A few days before her new album is set to come out, REZZ is on the phone, enthusiastically expounding on the game-changing wonders of boundary setting.
“I’m a lot more clear about knowing I can’t be around [certain] types of energy,” she says. “I can’t do this many shows. I can’t do this much work. I know the lines now.”
The Canadian producer born Isabelle Rezazadeh is recapping what she’s been up to since the pandemic shut down touring and postponed the release of her fourth LP Spiral, which finally dropped this past Friday (November 19) via RCA Records. With much of the music on Spiral made before the pandemic, the album features the same deliciously ominous, often alien-sounding bass music that made her a breakout star circa 2016, when Rezazadeh was barely into her 20s. But with more time to work on the LP during lockdown, Spiral evolved as much as its creator, with the addition of several more vocal forward songs, including a collaboration with the Canadian rock act Metric and another, “Taste Of You” with former Disney star Dove Cameron.
“It’s like, super left field for me,” Rezazadeh says of this Cameron collab. “That was the most considerably pop record that I’ve ever been a part of. But doing it was a challenge.” Released in June, the video for “Taste Of You” included a kiss between Cameron and Rezazadeh, who when sharing the video tweeted, “I’ve come out of my shell a lot in the past couple years & became extremely comfortable with who I am & I’m very thrilled to have released it during pride month.”
“I’m nothing new here,” Rezazadeh says of publicly acknowledging that she’s gay for the first time via this video. “Tons of people have normalized it, which is so f–king awesome. I’m not sitting here like, ‘I’m trying to be this inspiration.’ I’m not going to do that either. I’m just simply showing where I’m at. I’m at this point where I’m very comfortable with myself, and I see no reason to keep it a secret.”
Now 26, Rezazadeh says having so much time off to focus on herself have made 2021 “absolutely the best year of my entire life.” Beyond the self actualization, she’s clocked wins including her massively heavy Spiral track “Chemical Bond” (a collab with the producer Deathpact) featuring in the latest ad for Macbook Pro. (Rezazadeh is managed by Adam Gill at 2+2 Management.) This February, she gets back on the road for a 17-date North American tour that extends into May.
This time around, she knows exactly where the lines are. Below, she talks with Billboard about the upcoming trek, and where she’s currently at personally and professionally.
How have you evolved since your last album, A Certain Kind Of Magic, was released in 2018?
So much has changed for me since the last album. Musically, I have definitely learned so much about production, broadening my horizons, working more with vocals and making songs that are not necessarily just the mid-tempo kind of bass music that my fans originally loved me for. I still do make that stuff and and always will, but I really enjoy testing my boundaries — challenging myself and collaborating with a bunch of different artists who are singers, songwriters, people who’ve been in bands. It’s been really cool to do that.
This specific album, it’s definitely a lot more broad, to the point where I’m sure some fans are going to be like, “I miss the old REZZ.” But I made sure to sprinkle in a lot of original kind of sounding REZZ songs as well. It’s like, half the vocal songs that are me testing myself and then the rest of are very much comfortable and familiar to my original audience.
Do you think you’ve also changed on a personal level?
I’ve grown in so many ways. I feel like the older I get — and I’m aware I’m like, still super young — but I feel like there’s such a gigantic learning curve that happens from ages 23 to 26. It’s insane to think about how different of a person I am now. My confidence is higher; not in an egotistical way, rather it’s inner confidence in a multitude of ways, like in my relationships. I’m very aware of what I want or don’t want in life and in my career.
Before, I was more easily swayed by things like managers’ opinions, or someone else’s opinion. And now I’m just like, “Oh no, I know for sure what I want, what I can handle, what I can’t handle.” Everything is just very clear to me now. And I never compromise that, even if it’s a crazy offer for a show. To me it doesn’t matter what I’m being offered. No amount is worth my sanity and my well-being. I learned that through compromising that for a while, basically.
Was there like a particular moment where you realized, “Okay, these are my boundaries?” Or was it more a realization over time?
It was a realization over time — but I definitely realized in 2020. I think every single person experienced their own set of obstacles in 2020, because of the pandemic. The pandemic itself did not actually affect me that much — I’m very fortunate in the way. Yeah, my job got affected by it, but I’m very fortunate in that I don’t necessarily have to tour all the time… I got really lucky there.
But it affected me in so many other ways, because I had so much more time to focus on relationships in my life. With my brain not focused any longer on touring, I could focus on other things, and so I grew so much in that way. The way that it slowed down made me realize that, even though 2020 was easily one of the worst years of my life — and it probably was for most people in their own ways — I feel like it taught me so much.
