theaussieword.com catches up with Phia for a special interview.
Tell us how it all started. What had you first interested in music? I don’t remember when I was ever not interested in music. I grew up in a musical family, dad played guitar and mum played the flute and sung. I took piano lessons, sang harmonies in the car with mum and my sister, was in choirs and later in high school got interested in jazz music. I did some composition in my improvisation degree and then started writing songs comparitely late, when I was about 20.
What motivates or influences you in your quest to make great music? I love that feeling when you hear a great song, or go to a great gig, when you walk away glowing and thinking I want to do that. When hearing a songwriter fills you with that impulse to create, or get up on stage. I hope I can inspire that in other people.
What are your biggest goals you hope to accomplish as an artist? In the last couple of years my goals have become smaller, but not less important. I hope my album reaches an audience who are moved by it, I hope to continue to be a part of and contribute to a thriving local artistic community, and I hope my career can keep growing so it can continute to sustain itself. Being a musician can be really expensive!
Success, what is the secret to it? I think what I touched on in the previous question. Success is so nebulous, and as soon as you’ve achieved a particular goal it can disappear like a mirage as you focus on the next rung of the ladder. For me now success hinges on feeling like I’m part of a healthy ecosystem – putting energy into creative pursuits that are fulfilling (releasing music, putting on gigs) and hopefully inspiring other people to do the same.
What has been your biggest career highlight so far? Last year I put on my first full band/headline show in Berlin, which was also my farewell show. The encore was me singing “Woyaya” a cappella, a traditional song I learnt from my mum with my two backing vocalists off the stage, and then the choir I led at the time joining in, from amongst the crowd. That was really special.
Which stars of the music industry do you find inspiring? Tune-Yards, St Vincent and Feist are massively inspiring to me.
The music industry is huge, where do you see yourself a few years from now? Well my main goal is to get a large enough profile in Australia that I can be a celebrity casting in a musical (I’m thinking Chicago, West Side Story, Fame, I’m not fussed). OK but more seriously, to be touring my second album in Australia and Europe!
The shape of the music industry has changed significantly over the years, including the use of social media, how do you feel about the industry as a whole and what does it mean to you in getting your records out into the public eye? I’m a huge fan of social media, it’s basically created a new way of having a music career. I don’t think I would have been able to come over to Berlin anonymously and build a fanbase across Europe independently if not for social media. I am a bit addicted to my phone, as a result though. I could definitely afford to check my emails fewer times per days
Name a few of your favourite Aussie artists. I’m always eagerly anticipating what Georgia Fields and Ainslie Wills are doing next. I also love Kimbra and Megan Washington.
What can we expect from you in the coming months? Any plans to tour? Right now I’m sitting in a Berlin cafe answering these questions, as my European tour for ‘The Ocean of Everything’ starts next week. I’ll be back in Australia in October with some Oz tour dates to be announced shortly.
Tell us a bit about your latest record, how would you best describe your music? The Ocean of Everything is my debut album, and the songs on it reflect everything I’ve been through over the last few years. Five years ago I moved to Berlin and properly started playing with the kalimba and loop pedal, which are now staples of my live sound. I wrote about living in Europe, how your relationship with yourself and your family change as you move through your twenties, reflections on childhood and nostalgia, what ‘home’ means and homesickness. For the record I collaborated with my guitarist Josh Teicher, who added deep synths, lush guitar lines and samples to my sound and it was mixed by my dream mixing engineer Eli Crews, who mixed some of Tune-Yards’ records. I’m really proud of it, and can’t wait to have it out in the world.
Do you have any new projects in the pipeline? At the start of this year I started a choir, called Melbourne Indie Voices. We’re a group of about 40 singers, and I arrange contemporary/indie songs that I love for us to sing, like “I’m Not Sorry” by Banoffee, “Surrender” by Ball Park Music” and “Rucker’s Hill” by Husky. In July they joined me on stage for my single launch, which was really fun. The rehearsals are a really special part of my week. It’s great to have a dedicated time of singing in harmony with people.
Thanks for the interview! What final message do you have for us today? Thanks so much for having me! My final message is to Australians travelling to Berlin: if your coffee order is normally some type of latte, order a cappuccino in Berlin. If you order a latte you’ll end up with this massive milky drink, it’s no good. A cappuccino here is much closer to our latte or flat white. Insider tip.