Isabel LaRosa | ‘Creative control is always going to be super important to me‘

Isabel LaRosa is a 17 year old US singer. We talk to her about her audio-visual project, what inspired it, and learning to relinquishing control.


Isabel LaRosa is just 17 years old. You wouldn’t know it, just talking to her. She’s composed, thoughtful and clearly ambitious, but already she’s doing things that your standard teenager doesn’t do. 

Isabel LaRosa is balancing the end of her schooling online, while moving between her home in Annapolis, Maryland, and New York City, where a burgeoning music career increasingly means time spent in the Big Apple. Having recently signed with RCA Records in the US and Ministry of Sound in the UK, a debut audio-visual project, i’m watching you, came out this summer.

Consisting of the tracks ‘HAUNTED’, ‘HELP’ and ‘HEAVEN’, i’m watching you is a darker release than you would expect of a 17 year old pop artist, influenced by growing up in the suburbs and her love of the supernatural.

The videos were co-directed and co-edited by LaRosa, who’s one of a number of emerging singers to have gained traction on social media. It means, increasingly, that this visual element is as prominent as the music itself. LaRosa has the ability to tell stories directly, on her own terms, and share it directly with followers. Gone are the middle men and the finely curated media presences, giving fans a more personal and authentic picture.

Find out about this, and more, in our interview with Isabel LaRosa below.


You’re still very young and ‘success’ seems to have arrived quite quickly – how did it actually come about?

It really started after ‘HAUNTED’ came out. Beforehand, I was just in talks with different labels and whatnot, but we know an A&R at RCA and we’ve just had a relationship with him for a while. I hadn’t signed previously because I wasn’t gonna sign just because I knew somebody there, but it was the right time. It just felt right. So we went with RCA. 

It’s been really good. I’m a big fan of my team. And it’s been interesting, adjusting from being an independent artist. You know, I’ve been doing music, just me and my brother, for 10 years, so it’s been interesting, to go from having to do every single little thing ourselves, to then having people and that’s like their job. It was a bit odd for me at first. It was great, but I had to remind myself: Oh, wait, I don’t have to do every little thing. And that’s kind of the point. 

When you’ve been so used to controlling every aspect, have you found it get any easier, now it’s been a few months, to relinquish that control? 

Erm, not exactly. I think in terms of creative control, that’s something that’s always going to be super important to me. I value other people’s input and opinion and I’m never going to let it set in that my opinion is the only one out there – I don’t ever like to be too close minded. But also, you know, I have specific things that I want – a certain vision, and having that control is very important to me. 

Obviously, I very much trust the people that I work with. I trust their opinion. I like to hear what everybody else thinks, I just like to have a vision for it. 

You’ve been very involved with the visual side of this new project. How long has it been something that you’ve envisioned and how was putting it into action?

It was a bit stressful to get it all ready. It’s funny now, but I didn’t think we were shooting all three music videos in one night. I thought we were shooting one music video a night. So I was planning the ‘HAUNTED’ music video, which I had envisioned slightly differently, just because of the fact that I didn’t know we were shooting all three of them in one night. 

Once I found out that it was all three, I had to get it together in two or three weeks. It was pedal to the metal kind and it had to be right. 

It was very helpful then to work with others. Just helpful to have people that…you know, I didn’t know what each member of the crew did. I didn’t really know how a set works. You need to have somebody that does know that helps with the execution of what I wrote. 

Do you think your emphasis on the visual element ties into how important social media has been for you career so far?

Yeah, absolutely. I think that I was already kind of creating this visual world, I guess you could say, with TikTok. And I think that it was kind of taking what I had already started to create with that, and then make it like, make it a music video series and bring it into this more solid world. It’s expanding on and solidifying what I was already starting to build.


And what would you say inspires or defines that world that you’re creating?

I live in the suburbs. I’ve watched Stranger Things since about sixth grade and I watched a lot of horror and thriller movies. It draws a lot of inspiration from those things, but it also reflects a dramatic version of my own experiences, if that makes sense. 

I think even if you don’t want them to, your personal experiences find a way into what you do creatively. You need to embrace it. 


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A post shared by Isabel LaRosa (@isabel.s.larosa)

Your first single came out last year and you’re now signed and releasing longer projects – do you think the speed would be possible without social media?

It’s funny because I was going to drop my first single ‘Gameboy’, and I remember talking to my brother’s manager, actually. He said, “I don’t want you to drop a song until it does something on TikTok.” He was completely right. I started using ‘Gameboy’ and it just wasn’t really working. So I switched over to ‘16 Candles’. And it started to pick up and I got some pre-saves. Not a ton, but for a first single it was very helpful because it gave me something to start off with, instead of doing it and having zero monthly listeners. 

You mention your brother there and earlier on as well, tell me more about that and the role he plays in your music.

He is actually my producer. We write almost everything together. We actually released music as a duo for a long time. And then during quarantine, we said, “Why don’t we just keep the same process but release it separately?” We thought it might just be a better marketing strategy, even though behind the scenes it doesn’t change at all.

I don’t know what would have happened if we kept doing stuff together, but I think that it is helpful, especially now to be a solo artist, but he’s great..

And what’s his name?

Thomas. He’s 21. 

Given live music was suspended for so much of the last two years, when you started releasing music, have you got a chance to play any gigs yet? Is there anything coming up? 

Yeah, actually. I did a show recently in New York which was great. It was honestly my favourite thing I’ve done. But I’ve grown up performing with my brother. My dad is a jazz musician and we’d go to these jazz clubs at the age of about seven. We played open mic nights and gigs for a long time, so I’ve had a lot of performing experience and then as the pandemic hit, obviously, there weren’t any live shows, and I didn’t really have any reason to do any live shows.

I’m excited for future live stuff. I don’t have any specifically lined up right now, but there are places I want to go and that’s the end goal: sell out shows. That’s everything. TikTok and all of this kind of stuff is obviously really important and I enjoy it, but live music…

What would be your dream venue? If you got just one.

Honestly, my brother and I were talking about this. It would be very funny to sell out – I don’t know if I’m supposed to say this, but we live near – the Navy stadium. To Sell out the Navy stadium. That would just be so cool. One day, one day. Right in my hometown,

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