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"Sometimes I feel like I have no control over it," he explains. "It's just something I have to do, like eating dinner. Like anyone who practices anything, it's something that makes being with yourself the most important thing to you. It's really hard to be alone. I go through that a lot — like I want to be in town and be around people. But then a few days will go by and I realize that I haven't written or played, because there's this resistance to being by yourself. And so for me, it's kind of what opens the door to really digging the time just to hang out by yourself."
Isakov's solitude has produced some exceptional music that makes being alone an enticing rather than a lonely prospect. These are the sort of songs that sound best when you're driving alone in your car, watching the landscape blur. And, in fact, many of the tunes started on the road. "The songs mostly come from driving — I drive a lot," Isakov says. "Or then I'll see something or overhear somebody say something in the grocery store. And then I'll just go back and sit down and play it out.
"I went to see Jolie Holland last year, and she nailed it," he continues. "She said, 'Pretty much how I write songs is I walk around and eat poetry and experiences, and then one day, I'll throw it all up into a song.' And that's totally how it is. Sometimes I don't know what the songs are about. And then maybe a month later, I'll be like, 'Oh, that's what that's about.' It's kind of a magical thing. I like to keep it like that."
That magic is enough to mesmerize listeners. But Isakov says he's just as awed by his fans as they are by him. "It's an amazing honor to be able to use up someone's time with something like this," he concludes. "There's so much art going on. So I feel that to take up somebody's time, even with a five-minute song — for someone who's really listening — I want to make the experience as respectful as I can for them."
By letting the music speak for itself.