Isaac Fosl-van Wyke is a songwriter and puppeteer out of Louisville, Kentucky. Each song is a chance for Isaac to weave you stories through America’s tortured past, but leave you with a sense of hope for better a tomorrow. Utilizing folk, indie, and psychedelic sounds and channeling inspirations like Bob Dylan, Isaac has the unique sound to match his storytelling abilities. His latest single, “Every Body Knows” is a moving number inspired by the events of last year’s civil unrest started by the cruel death of George Floyd.
“I wrote this song after George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police, while folks in Louisville were hitting the streets in big numbers to demand justice for the murder of Breonna Taylor. I heard a man I really admired talking about his experience being Black, having just watched the video of the infamous Karen threatening to call the cops on a Black birdwatcher in Central Park. My friend was like, “She knew what she was doing. Every Body knows what she was doing.” His words inspired me to write a song about American bodies being separated from the beginning into these disgustingly different privileges and punishments, by a racist society. I wanted to suggest that every one of our bodies knows, on some level, that this is wrong.” – Isaac Fosl-van Wyke
Listen to “Every Body Knows” below
With such deep meaning behind the song, there’s bound to be intense emotions behind it as well. That emotions translates through the delicate instrumentals and the gentle quiver in Isaac’s vocals. There’s a gentle strength behind that quiver. A strength in knowing that we can use our voices to condemn those appalling behaviors we’ve seen over the course of human history. Even though there’s such despair in recognizing those behaviors are all around, there’s hope in all of us changing things once and for all and Isaac conveys that well.
“Every Body Knows” is a great show of Isaac’s songwriting ability. And it won’t be long until we get to see more of what Isaac has up his sleeve. With more singles coming in June and July and an album titled UNDERNEATH dropping in August we will have tons to consume. He will also be playing shows locally in Louisville. So be sure to keep up with Isaac Fosl-van Wyke!
Keep up with Isaac Fosl-van Wyke
We had the chance to get a little deeper with Isaac here:
How would you describe the Isaac Fosl-Van Wyke sound?
Rusty, dense, and glowing from the inside. The sound borrows a lot from folk traditions — troubadors, storytellers — but there’s cell phones littered in among the constellations, and almost every song has a little mutation like a change in key or time signature. The songs are dark, dense, and full of ugly histories. I found them in the realm of grief, but they end up carrying you towards hope or redemption — something to feed the future. My voice and writing are at the center, and in this first chapter of recording I’ve also tried to decorate that with layers of harmony and counterpoint from friends I’ve made along the way. I think that tension between a solo voice and harmonic support — the individual versus collective — is evident in both the sound and subject matter.
Which artists have provided you with the inspiration for what you do?
Bob Dylan has a huge and obvious influence on my overall style — how the poetry and storytelling come across. But Dylan’s apathy about the songwriter’s role in culture and politics was always a kind of anti-model to me. In that realm I’ve always felt inspired by the anger and love of Nina Simone, and the deep lineage of Black music aimed joyfully at the heart of the empire. Another big influence was falling in love with Fela Kuti in high school, and learning all the politically entangled stories behind his long explosive compositions. David Bowie, David Byrne, Paul Simon, and Merrill Garbus (Tune-Yards) all taught me good and bad things about being a white person navigating a love for all kinds of musics and cultures. Being from Kentucky, I’ve always felt proud to be on the same soil as Will Oldham. His songs have challenged me to try and inhabit my own breed of weird specificity and navigate the world through songwriting. Since moving back to Louisville, Joan Shelley has been a great friend and sort of big sister to me, sharing a lot of wisdom about her writing process and encouraging and challenging me.
What was your songwriting process like during the pandemic fueled lockdown?
Right before the pandemic began, Joan Shelley called together a group of songwriters to start sharing songs every week and trading little writing assignments. We met once in person, then the lockdown began. But even over the internet, this was a fulfillment of a longtime wish for me, and it’s no exaggeration to say that a weekly creative accountability with new friends really saved my life during the pandemic. The group came to be called the Pineapple Playground, and several of the songs on my forthcoming album came from there, including “Every Body Knows.” In late June 2020, we gathered in this big beautiful church with our masks on — some of us never having met in person before — and everyone played songs and asked each other to learn parts and play along. I’m releasing a live video of “Every Body Knows” from that session, and John Pedigo is going to finish an edit of the whole thing with songs from all six artists