Rising star

Photo: Michelle Fredericks

SO magazine’s resident music guru Paul Dunton reveals the amazing success story of local singer-songwriter Isabella Coulstock, whose star is now in the ascendence thanks to her fantastic talent – and recent gigs opening for The Who at the O2


Around seven years ago I received an email enquiry from a Mark Coulstock asking whether I might consider his daughter Isabella for a booking at The Grey Lady.

I have been running ‘The Grey Lady Sessions’ since 2005 which are essentially all-seated candlelit concerts for local singer-songwriters and original groups. When a new local act enquiry comes forward, it’s always of interest, particularly as one of my goals is to ensure variety and encourage new acts to break into the Tunbridge Wells music scene.

So an informal audition date was agreed where I invited Isabella and Mark over to The Grey Lady for a chat and the opportunity to play a few original songs ‘unplugged’ so I could get an idea of her style and sound, and overall level of her musicianship and vocal prowess.

After listening to her perform a few songs, I was absolutely blown away! Isabella’s voice was astonishing. She delivered a set that exuded an effortlessly pure yet soulful tone laced with a natural country texture and vibe. Her expansive vocal range and dynamics immediately demonstrated her dexterity as a vocalist and her consummate guitar playing was very neat and tidy, expansive and warm in sound. I could instantly tell she had many hours of practice under her belt.

Isabella’s songwriting was also exceptional, lyrically mature and all of her songs were intelligently crafted, and rich in both pop and country sensibilities – they were also very catchy. One of her originals she performed at the audition entitled ‘Crazy Cowboy’ was an absolute cracker and she still plays it to this very day and with good reason. It’s the kind of song that you could imagine singing along to at a show as its infectious upbeat melody and playful lyrics simply draw you in, it just sticks in your head…

Following the audition all those years ago, Isabella went on to make her debut at The Grey Lady a few months later and gave a stellar performance to a packed room. It wasn’t long before she established herself as one of the leading lights on the local scene and I invited her to perform at other venues I was working with, including the likes of Trinity Theatre and the Music Room at PizzaExpress Maidstone (which is sadly no longer around).

In 2018 she made her debut at the Local & Live Festival, where she performed on the main stage at Calverley Grounds and went down a storm! The past few years have seen Isabella’s meteoric rise reach extraordinary new heights, as she was invited personally by Jools Holland to open for him at various theatres across the UK including Warwick, Buxton Opera House, The Great Hall at Exeter, Scarborough, The Victoria Theatre at Stoke, The Orchard Theatre at Dartford, Malvern Winter Gardens and of course Tunbridge Wells’ very own Assembly Hall.

Isabella has also attained prominent slots at numerous high-profile festivals including Pub In The Park, Cornbury Festival, Black Deer Festival and The British Country Music Festival just to name a few.  The Jools Holland shows have been an incredible experience for her, and in addition to exposing her to sizable new audiences, which has led to her winning many new fans, it has, along with all her other gigs, really helped to fine-tune her live shows. Mr Holland has invited Isabella to join him once again this winter at theatres in Plymouth, Brighton and Southend. The summer of 2023 has been a very busy period and saw Isabella as main support for Nell Bryden on her recent UK tour. She also released her debut single ‘Trouble’ to great acclaim in June.

But perhaps the biggest moment of her fledgling career so far came in July of this year when she was handpicked by The Who to open for them at The 02 Arena as the main support act. I was there in the 20,000 strong audience and to be honest, I could not be prouder as she gave a world-class performance.

What an amazing achievement, going from performing at The Grey Lady to just 50 people to opening for The Who at the 02! It didn’t stop there though, The Who also invited her to open for them at their Cricket Grounds shows which included Brighton, Durham and Derby.

At only 21, Isabella is a consummate professional who is 110 per cent dedicated to her craft and extremely humble and personable at the same time. Knowing Isabella like I do, she will never rest on her laurels and will continue to strive to improve further and work as hard as she can to keep developing her career.

The music industry is a very tough and sometimes ruthless business, but Isabella definitely has the drive and the natural ability to go all the way to the top. It will be fascinating to follow the next chapter in her career, but whatever direction it goes, it’s clear she truly loves writing and performing and I am convinced that above all is what really matters to her.

Isabella will be back at The Grey Lady soon (date still yet to be confirmed) and I am sure will grace Calverley Grounds at Local & Live once again but for now, it’s incredibly exciting to see a local artist go on to achieve such incredible success and I am sure there is more to follow in the near future…watch this space!


Isabella’s forthcoming new single ‘Broken’ is available to stream or buy on all major online platforms and you can follow Isabella at @isabellacoulstock on Instagram and Facebook

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