Up-and-Coming: BAD CHILD Talks Career Milestones, Life on Tour, and EP “Sign Up”

Hosted by Katie Marks

Graphic by Emily Lantzy

BAD CHILD began as a means of expression for a boy who felt lost in the world. Following the untimely passing of his mother while still a young child, singer-songwriter Isaiah Steinberg began using art and the power of storytelling as an emotional outlet to work through his troubles.

Today, Steinberg has a more positive take on life, focusing on bettering himself through his music. Diving into the Toronto music scene, BAD CHILD is a unique mix of alternative hip-hop and pop-rock that is sure to capture any listener.

We had the pleasure of chatting with Bad Child about his debut EP, Sign Up, life on the road, and the future of this project. Read on below to check it all out!

Your music has been both a hobby and a way to express your emotions, right? Can you go into more detail about how creating music has impacted your life?

This began as a remedy and a source for explanation of my depression and anxiety, and also a great source to understand my relationships and myself for once. It started as a hobby and quickly became like therapy.

On a similar note, what’s influenced you as a musician?

Quite a bit has influenced me. I’ve fallen in love with synthesizers, and I’ve always had such a fun time just finding stuff at garage sales and learning that there’s an infinite source of sound that you can find in a synthesizer, so it’s always very exciting to pick one of those up. There’s endless inspiration everywhere.

As an artist who is still making a name for yourself in the world, how does it feel to be playing such major festivals like Glastonbury, Lollapalooza, and Reading & Leeds?

It feels honestly quite good! I’m not nervous about playing them; it’s actually a very exciting feeling. I’m really happy that people are resonating with the music. The day I played Glastonbury was a really big deal for me. It was a festival I’ve always dreamed of playing and there I was! It was a lot of fun.

Coming up in September are a handful of shows around western Canada, including a run with Grandson. What do you think transitioning from festival environments to smaller capacity venues will be like for you?

I think there’s the same mentality more or less. Here’s the thing: even when you play a smaller venue, I’ve always thought that you should be playing for 10,000 people even when there’s 200 people in the room. You have to go in with the mindset that you have to let your soul shine through and just have this mindset that this is a stadium no matter where it is.

Do you have any preference in venue size, as in bigger shows or smaller shows?

Well, I think it’s all about the audience to be honest. I’ve played bigger shows with okay audiences and I’ve played bigger shows with great audiences; the same could be said about smaller shows. It’s the kind of thing where I feed off of a lot of the audience’s energy. It’s one of the things where I love feeling like the concert is more of a conversation.

Has it been difficult for you at all jumping straight into major touring and creating an EP/album after so recently being signed?

Not really. It’s kind of funny; it’s been something I really decided I wanted for myself and it’s almost like I’m just like, “Well, this is what I’m doing!” To be a part of stuff like this is really exciting.

Are there any plans for headlining tours in the future or would you rather stay on the festival circuit a while longer?

Oh there’s plans for everything! I can’t talk much about it right now, but there’s definitely plans in the back for that.

You’ve already dropped two singles in 2019 in preparation for the release of your EP Sign Up. What can listeners expect from Sign Up?

You can expect the concept that I’ve been working on for quite a long time to start peeking its head through. I’ve released singles so far that speckled this concept around and it’s going to turn into a little bit more of a conversation with the concept behind the piece.

What’s your writing process for this EP been like? Has it been any different from writing the singles?

I’ve had a large body of work done for some time now and it was really important to me that the concept was never lost. The concept and the idea for the record and singles have been in the works now for nearly 4 years. It was very important to me for it to all be cohesive, so it was all written around the same time. Moving forward, I’d like for the whole process of what I’ve created to surround the idea of how people modify each other and use each other.

Do you prefer to be releasing shorter length pieces, like an EP? Or do you feel like you should be producing a larger volume of projects to release?

