Raised on a healthy diet of folk and rock icons - and with Bon Iver and Elliott Smith tattoos to prove it - 19-year-old Lauren Isenberg may have started her musical journey being the only member of her musical theatre class to commit to a British accent during a performance of Mary Poppins, but now, under her renforshort moniker, she has quickly become one of alt-pop’s newest forces.
Narrating Gen Z life with her raw and vulnerable storytelling, backed by an irresistible pop-grunge sonic palette, ren’s two EPs - last year’s debut ‘Teenage Angst’ and June’s ‘Off Saint Dominique’ - have solidified her star power.
Now hopping across the pond to support Yungblud on tour, we caught up with the singer to chat early musical embarrassments, leaning into your vulnerability and growing her fan family.
What was your first introduction to music?
Well, growing up my parents were my big influence, so it was really like Bob Dylan, Amy Winehouse, Joni Mitchell, Stevie Wonder - just that world. And Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins. Then, as I got older, I started finding my own music like The Lumineers, Jake Bugg and Bon Iver.
It was a more modern twist of what I grew up listening to and it’s all in the folk world, so it reminded me of that. But also, for me, Bon Iver felt so different; it was like something that I’ve never heard before. And every time I listen to those artists, it completely brings me back to that time in my life.
What was the moment when you decided to do it yourself?
I always loved playing music and my brothers are all really talented musicians, so we kind of grew up jamming together. I also did musical theatre and I loved it on stage and just was like, I’m gonna ditch the acting because I can’t act! But I really liked performing and I really liked writing; I used to write little books when I was little. So it kind of all made sense for me.
What was the first song you remember writing?
It was called ‘Hopeless Town’. It’s so embarrassing to think about, but it was cute! It was about a girl who lived in this town, and I described these different characters, and she just wanted to leave this town and be something. It wasn’t bad, but I can’t stand it! But, it was well written; I honestly shocked myself. It was really embarrassing, I wore a fedora in the music video… I put it on YouTube. It was so bad.
What was the first song you wrote that you remember loving?
That was ‘Waves’: the first song that I put out. That was after like, two years of writing. I wrote every Sunday with Jeff Hazin who’s the main producer I work with, and that was the first song we got where I was like, ‘This is good, we’re getting the idea here’.
I think it just felt like something that I hadn’t heard [before]. We actually started doing jazzier stuff, and then kind of just started making it more modern and more like what I wanted to do. And it just felt like the writing felt right; it felt different, it felt special. I felt like it was a good intro and like what I wanted to do.
“I write these songs at my most vulnerable state and I just milk every emotion to make it as raw and honest as possible.”
Obviously it’s clicked with people and you’re already being hyped so early into your career. How is it to have that reaction already?
It’s really great. It’s awesome. The coolest part is having more people join my world. Having people react to something that you’re doing well - like how I react to like my favourite artists - [and knowing] I have the potential to do that for other people, that’s cool to me. I don’t know, I’m just kind of confused every day! Getting back to doing shows, we did Lollapalooza and there were people in the crowd singing my songs and I was like, ‘This has never happened before!’ It was just the craziest feeling.
I write these songs when I’m most vulnerable, and they’re my vulnerable words. And then people are just like, ‘Let’s go!’ So that’s really cool. It’s honestly the craziest feeling in the world. I don’t even know how to explain it.
What do you think it is about your songwriting that resonates so much with people?
I write these songs at my most vulnerable state and I just milk every emotion to make them as raw and honest as possible. I think that people hear that and they resonate with that. It’s weird because I write the songs, but do I want the world knowing that that’s how I feel? And then I’m like, yeah, because maybe other people feel like that, too.
How have you grown as an artist between your EPs?
Just knowing yourself more as an artist, you’re always growing and I think that reflects on the projects. [2020’s] ‘Teenage Angst’ feels so young to me, but [this year’s] ‘Off Saint Dominique’ feels more mature. And then what I’m working on now feels better than both.
“I want to see people continue to resonate with the music and see the entire family grow.”
What are you working on right now? Is it a bigger body of work?
Yeah, it’s a longer project. It’s finished. It’s done. So it’s just about putting it out at a point [that makes sense]. I’m very happy with it. I’m very proud of it.
What can your fans expect from it?
It’s still me, but it’s a little different. There’s some different sounds in there. It feels bigger. It feels better. It feels a lot like me now, and I’m so excited.
What do you hope that people take away from it?
Well, the main thing for me is I want people to feel like they’re not the only person feeling something. A lot of the time, I felt like I was the only person that felt like this, and then I talked to someone and they were like, ‘Oh my God, yeah, that time when this happened to me, I truly felt like that’. So I want to just take all of those feelings and put them in my music and have people have that for themselves. To be like, ‘OK, I’m not alone right now’
What’s your big musical aims for the future?
I mean, it would be dope to have a number one album, but also I just want to see people continue to resonate with the music and see the entire family grow. It’s just the best having these people that love what you do, and you kind of end up falling in love with them. Not in a creepy way, but you really do fall in love with them and become friends with them. Like, it’s just a big group of friends. Seeing how they interact with each other, and seeing how a fan from Germany and a fan from Canada have become friends over my music, it’s just really cool to see. It’s nice to have that little family and I want to have more children.
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