By Ngaire Ruth

And the schoolgirls at the back of the bus, sing 

“All I need is you tonight, all I need is you tonight, ” with joy and abandon, hitting the harmony, cruising the tones.

The repeated refrain of the chorus of Isla Grey’s debut single, ‘All I Need’, is a winner, and so is the song, in terms of ambition, vocal class and poise. Go big or go home is this ACM student’s attitude – yet the genre requires restraint, nonetheless.



It takes a steely determination to release what is, in essence, a DIY pop ballad, with the intent of producing a mainstream R & B pop song for radio play – it takes bravery not to apply self-deprecating indie, or some other spin to cloak the embarrassment at taking yourself seriously. And it’s worth remembering that love is an emotion that requires high intelligence; nothing is ever “just a love song”.

“All women’s soul R & B sounds the same these days.”

I’m not even wasting breathe on that argument. How boring is the smooth soulman music out there? How long have we been over-saturated by mediocre male rock and indie? Is it my whole lifetime? Definitely, probably, yours. Put it out there. Get some feedback. Move things along, make ripples, shake and make…

Islay Gray is far from a “they just do nothing type of person”, yet the tune she has created snakes forward, and emanates a still, accepting mood, like the shadow under a tree on a hot day, ripples in sand, or the comforting weight of a thick eiderdown on pewter mornings. As a riot grrrl granny, and old Melody Maker hack, I will not be singing along to the lyrics; reassuring a lover who’s not forgotten, it gives the imaginary subject of the song’s narrative too much power for me.

Isla’s is on a quest, which includes continuing to develop her songwriting skills, digging deeper as a writer, and a communicator. She’s about to start a blog for women vocalists, which includes holistic health, reviews and interviews. I am paying close attention because one day I can say: I was cheering her along first.


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