It's been a whirlwind of a year for Centricity Music, with several of their flagship artists having record years in their career, and also bringing several new artists on board. One of those new artists, Isaac Peabody, aka Peabod, burst onto the scene this year bringing a fresh approach to hip-hop. We recently sat down with him to talk about how his "happy raps" are making their mark on the industry, the musical influences that help shape his art, and what he's looking forward to about this Christmas.
Let's start with some backstory. How did you get started in music? What brought you to this point in your career?
Yeah! I took piano lessons when I was like six or seven, but really fell in love with music when I picked up the bass guitar. I started playing guitar and writing songs in high school and college. I really started writing more folk, pop-acoustic music, but was listening to a lot of hip-hop. I made one song that was called "Summer Fletcher," just for fun to write a song about my friend. My little community of musicians latched onto that song more than any of the folk stuff I had written, so I thought maybe I'd experiment with some hip-hop stuff. Through writing that, it felt more genuine to me than I had been expecting, and by the end of a whole album's worth of songs, I was like, "oh, this feels really good." It was really freeing to get to write in this way and put out the mixtape. A couple weeks later, Centricity was calling. Like a month after I put out the album, I was in Nashville, talking with the team and meeting people. After a few months of that, I signed a deal, and here I am.
For people who haven't heard your music before, describe what it sounds like.
I guess the easiest way to describe it is just happy hip-hop. It's a nice kind of in-between of pop and hip-hop music. I say "nice"--I guess people can decide if it's nice. But it's friendly. It's very kind--that kind of nice. I wanted to make music that felt approachable, inclusive, fun, and that is upfront about who I am and my faith.
That's awesome—and that's not something that Centricity has really had before. On a label that's mostly contemporary praise and worship, how has that been for you to bring something so different?
Totally! One funny thing has been sometimes people at the label will ask me a question about hip-hop, and I'm like, I don't think I'm like an expert or anything. I'm not making this super hard hip-hop music. I love all forms of hip-hop, but I'm not as knowledgeable as a hip-hop expert probably should be, so that's been kind of funny. The label has been so supportive and awesome, and really upfront about this being new for them and trying to figure it out. The cool thing is that I feel like they've been open to trying things and taking some risks. It's been basically one hundred percent positive, so I feel really grateful to be signed with them.
What would you say is the main goal for your music? What's the mission?
Society in general, and in music, there's this idea of being really cool, right? I feel like there need to be a couple different words because you can have a sound in music or a song that's cool because it's different and it makes you excited, but that's a different kind of cool than when a person is trying to be cool, because that can be exclusive and it's not inviting and it's saying "I'm on a different level than you," and I just hate everything about that--partially because I'm a huge dork. I want to make music that makes people go, "that's really cool, I want to be a part of that," but I want it to be inclusive and inviting. I think that we live in a time where hip-hop is the new pop. It's the number one streamed genre on Spotify, and I think probably Apple Music. I think a lot of it is just really important for understanding where society is at. A lot of people also have an aversion to hip-hop because it's historically pretty angry, so I think that I'd love to be like a safe entry point for someone who's like, "I don't get hip-hop, I've never listened to it before." I'd love it if they felt comfortable with my music, and then they feel comfortable taking the next step. I think there's a lot to learn from that genre. I know I've learned a lot, and more than just musically. At the end of the day, I want people to feel encouraged and come to know Jesus. I know one story of a kid who heard one of my songs at camp and said, "I want to know the Jesus this rapper is talking about." That's so not originally what I was writing the music for, but it's all God saying, "I know what I'm doing with it." I would love grandmas and toddlers to feel welcome at my shows, and for that not to feel weird for the twenty-somethings that are there. I want it to be very clear about my faith, and that that should be inclusive and welcoming also, and just fun.
Who are your biggest influences, and who would your dream tour be with?
