Isabelle Pouya, 18, of Granger has been a singer and songwriter for as long as she can remember.
She started writing songs as early as 5 or 6 years old. Her mother, Shahla, remembers her humming and singing songs that she made up.
Isabelle remembers the first time she performed one of her original songs (she plays piano, too). It was at a school assembly in the sixth grade at Montessori Academy.
“I was like, ‘No, I’m not doing it.’ But my principal, Mr. Kelly, was very supportive and pushed me outside of my comfort zone, brought the piano out anyway, and encouraged me to sing a song I wrote. My song was about no matter how many struggles you have in life, you should always look on the bright side of things,” Isabelle said. “There was a lady at the assembly who was going to get divorced and she said, ’Your song had a message that I needed to hear today,’ and was in tears.”
Seeing how her music could impact others inspired her to keep writing and performing. Current events and social issues are often themes of her songs. When she was younger, she would listen to her parents discuss the news and wonder why no one was doing anything about all the issues that happen in the world.
“So I started writing songs to help me process my feelings and raise awareness of these topics ,” she said. “I write about homelessness, about drug and alcohol abuse, about school shootings and suicide, and I write about daily struggles like not feeling good enough or comparing yourself to other people or how in life we feel stuck in the same place, but you have to move forward.”
Her songwriting even earned her a finalist spot in the 2021 Acorn Theatre Singer Songwriter Competition. She describes her musical style as a blend of pop, modern and blues, and names Adele as her No. 1 influence.
Isabelle performs locally when she can, though it’s difficult because many venues are 21 and over. Her mother, who lived in New York City and remembers all the street performers there, suggested she get a license to perform on the streets of Chicago. That’s how she spent last summer – as a street performer, but instead of keeping the money she received, she donated it back to local nonprofits that support issues she sings about.
A few years ago, she performed at a music festival honoring those who have faced addiction and suicide, and that’s where she first learned about Oaklawn. She said she’s very excited and honored to be a part of Oaklawn’s Got Talent because she wants to support the important work Oaklawn is doing.
She hopes to make music her full time career. She’s in the process of applying to music schools in Boston, Chicago and California.
In the meantime, she keeps writing.
“In every song of hers there is a strong and positive message and meaning behind it,” said Shahla. “I see how much passion she has, and it’s inspiring. She wants to write songs that make the world a better place.”