Canadian Musician - May-June 2022 - Page 41

Touring with Bey ’ s band was different than most experiences as part of a touring group , because the entire band and entourage were a family , Isaacs says . Bey and her husband , Howard Matthews , served as kind of mother and father figures to the other musicians , and according to Isaacs , it isn ’ t typical to have two people assume these roles in a touring group . Isaacs would serve as Bey ’ s bassist for close to 10 years , and go on to pursue an incredible amount of work in various facets of the music and film industry , never forgetting the kickstart to his career that she gave him .
Isaacs was already composing and producing professionally by the time he landed the Bullard gig . As an up-and-coming producer , he tracked down a rapper he admired named Devin Martin , who was best known for his song “ Mr . Metro ,” and said he had to produce him . Martin didn ’ t agree right away , but Isaacs had learned the importance of persistence by this point , and kept on calling until finally he caught Martin at a moment where he had nothing going on , drove to pick him up , and started a session with a tune that was partially written . They then sent the completed project to EMI publishing , and as Isaacs says , the rest is history . Through his connection to Martin , Isaacs was able to land gigs working in TV . “ I ’ ve been in TV ever since ,” he says . Isaacs doesn ’ t heap praise upon himself as a musician , instead saying his skills lie more on the organizational side of things . In his own view , he ’ s able to pick out people he knows will heighten his work and get them together , and that can be an important skill to have in this business .
“ Skill is an interesting thing , and talent is interesting ,” he says . “ I don ’ t think I ’ m incredibly talented . I think my talent is I can figure it out .”
In all his various forms of work , Isaacs has found a special liking for composing . As he explains , composing is the one thing he finds he ’ s able to do on his own terms , rather than playing or producing to someone else ’ s taste .
“ The good thing about composing is it ’ s about me . It ’ s not about anybody else . I don ’ t have to replicate anything else ; composing is just mine ,” he says . “ I can do what I want , how I hear it . And as long as my client likes it , and so far , they ’ ve been liking it — great . It ’ s a beautiful thing .”
Given the prolific nature of Isaacs ’ work and the immense variety within his portfolio , it would be easy to assume that he has an encyclopedic knowledge of music to be able to work across so many genres and types of music . He insists , however , that this is not the case , saying whenever he gets a gig doing anything , he studies that specific style until he feels he is competent enough to work with it . He ’ ll often pick a certain composer and delve into their body of work , and can find the signature tactics of most any composer .
“ Remember , the world of music is already out there . It ’ s not an assignment , no secrets . It ’ s out there . You just got to listen ,” he says . “ Once you start really studying these guys , you start realizing there ’ s certain tricks .”
When Isaacs began his stint working with Bullard on his various shows , he had no idea it would become something he was known for . At the time , it was another gig to help pay off his studio , as he says he bit off more than he could chew , financially , and was on the verge of losing it . He was in dire straits , with less than a dollar in his joint bank account with his wife , though they disagree on the exact amount they had ; he says it was 69 cents , while she says it was 67 . Isaacs hadn ’ t realized not all TV work paid as well as the musical drama series Catwalk , which he had worked on during its two-season run , and he was disappointed to find that the work he was able to pick up after wouldn ’ t compensate him as well as he expected .
One fateful day , when Isaacs was preparing to sell off some music gear to make ends meet , he was connected with Mike Bullard through television producer John Brunton , who is now the CEO and executive producer at Insight Productions . “ I owe it all to John Brunton and Insight Productions ,” Isaacs says .
When the two met about being the band leader for Bullard ’ s new show , and Isaacs saw an opportunity for a steady job that would allow him to support himself without having to give up the studio he had worked so hard to create . After developing an appreciation for Bullard ’ s talent and seeing potential for their show to grow in popularity , Isaacs remembers calling his wife and telling her everything would be okay — and they could even start looking for a house . Working with Bullard not only sorted out Isaacs ’ financial struggles , but also proved to be a significant stepping stone , opening doors not just for other work opportunities , but also serving as a way for him to develop himself as an artist like never before .
“ It helped me establish myself as not only a musician , but as a personality ,” he says . “ Other opportunities come with that whole thing .”
At this point in his career , Isaacs feels he has developed his own sound and style , and is able to rely on his usual methods for many of his projects , but stresses the importance of not leaning too heavily on old habits when working on something he hasn ’ t taken on before . He doesn ’ t consider himself a super-musician or the most talented bassist around , but Isaacs give himself credit for constantly working to hone his craft and putting in the dedication it took to make a career for himself in music . A stroke of luck can help , but there ’ s much more to it than just that , he insists .
“ It ’ s better to be prepared and not have an opportunity than to have an opportunity and not be prepared ,” he says .
Manus Hopkins is the Assistant Editor at Canadian Musician .