I've been a Switchfoot fan as long as I can remember. Beautiful Letdown was like the first album that I internalized where I was like, "this is engrained in my soul." Jon Foreman has been an influence for me for years. More recently, Chance The Rapper is a huge influence. I cite him a lot because he's the first time I heard joy in hip-hop, and that's really important. Also, he's just doing stuff in that space that no one else is doing, and he works with really cool producers who are doing super creative things. If I could tour with anyone, it would probably be Chance. Or Switchfoot. Coldplay is a big influence, Anderson Pac, Fred Hammond, Mumford and Sons.
That's an impressive range of genres!
Yeah, and I don't mean this in a pretentious way, but I think in high school I was like, "I listen to everything," trying show off like I know things about all the genres. I think Chance The Rapper's influence in my music is pretty clear, but I feel like in order to make music that is not sounding like anyone else, I was trying to listen to a bunch of other people too because I don't want it to just sound like Isaac's trying to do Chance. No one needs that. The more diverse my influences can be, the more unique my songs will be, hopefully.
Switching gears to Christmas—you have a brand new song and a video out for the season. Tell us about that.
So the song is called "Never-Ending Christmas." I sat down to write a Christmas song, and I was like, "yeah, this will be easy, just write a song about Christmas." But that's so broad--it's the same thing as saying I'm going to write a song. Cool, but what are you going to write about? The idea was just to write this song about because of what Jesus did on Christmas that changed our lives forever, in a way, it's like we're celebrating the significance of Christmas every day forever. It's an excuse to celebrate Christmas super early if you want to. It's a blend of fun Christmas music and something like a "reason for the season" type song.
Looking forward to 2019—touring, music, what's in the works for you in the new year?
I'm hoping to go on tour. Nothing is set in stone yet, but I've got a few shows coming up. The goal is to do a single like every six weeks around there, maybe more frequently--we'll see how many songs I can write. Because one, with the streaming model right now, it's good to have consistent content. Two, before I'm ready to make the second album, I want to experiment a little bit and write with some different people because I did the whole last album by myself. I'm excited to take it different directions and see if chasing another path really feels like the next step, or if it's a bad idea we don't do ever again. It's good to know those things so when we go into creating the whole project, I'm ready for it. I have ideas and I'm always dreaming about the next album concept, but right now it's just singles, and I'm really excited about that.
You talked about it a little already, but what has the response been like to that first album so far?
It's been good! I've not blown up overnight or anything, and I'm still working my 9-to-5 day job, which I'm super grateful for, but it's been a really positive response. It's been fun to see people I don't know responding to it and saying "thank you so much for your album, it's been really encouraging to me." It's been fun to have some of the songs be like youth group anthems. It's definitely opened some doors to meet some cool people and get to play some fun shows. There's always the people who don't like it, but I try not to pay attention to that.
To wrap up, how can people be praying for you in this season?
Well, I'm getting married, so that's a good thing to be praying for. I think also, I have a tendency to try to figure out the future. It's really easy as a new artist to wonder how I get to the point where this is my full-time gig or where I've "made it," and that's so ambiguous. If you define success by money or how many people know you, it's never going to be enough, so I really try not to get caught up in that, but I do. I try not to get caught up in what I need to do next to get to this spot, because at the end of the day, if worst came to worst, if this is the only album I put out, I would feel like the Lord accomplished the things that He wanted to do with it. Even that one kid coming to Jesus is like the best thing, so if there's more beyond this, bring it on. I'm excited. I want to adopt that attitude more than what I need to do to get my foot in the door and force my way to this next spot because I think He'll bring me there when it's time. Pray for patience when I have no idea what the future looks like. I've never done this before, so it's all new. I just want to be receptive of wherever the Lord wants to take me.
Caitlin Lassiter is a worship leader, songwriter and journalist with a deep passion for Christian music. She currently resides in Nashville, Tennessee, where she attends Trevecca Nazarene University and can frequently be found loving life at a concert.
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