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renforshort Only Sweats the Small Stuff

The alt-pop singer-songwriter dishes on her intimate lyricism, navigating social anxieties, and inspirational texts from her dad.

by Ben Boddez

Toronto singer-songwriter renforshort’s music is often so blunt and confessional in the way she discusses her battles with mental health and anxiety that it can feel like a peek into a private diary. With her latest project, dear amelia, it’s more like sending those thoughts to a self-help column.

While the identity of the mysterious Amelia has been mostly kept intentionally vague, the duty that the 20-year-old singer born Lauren Isenberg feels to provide listeners with a relatable shoulder to cry on has been extending past just the music itself lately. Alongside her latest set of genre-hopping pop-rock tunes, Isenberg set up a PO box for listeners to send their own deepest thoughts and confessions to Amelia with a promise that they’ll never be read.

“It’s just super cathartic to write everything down and never hear about it again,” she says. “With a diary, you can always re-read it and it can bring you back to a time in your life where you don’t know if you really want to be there.”

Isenberg has been documenting those rockier times for quite a while, but she hopes that her music provides something specific and tangible for her younger audience to connect to that eventually becomes the comforting, nostalgic music of their teen years that follows them for a lifetime.

Born to a highly musical family, she was put in piano lessons at the age of only two, started writing her own songs before she was a teenager, and was touring her work before she got out of high school, picking up a couple other instruments along the way. That kind of drive attracts attention, and Isenberg received a text message asking to connect from her future mentor, Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda, while sitting in her English class.

Combining her more soft-spoken and hypnotic vocal tone with instrumental palates that span from anthemic pop-punk to grungier soundscapes and even some manic hyperpop energy, Isenberg feels like her debut-full length is her biggest artistic step forward as she finds a balance between her many talents.

“I think over time, I’ve solidified my process and understood that songwriting and the music part can go hand in hand, and one side doesn’t have to be compromised for the other,” she says.

Isenberg’s latest songs find her trying to figure out who she is as she matures and deals with turbulent relationships, the music industry and sabotage from her own brain. They’re issues that Isenberg says she has trouble speaking about face-to-face, but putting them in a song comes naturally. The bizarre nature of only being able to vocalize her darkest thoughts to crowds of thousands is not lost on her.

“It’s a little weird, honestly. I open every show with ‘i miss myself’ and I’m like ‘Wow, I was just so vulnerable with everyone. But like, sick, because they were vibing,” she says. “In rehearsal, they’re like, ‘Can you practice like you’re going to be doing a show?’ and I’m like ‘No,’ because when it’s not there right then, it doesn’t feel natural. Feeding off the energy makes you a better performer.”

The track ‘i miss myself’ opens the project and introduces a theme that persists throughout nearly every song – Isenberg writes poignantly about feeling like she’s losing parts of herself when trying to impress others or fit into a group setting, throwing her sense of identity into question. She’s been detailing times of the worst occurrences on her TikTok page lately, but the one that she feels the most embarrassed by now is reluctantly joining the Hamilton fandom for an ex-partner.

“That’s probably the cringiest one, when I was walking around pretending it was cool,” she says. “I find I just compromise all the time. I change who I am depending on who I’m with. Maybe I like what they like a little bit, but I’m pretending to like it more, and I’m not as honest.”  

Despite Isenberg’s profile continuing to grow amid plans of a full-time move to Los Angeles to push her music career to the next level, she hopes to hang onto the more intimate and personal moments as much as she possibly can. She still relishes in Skype calls with her fans, and has confessed to struggling with songwriting inspiration outside of her hometown. Truthfully, it seems like the stereotypical fakeness of Los Angeles would be an awkward fit for an artist that gets as uncomfortably real as Isenberg does.

“In Toronto, I can walk through the ravines that I walked through growing up, listening to the music I listened to, seeing my friends’ houses that I used to go to every weekend. It brings me back and reminds me of who I am, and were,” she says. “It’s always the goal to get a bigger audience, but there’s something really sweet about knowing a lot of my fans and remembering their faces. It feels kind of like a club, and it will continue to feel like that no matter the size because the commonality between everyone is the music, and these feelings, and I think the more people we can bring together and unite over one this is pretty cool.”

Isenberg’s father, a former member of several bands and ever the proud parent of a burgeoning superstar, has been known to text her a motivational quote every single day. Some of his most recent ones feel highly appropriate in terms of both her recent musical subject matter and her upward trajectory.

“There’s one that I love so much,” Isenberg says, gleefully rattling a couple off. “‘It’s not what they call you, it’s what you answer to.’ One more: ‘Inspiration is a guest that does not willingly visit the lazy.’ Which I really like.”