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How Lady Gaga’s ARTPOP Birthed Singer-Songwriter Isaac Dunbar

How Lady Gaga’s ARTPOP Birthed Singer-Songwriter Isaac Dunbar

Isaac Dunbad Interview Austin City Limits
Cat Cardenas, ACL

He began producing at 9-years-old because of this Gaga track.

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There’s something rebellious, yet nostalgic, about Isaac Dunbar.

At 20 years old, the singer-songwriter unabashedly sings about fleeting romances, boy drama, and bleaching his hair to piss off his parents. His infectious energy lives somewhere between Freddie Mercury and Al Green, and his voice combines both of those with some Gaga flair thrown in for the fun. Decked out in bell-bottom jeans, a tank top, and a fro, PRIDE caught up with Dunbar just before his Austin City Limits music festival set. He’s giddy with excitement, and we have a quick chat about his inspirations, representation, and the beauty in sharing who you are with the world.

Your music comes from this very raw and vulnerable place. Is that scary to share with the world?

It’s terrifying but I live for it at the same time. One of my biggest strengths has always been my vulnerability, sharing my stories, my experiences. I feel like the coolest shit is the realest shit — and people can connect to that. I think it’s important, especially since a lot of my favorite artists are so vulnerable. I see the impact that they leave and I want to be able to do the same thing.

Who are your favorite artists?

Lady Gaga, I say in every interview. She’s always been my biggest since I was 9. I love Gaga. Currently, I’ve been listening to a lot of Bjork. I love Bowie. I love a lot of '70s. I love so many things.

You learned to produce from a very young age. Was there a certain moment or song or artist that pushed you to go to your computer and figure it out?

It goes back to Gaga once again. In 2012, she announced ARTPOP and she announced some of the producers she was working with. I remember seeing Madddetio, he produces electronic music. I dived deep into his music from that Gaga tweet and I became obsessed. I downloaded the program he uses in the studio illegally in a Barnes & Noble and I taught myself how to produce music. I would reproduce songs from ARTPOP, I learned synthesis and all that stuff at like 8 or 9.

What’s your favorite ARTPOP song?

“Venus”. It’s always been “Venus”.

You’re very open about your identity and sexuality in your music. Why was it important to you to be out?

It always made me so terrified. But I realized that if I’m going to be in the public eye, people are going to be able to see through me. I was lucky enough to be in a place where I was safe to come out. A lot of people don’t have the ability to come out because of their home life or other external circumstances. I figured since I’m able to be in this position, I want to make the most of it and be a voice for people who maybe feel like they don’t have a voice right now. Young gays. I really want to be able to normalize being gay in a mainstream space. It’s really important that there’s so much more representation that’s going on.

As a regular ACL attendee, this is my first time seeing gay performers like you and Lil Nas X and Omar Apollo on these stages. Y’all are really breaking down barriers. What does that feel like?

It’s really cool to think about. My experience personally being gay and black has been quite interesting. A lot of highs and lows, of course. It feels really cool and terrifying. I feel like that’s the best way to describe it. I really just want to make sure I make the right moves. I want to make people proud. I want to represent people well and be a voice.

What song are you most excited to perform on stage today?

I love the opening song, “Bleach”.

Isaac Dunbar - Bleach (Official Video)www.youtube.com

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Taylor Henderson

Taylor Henderson is a PRIDE.com contributor. This proud Texas Bama studied Media Production/Studies and Sociology at The University of Texas at Austin, where he developed his passions for pop culture, writing, and videography. He's absolutely obsessed with Beyoncé, mangoes, and cheesy YA novels that allow him to vicariously experience the teen years he spent in the closet. He's also writing one! 

Taylor Henderson is a PRIDE.com contributor. This proud Texas Bama studied Media Production/Studies and Sociology at The University of Texas at Austin, where he developed his passions for pop culture, writing, and videography. He's absolutely obsessed with Beyoncé, mangoes, and cheesy YA novels that allow him to vicariously experience the teen years he spent in the closet. He's also writing one!