Interview: Phillip Michael

Could you share the story behind your latest song and what inspired its creation?

The title track of my new album is Charmed By A House. The themes and messaging throughout the song are about how we all would like a desirable house to live in. I was inspired to write this song whilst renovating and extending my own house- many long days of toil and hard work engaging trades people to do a complete makeover. This song along with many tunes on my new album Charmed By A House were conceived whilst working on the tools.

How do you approach the process of songwriting, and are there any specific themes or emotions you tend to explore in your music?

My original song ideas come to me in many ways. Sometimes a melody in my head, like an earworm or a bass line or some specific chords on the guitar or piano. Other songs may result from a phrase or sentence that I can conjure up a theme to develop the idea. Having written very many songs and played very many styles of music I find that a small idea can very quickly become a fully formed tune. It may take some time to refine but my many years of musical experience help me expediate the song writing and creative process.
I like to create music and lyrics that cover a wide variety of themes and emotions. I write lyrics that are very deep and meaningful to myself, like The Gatepost, which is a song based around my dear mother Dorothy; another tune Fact Is has a very hidden message about a very tumultuous time in my life with the sudden passing of my father. Other tunes are more light, fun and even trite like Freezer Burn, about stale food in your fridge or Goldie, the retelling of Goldilocks and The Three Bears. These songs are part of my most recent album Charmed By A House. I have a keen interest in environmental and climate change issues and have written songs accordingly – Rivers Of Gold, Ozone Blues, and Green To Black all are very explicit in the description of the exploitation and determent to the planet by our desire for infinite economic growth.

As an indie musician, how do you navigate the balance between creative freedom and commercial appeal?

I have always written songs initially for my own pleasure. There certainly are some tunes that as I develop and produce them I recognize that they have a more mass or commercial appeal. A lot of the commercialization of original music is really based on the production values. Many songs have a common base but the end result can vary into many different genres depending on the instrumentation and digitization of the original musical idea.

What do you find most challenging about being an independent artist in today’s music industry?

Challenges abound as an independent artist. Getting my music heard in a mass arena or tapping into a large audience is a work in progress. Certainly social media and the digital platforms give an artist like me the opportunity to penetrate into a world wide marketplace but then again this technology is available to many, many artist and so the choices for an audience are immense and breaking through is competitive.

Can you talk about your experiences collaborating with other artists or musicians? How does it influence your creative process?

I have been a live performer for over 45 years. In that time I have worked with many, many artists. I like to think that I have a little bit of all of those musical experiences and encounters within me, and alternatively that in some way I have had a small influence on those musicians. It is interesting to me that every now and then I collaborate with a fellow musician where there is a certain synergy where, for example, our voices not only compliment each other in harmony but there is an extra force or energy that is a result of working together in that moment. I do gravitate towards those auras.

What role does technology and social media play in promoting your music and connecting with your audience?

On a musical level technology is not that important to me. I create music from an inner space that does not require digital or technological assistance to be expressed. I do hear music that is so effected by technology that I wonder where is the actual idea for the tune/song.
The development of digital communication has made the transmission of music to the masses instantaneous. Social media is a means to being directly connected to your audience. Not being a digital native it is foreign to me to navigate these streams of communication. I think the opportunities are immense but the options are also a minefield to navigate and the chance of my music being sucked into a void and disappearing into the universe of nothingness is very real.

Are there any particular artists or genres that have had a significant impact on your musical style?

Certainly 60’s and 70’s rock and pop music have had an immense effect on my musical stylings and taste, as well as Jazz. I have always been drawn to musicians and artists that excel in their craft and have a high level of musicianship. I was always more interested and inspired by the arrangements and performance of The Beatles, Jethro Tull, Rory Gallagher, Beach Boys, The Carpenters, Nat King Cole and Led Zeppelin as opposed to more simplified songs of more commercial artists. Formulaic songs don’t inspire me, I especially have always enjoyed listening to musical acts and artists that have a high level of competency and can perform live.

Indie musicians often have a close relationship with their fanbase. How do you engage with your fans and build a dedicated community around your music?

I have some music videos for my current album Charmed By A House, using visual media to help connect with my fan base has helped to enhance my connectivity with my audience.

Could you describe a memorable live performance experience or tour that has had a lasting impact on you and your music?

Certainly my experience as a singing bass player on the Greek cruise boat The Atalante in 1984 goes down as one of the most pleasurable events that I was able to access because of my music. Specifically, sailing down the Grand Canal, departing the port of Venice, Italy on a cruise bound for the Eastern Mediterranean conjures up fantastic memories of great times. As the boat left the dock we played acoustic sets on the open deck as the newly boarded passengers sipped cocktails and took in the fantastic views of Venice. To be in that situation because of my skills as a musician is something that I am very proud of and from that time on I have always found myself in most pleasurable situations and events because of my music. Snowfields, remote islands and everywhere in between music has given me access to some amazing locations and experiences. Being able to stand and deliver music to an audience is a wonderful experience.

In an era of streaming platforms, how do you feel about the changing landscape of music consumption and its impact on independent musicians?

Streaming platforms have made all forms of music very accessible, some may say even disposable. Certainly the renumeration for the songwriter and creator via these digital streaming platforms is virtually non existent as testament to some of the larger artists that pull their music from platforms like Spotify etc. Taylor Swift, Metallica. There is very little financial reward via streaming platforms for the original songwriter.