At 22 years old, Isabelle Fries has started to make a name for herself in the music industry. Not only is she gifted in her art, she has an extremely large heart.
Born in Sydney, but raised in Denver, Colorado, Fries found her inclination for singing at a young age. “I knew I wanted music to be a part of my life since I was about 7, but as I got older I was able to recognize that it is a labor of love for me,” she expressed. “I have never searched for fame through my music.”
Not long after, she discovered her heart had room for another love, philanthropy. At just 15 years old, Fries became the first youth board member and youth leader for the Global Livingston Institute (GLI) an NGO in Uganda who’s mission is to educate students & community leaders on innovative approaches to international development and empower awareness, collaboration, conversations and personal growth.
Through working with this organization, Isabelle travelled to Uganda to teach, perform and empower. In 2017, Fries performed in front of 20,000 people in Uganda at the annual iKnow HIV Awareness Concert Series along with other musicians from around the world, using music to breakdown barriers, bring people together and provide free medical testing and awareness for HIV for over 8,500 Ugandans.
“I became a part of GLI when I was 15 and fully threw myself into their mission and their work. It is what opened my eyes to one of my passions I am now pursuing in international education. They really focus on young voices and drawing on perspectives from all types of individuals which is why I was asked to be on the board at such a young age. GLI is truly one of the most important things in my life so I could not be more thankful to be a part of it.”
This wasn’t the only organization Fries carried out philanthropic work with. She volunteered in Haiti with The Road to Hope, an International Affairs Intern with Creative Visions in Malibu, California and a community worker with CEPIA in Costa Rica.
Isabelle still wanted to do more for Eastern African communities. She founded the “Bulamu Raise Your Voice Community Foundation (BCF)” and was able to draw on inspiration from one of her other life-long devotions: swimming.
For twelve years, she swam competitively breaking records, winning State Championships and being a leader on her teams until complications from several autoimmune disorders forced her out of the water. This was never a part of her plan, but she was able to alter her life’s path and kept pushing through
“It is not something that I let control my life or hold me back from living. I take care of myself in every way I can and find strength in what I am able to do and learn new ways to improve my way of life,” she expressed.
One of Fries’ missions with both GLI and BCF is to raise awareness for water safety on Lake Bunyonyi in Uganda by teaching swimming to prevent drownings. By working closely with GLI and the headmaster of the Kazi Primary School, Fries has been able to carry out this initiative, as well as implementing academic, music and sports curriculum.
She said that the community of Lake Bunyonyi changed her life by seeing how they are such powerful and driven people. “I don’t go for my own benefit or to be a ‘white savior’ ,” she asserted. “When I work in Uganda, I give the individuals I work with support and resources and they truly do the rest.”
Isabelle was fortunate enough to meet one of her long time role models, Michael Phelps. Fostering a relationship with someone who has shaped her life in so many ways in and out of the water has been such a blessing, says Fries. This lead to her working with the Michael Phelps Foudation (MPF), where she took the opportunity to become certified in their “IM Water Safety Program” which is implemented in The Boys and Girls Clubs of America.
When given the opportunity again to combine her music and philanthropy through the MPF, she couldn’t resist. Isabelle was asked to open for country singer, Eric Church, at a MPF benefit concert in Chicago at the iconic Arcada Theater. “Swimming is an incredibly big part of my life as I was a serious competitive swimmer from the ages of 5 to 18, therefor having the chance to combine my music with my love and passion for swimming and water safety was very special and meaningful.”
Now a recent graduate of The University of Southern California, Fries splits her time living between Denver and Los Angeles, continuing to pursue her passions: music and philanthropy, while working in Denver at a non-profit dedicated to mentoring students. Isabelle holds a degree in International Relations with minors in Spanish as well as Non-Profits, Philanthropy and Volunteerism.
While studying at USC, Isabelle was fortunate enough to catch the eye of Grammy-winning, multi-platinum producer/mixer Rob Chiarelli, who she’s fostered an incredibly close relationship with.
She began releasing music signed with Chiarelli’s label Streetlamp records this year, already finding a widespread and loyal audience across all music platforms using her rich, soulful vocal that could be compared to the sound of Lauren Daigle or Adele. She recently released her 6th single, a raw piano ballad called “All We Had. When people listen to her music, Fries always wants to make them truly feel – whatever that feeling may be. Through channeling lyrics with her songwriters from her own life experiences, the emotions she is able to elicit are special to her.
While the music may be interpreted differently for each unique individual, her raw style is something she hopes help guide those listeners on whatever journey they want to take. “I’ve always said, I love music because it lets you feel something you didn’t think you could.”
This is definitely something she mirrors artistically with one of her musical inspirations, Amy Winehouse. Growing up performing jazz music, Fries describes this genre as a big part of her musical identity, so she was instantly drawn to Winehouse’s style which she catalogs as “authentic, raw and groundbreaking. Amy created music unapologetically.”
But Fries’ number one music icon is Sir Elton John. “His music was always around me when I was growing up. My parents loved all music from that time and exposed me to it at a very young age which is one of the reasons it is the type of music I love the most.
However, Elton John’s music was different for me, it felt like poetry and real emotion. His sound and songs are like stories that you never want to end. When I began to listen to him more I realized this is the type of music I want to sing and be a part of.”
Feeling very blessed to have found such a supportive team, guiding her in finally being able to put her own original songs out there into the world, she is excited to evolve using her music to help create change, perform live again, and continue to build upon her body of work. While she’s away in the studio recording, we’ll be out here patiently waiting for more music, while she continues to use her voice to make the world a better place.