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Isanna breaks down Mango, the track she wrote for Rihanna but couldn't bring herself to give away

Isanna
(Image credit: Alexander Massek)

Isanna was given the opportunity of a lifetime when two of Rihanna’s producers gave her a 24-hour deadline to sketch out a song for the Grammy-winning pop artist to use. 

However, she was so happy with what she produced, she couldn’t bear to give it away. Instead, she decided to finish the tune and transform it into her latest single, Mango. We joined the rising artist as she broke down the track in her home studio.

How would you describe your sound to a new listener?

“I’d say it’s introspective pop with R&B and singer-songwriter influences.”

What artists do you think you could potentially share fans with?

“People who like Joji or Sevdaliza would probably really get my sound and production.”

What has inspired the creative process for your latest release?

“It was actually a really serendipitous moment for me! About two years back, I got a late-night email asking me if I could have a song ready to pitch to Rihanna by the next day. I pretty much just locked myself in my bedroom for the night and wrote and produced my latest release ‘Mango’ in a sort of stream-of-consciousness frenzy. 

“The song came together in a super intuitive way, and I feel like every creative decision I made around it was mainly just based on gut instinct.”

What were some of the inspirations, lyrically or musically, behind Mango? 

“The song was inspired by self-love and learning to leave relationships that feel like a hindrance to personal growth. Historically, I have a track record of overstaying in situations that I know are toxic or will ultimately just hold me back in some way, and I feel like the lyrics were a reminder, to myself as much as to others, that there’s strength in letting someone go for the greater good, and what’s meant to be will be. 

I think people tend to underestimate the power of the Insta DM slide...

“At the time I wrote Mango, I was just wrapping up my first year in London, which has such a varied music scene. I was definitely listening to a lot of dancehall and pop that year, which I think can be heard across the beat.”

Could you tell us more about how you got involved with writing for Rihanna?

I think people tend to underestimate the power of the Insta DM slide... [laughs]’

What led you to end up keeping this track for yourself instead?

“Funnily enough, even though the song was originally intended for someone else, I ended up with something that felt incredibly authentic and true to myself and project, which is why I ended up releasing it.”

What is your favourite musical experience/memory with this project so far?

“I think it’s been the ongoing excitement of truly coming into my own unique sound via my production. The feeling of having signature synths and samples, and also just being able to manifest exactly what I’m hearing in my mind feels so magical and powerful.”

Is there a particular album that had a big impact on you growing up and how?

“Ellie Goulding’s first album ‘Lights’ was the main reason I got into songwriting when I was a kid, and eventually production later on. I was teaching myself the acoustic guitar and writing little vocal lines over chords at the time. 

My Apollo Twin [...] you can bury me with that shit because the audio quality is to die for

"Up until that point, I’d primarily only listened to singer-songwriter stuff, but when I got a hold of that album and heard all the glittery synths and gorgeous electronic soundscapes built around Ellie’s acoustic and voice, I was like “oh wow."

"I think that’s when I first realized that the possibilities within music are endless, and I wanted to do more than just write songs and sing. I wanted to build entire ecosystems around my pieces too.”

Isanna

(Image credit: Alexander Massek)

If you could steal the production off one album/track, which would you take and why? 

“Just one?! I think Grimes’ latest album Miss Anthropocene is ridiculous (in the best way). Delete Forever is one of those tracks I really wish I’d written, it just makes you want to bawl your eyes out. The production across the entire album is so imaginative and ground-breaking, especially considering Grimes produces all of her own stuff. She deserves all of the hype.”

Hardware is just undeniably more fun to play with, c’mon

What’s the most important bit of kit in your studio, and why is it important to you?

“Definitely my Apollo Twin. You can bury me with that shit because the audio quality is to die for. Seriously though, I really feel that it brought me to the next level in terms of production and audio. I usually pair it with my Neve 1073 and everything just sounds so gorgeous and warm.”

What instrument or piece of gear would you like to get next and why?

“I’d absolutely love to get my hands on a Minimoog. I’ve been using the Mini V plugin in my productions for a while now and it’s quickly become one of my go to’s, especially for bass. I feel like the only thing that could elevate the experience for me is having the real deal, especially in terms of control and precision. Also hardware is just undeniably more fun to play with, c’mon.”

Where would you like to take your sound next?

“I think for me, these past few years have been overwhelmingly electronic and synth-based. Over the past few months, I’ve been slowly incorporating more acoustic elements into the mix and bringing back some of those early singer-songwriter influences that made me fall in love with music. It feels full-circle, but at the same time, really right.”

Isanna's latest single Mango is out now. 

Matt Mullen

I'm the Features Editor for MusicRadar, working on everything from artist interviews to tech tutorials. I've been writing about (and making) electronic music for almost ten years, and when I'm not behind my laptop keyboard, you'll find me behind a MIDI keyboard or a synthesizer. My latest obsession is the Arturia MicroFreak, which will have to do until I've saved up for a Prophet-6... 

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