday, April 28 at 7 p.m. at a show that also serves as an album release party for alternative string band Mamma’s Marmalade. Heltai’s website is izzyheltai.com.




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