For myself, I have a very distinct idea of how the songs should be released. It’s important for me. We’re living in a time where there’s so much stuff constantly, and I think as a new artist, it shouldn’t be about quantity. It shouldn’t be about putting out as many songs as people want. I have a ton of songs on the burner right now, but I don't think it’s time for all of them. I think each song deserves its own life cycle, its own time and place. One thing I always thought is that if I go this route and have set releases at a time and I make it palatable in the long run, it’ll be easier for an audience to digest. For me, if I get an artist that’s shoving a ton of stuff down my throat, I have a hard time digesting it. If you put out the right thing and if you put out stuff that’s close to your soul, you can never lose.

Why did you choose to include elements like the voice instructions featured in “Signing Up” and “Flowers?”

To me, I was almost wanting to create like an instruction manual that’s pseudo-self-aware. To me, it’s really important that the listener understands as they're being thrown through these songs with these interludes that are speckled. I designed this project in a way where it’s a front-to-back listen; it tells a story about somebody who is sort of enamored with how people use each other and they give up to that system. In a way that’s almost talking it up too deep: it all can come up being like Tinder, where people can look at a picture of somebody and come with a complete summation of their entire existence and decide ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ and I found that idea as something to go on. Sort of taking it further... but just how people are so down to just utilize each other rather than build relationships. I found it really interesting.

How would you describe your sound? Do you try to stick to certain aspects that you prefer or does each song really vary as you’re working through its creation?

I think it’s a little bit of both, to be honest. The sound is more determined by who I am but who I am is always changing. I never want to pigeonhole myself or be that guy where people always say “Oh, that’s the artist that sounds like that!” That’s not what it’s about. I don’t think there’s two songs on the album that sound alike, and that’s something I’m very geared towards — diversity and exploration of self. When I go into designing a song, there’s a few things I always tell myself: if it can’t be stuck in my own head and I wouldn’t want to listen to the song on my own, why would I make it? That’s my big rule: if I couldn’t listen to my own music, why would I make it? I think it’s really important not to put any boundaries on where you can go sonically. I would love to explore everything, every little facet of my creativity.

Do you have any songs — new or old — that you’re most excited to play live?

Well, there’s definitely some unreleased songs that I really, really love playing live. One of my favorite songs to play live is “Picking Cherries” — that one’s always got a really good energy to it. For me as well, “BAD CHILD” is always gonna be what I open up with. It’s the first song I always play. It’s always so fun to get that energy out.

Have you had any eye-opening experiences after touring internationally that have stuck with you at all?

One of the most profound ones is how people treat themselves. I’ve had this realization that I don’t have a home. The only home I have in this life is my own body. If I’m not treating my body right or if I’m not dealing with my depression or anxiety or letting myself fall into those traps and if I’m not seeking that out, what am I doing? I’m trashing my home. Touring is a funny thing because you play for an hour, do some interviews, then you drive for 18 hours or fly for 10, and you’re with yourself; discovering interesting ways to keep your brain occupied or keep yourself learning has been a lot of fun.

Have you learned anything substantial from any of the bigger artists you’ve played alongside?

Yeah, like when I had a conversation with Hozier… What I found interesting was how down-to-earth and unaffected he was. I think that taught me a lot, because you have this assumption that everyone is so monolithic, but it was just incredible to see what a person could do with themselves. He never struck me as someone who was trying to prove himself, and once you understand that the people who really stick around are the ones who aren't trying to prove themselves but are just trying to understand themselves, it gives you a big breakaway from everything else.

What is BAD CHILD? How would you describe this project to someone who has no idea? 

I would describe my project as my own personal outlet. I think that when you say “bad child,” you think of somebody who obviously is not a good kid. To me, I see somebody who feels like they weren’t good enough and feels like they don’t have a place or outlet to go to in life. It’s almost like their refuge for people who feel like that, because I grew up feeling like that and I see BAD CHILD as a gateway to try to understand yourself better. I don’t want to preach in my music, I want to ask questions about myself and why I am the way I am, because I think it’s so important to try to understand yourself in this life.

If you haven’t given BAD CHILD a listen yet, what are you waiting for? With an ever-growing audience and plenty of major plans for the future, nothing but the best can be expected from BAD CHILD. Make sure to check out his debut EP Sign Up anywhere you listen to music on August 16!