Coming of age: Northampton’s Izzy Heltai to release debut album Friday

  • The album cover of “Father,” the debut record of Northampton-based folk/Americana singer-songwriter Izzy Heltai.  Photo by Joanna Chattman

  • Folk singer-songwriter Izzy Heltai will release his debut album, “Father,” on Oct. 9.  Photo by Joanna Chattman

Staff Writer
Published: 10/6/2020 4:38:32 PM

Folk and alternate country singer-songwriter Izzy Heltai, 24, has built up his own identity during the past decade as a transgender man since he came out as trans at 14 or 15 years old. His first full length album, “Father,” out this Friday, is focused on universal themes about building an identity.

Heltai said the title track, “Father,” is about a conversation he had with his father that made him realize that his parents are people with their own “roots and flaws.”

“Something unintentional about that was just me being trans,” said the Northampton-based musician. “Having a gendered title — a father is something I never thought I’d get to be. In a record that’s all about identity building, it kind of just fits in a little seamlessly.”

Transitioning in his teenage years gave Heltai some perspective when it came to his own identity and the tools to delve deeper with introspection that has become a part of his songwriting, he said.

“When how you live in the world is how you’re expected to feel comfortable, you’re often never asked to assess actually how you want to be,” he added. “My experience being trans, I’ve lived in a world that’s forced me to know exactly who I need to be to feel good in the world. I really love my experience and that this got to be a part of my life.”

Heltai said the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic didn’t impact recording the album. He finished the recording process in January and February, having started in September 2019.

“The plan was to have this done well before the release,” he said. “The intention was always to have it for fall 2020. So, thankfully that didn’t get impacted.”

Heltai has been gigging regularly throughout the region and country for the past four years. But for Heltai, the moment is “bittersweet” due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that has limited his ability to play live shows.

“My career is very much still in audience-building mode,” he said. “I’m still trying to get out there as an artist. The summer time is a huge audience-building tool with live shows. That’s what I was doing. I was just always playing because I was trying to build an audience. Releasing my first record without doing what I’ve usually done to garner that audience and ears on my music, it’s been different. But we’re all adjusting.”

The album features full band arrangements with instruments such as twangy pedal steel guitar, cello and piano on songs that Heltai normally performs live with just guitar and voice, or with a five-piece live band featuring guitar, bass, vocal harmonies and drums.

“We got to pull in the help of a lot of cool local musicians in adding flavor,” he explained.

There are songs on the record that are more introspective and focus on how he processes the world, while others such as the upbeat “Songbird” are more tongue-and-cheek that he described as “if The Shins went country.”

“Father” was recorded by Andy Cass of Sleeper Cave Records in Williamsburg. But now that Heltai’s learned how to self-record his own projects during quarantine, his next record will provide him “more agency” in how he wants to plan and shape his second album, he said.

“Songwriting gets me so excited, but what has been exciting to me and is new to me is the craft of album making itself,” Heltai. “That’s a whole different beast in crafting an experience in that way.

To listen or purchase “Father” by Izzy Heltai visit izzyheltai.bandcamp.com.

Chris Goudreau can be reached at cgoudreau@gazettenet.com.


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