Why was it one of the worst years of your life?
As much I would love to dive deep into all the things that were happening, I think it would just be too personal. Sometimes in life you encounter certain people, and they either give you energy, or they take it away from you. My energy, everything was drained. I was a shell of myself. That’s what happens when you meet the wrong people.
I think it’s a lot more obvious than people think, whether things are right or wrong for you. It’s like, “How are you feeling? How do you mentally feel when you wake up in the morning. Do you feel excited for your day? Do you feel like physically well? Do you have an appetite? Do you have energy, or are you waking up and you’re kind of dreading your interactions?”
How were you feeling in that time?
My body was like, literally deteriorating at one point, because I was so stressed and anxious because things felt so wrong. By the way, I’m generally such a happy person. I’m generally so on top of my emotions and aware of things that are good and bad. But I think it’s really normal to sometimes lose yourself. That’s what happened to me for sure during the pandemic, at least during the first portion of it. 2020 was the worst year of my entire life, no questions asked. 2021, however, has been absolutely the best year of my entire life… There’s so much growth. I just feel I’m the best version of myself that I’ve ever been.
How has this shift informed your music?
This album was supposed to come out last year. A lot of the songs from the album were made, like a year ago, but obviously because of like the state of the world, we wouldn’t have been able to tour it properly. So everything was postponed. So a lot of these songs I consider part of the 2020 era when I was, like, going through hell. But there’s been more songs added to the album since then.
In terms of your evolution, when the video for “Taste Of You” was released, you talked about dropping it during pride month and how you’ve become “extremely comfortable” with who you are. When did this element of your life become something you felt compelled to speak about publicly?
I feel like I’ve known subtly that I was gay my whole life, but I didn’t fully fully realize, like, “Oh yes, I’m like, one thousand percent for sure gay” until I was 19 or 20. I had this awkward stage from 20 into when I was 23. I wasn’t intentionally keeping it a secret, I just didn’t want my sexuality to necessarily be tied in with my work in any way. I didn’t really feel it was necessary to speak about.
But it got to the point, as I’ve gotten older and just become so comfortable with myself — what I see like in the mirror and who I am — it’s just like, “Yes, this makes sense.” Everything about the way I dress, my hair, I have this androgynous look. It’s just so obvious, and I’m like, “I can’t just keep this hidden.”
Was it something your fans questioned you about?
People would comment on my livestreams and ask if I was gay. It just got to the point where it was obvious. People know that I’ve dated girls and have been in relationships in the past. I keep everything so private now; no one knows anything about who I’m with or what I’m doing, which feels great. But before I did, so it just became obvious. So I just kind of owned it like, “This is definitely who I am. I’m like, gay gay. So you guys are going to see it, but you’re going to see it in this video.”
I love being gay. I would never want that to change. I just love girls. They’re just lovely, and I want people to know that and be cool. I think it’s just cool to have people be super comfortable in their sexuality.
I’m curious about how you take what you’ve learned about personal boundaries and apply it to going back on the road, where I imagine the pace gets a bit hectic and potentially draining.
Trust me, I’ve been somewhat worried about that. But I was looking at my tour schedule and this is actually, technically speaking, my biggest tour, which is crazy because I’ve been aiming on slowing down as opposed to speeding up. But this tour is 17 shows. Other artists will hear me say that and say, “That’s it, you only have 17 tour dates?” People think that’s nothing. It’s true that other artists go out and do 40 or 50 dates and go worldwide. But like I said earlier in this chat, that’s not for me. 17 days is a lot for me.
It’s still early to even think too much about it, because it’s November and the tour doesn’t start until February. But in November and December I’m going to work on the set and probably finish it as soon as possible just to get it out of the way and not feel stressed about it.
Then aside from that, it’s just going to be trying to keep all of those boxes checked: eating as well as I can, sleeping as well as I can, drinking a lot of water and not drinking alcohol. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with drinking one or two beers. I’m talking, like, if I’m surpassing three or four beers, that’s a problem for me — because even though it’s technically not that much alcohol, the next day I still feel that. So once again, it’s being aware. I just know that doing stuff like that would completely tear me down. I wouldn’t last for a week.
It sounds like the music on Spiral was made during both challenging and really happy moments in your life. How did that affect your output?
My mood doesn’t really inspire my music. I think that’s more relative to songwriters and singers, because if you’re a singer/songwriter and you’re going through something, you’re writing words. Whereas me, I’m creating instrumentals. It doesn’t matter if I’m the happiest or the saddest I’ve ever been, my music no matter what is going to be tending more to an ominous dark side. That’s the way I like it to sound.