Five questions: Bel

Isabel singer
Bel’s debut EP, ‘Medicine,’ was recorded in bedrooms and basements by Bel and friends. | Image: Jillian Lacey

Bel is the project of Isabel Furman, a Philadelphia-based songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. Her intimate, emotive songs evoke lo-fi rock and bedroom folk, anchored by an earnest and poetic songwriting style. 

A self-taught musician, Bel’s music orbits around imaginative and intricate guitar playing that defies convention while still sounding clean and delicate. This DIY approach is central to her musical identity as her debut EP, “Medicine,” was recorded in bedrooms and basements by Bel and friends, and exudes the vulnerability of these spaces. 

“Medicine” introspects on the interpersonal, exploring the rawest forms of hurt by finding strength in vulnerability. A four-track meditation on self-care, resilience and reconciliation, “Medicine” attempts to reconnect us to the tenderest parts of ourselves. 

Bel performs as both a full-band and a solo act and is inspired by artists such as Lucy Dacus, Joni Mitchell, Haley Heynderickx, Snail Mail, Bright Eyes, and more. 

The EP is available now on all streaming platforms.

PW recently caught up with Furman to talk about the new album and her music.

Talk a little about your early interest in music. When did you know you wanted to pursue it as a career? Who were some of your early influences?

I grew up in a really musical family, and they’ve been my biggest influence. My mom and brother play drums, another brother plays guitar, and my dad plays bass, so playing with them and around them was really central to my own growth as a musician. My brothers and I did an incredible program called School of Rock that gave us a ton of performance experience and training and musical exposure. 

But I don’t think that I really considered a career in it until I was in college and artists like Snail Mail and Phoebe Bridgers and Japanese Breakfast got big. I got to see all of these amazing frontwomen in indie rock, and I started to feel like maybe there could be a place for me in this scene. I feel like that was when I started to split off from being just another member of my musical family to being my own musician. As I started to get more into indie music, and see women really rise in that scene, I felt like I could have my own new relationship with music and my own voice. 

Your debut EP, “Medicine,” is out now. How did it come together? What’s been the response from your fans? How can people hear it?

“Medicine” has been almost two years in the making. I never really thought my songs would leave my bedroom, so it took a long time for me to emerge from my shell to share them. I recorded the album during college, in my friend’s dorm room, with two of my best friends producing it. I think that kind of low-key environment was the only way I was going to feel safe enough to put myself out there, and even then, it still feels embarrassing at times to know it’s out! 

People have been incredibly kind and supportive, though, and I’m really lucky to be part of a music scene like the one in Philly. The EP is out on all the platforms so people can hear it anywhere they listen to music!

How has the pandemic impacted your career? How have you spent your downtime during self-isolation?

Like a lot of artists and creatives, I felt a ton of pressure to use this time during the pandemic to be “productive” – to practice every day, write a bunch of new songs, and do all the projects I’ve always wanted to do. But with all the stress and fear and sadness of everything going on, sometimes I feel too overwhelmed to be creative, so I’ve had to learn to be a lot kinder with myself and more mindful of my own limits. 

Maybe the one benefit of the downtime is that I’ve always suffered from stage fright, so I’m a bit relieved to take a break from performing – although now I miss it more than anything. 

When you’re not making music, what are you doing? What are some of your other interests?

I teach music and theater as a teaching artist, so I’ve had that to keep me busy! I offer guitar, bass, and songwriting lessons. I’m also a crossword puzzle fanatic.

What are the best ways for your fans to keep up with what you’re doing?

Follow me on Instagram (@iz.fur) for general music updates and stuff! And if you want to listen to my music you can follow me on Spotify too.

  • Eugene Zenyatta was raised on old-time Memphis 'rasslin' and strongly prefers the company of dogs to people. His greatest heartbreak came in the 2010 Breeders' Cup Classic.

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