Premiere: wtv, It's Cool by Phé
Los Angeles-based musician Phé has been drawn to music since her childhood. Growing up in East Vancouver, she immersed herself into the performing arts to then pursue a degree in music at Berklee Colleg of Music before moving to LA.
Phé’s emotional, honest and endearing sound has garnered thousands of fans, along with the attention of her recent collaborator Brit Phelan, who worked on the music video for Phé’s new song, ‘wtv it’s cool’.
Milk spoke to Phé about her new music video, who she works with and why, and what’s in store 2020.
What’s it like working in LA? Do you like it?
I’m not gonna lie, LA is a pretty crazy place. I’ve been here for almost three years now, and I think I am just starting to get the hang of it. But I was super overwhelmed at first. Just because I mean, one, it’s such a big place and everything is so spread out geographically. Two, there are truly endless opportunities, which, if you struggle with decision making can be hard to navigate. And three, there are so many people with aspirations of being in the music and entertainment industry. It’s easy to get caught up comparing yourself to the accomplishment of the people around you. When I first got here, I spent a lot of energy worrying about what other people were doing and accomplishing. What parties is she being invited to? What songwriters or producers is he working with? How many streams and so getting on their new single? The list goes on. Social media makes it so easy to become distracted with other people’s lives.
But, I eventually got to a point where I realized that I was causing my own suffering, and for no reason. So I did the work on myself, and got to a place where I was able to let go of destructive habits and narratives that I had been engaging in. Now I get to focus that energy on my personal growth, music, career, and relationships both personal and professional. I’m actively building a life that fulfills me as a person, rather than one that simply “looks cool” to other people. And I really am growing to love it here, now partly BECAUSE of endless opportunities and incredible creative people that once intimidated me. All it took was a little change in perspective. On top of that, I get to make the music that I really wanna make, with people who want to engage in a creative exchange with me and that I genuinely enjoy spending time with. It’s all love. What more could you ask for?!
Were you always interested in music? Tell me about your background?
Music has always been an important aspect of my life, and I always knew that it would be a part of whatever career path I eventually chose. But, it wasn’t until I decided to pursue my post-secondary education in music that I made a conscious choice to have a career in the music business, specifically as an artist.
I grew up in East Vancouver, and ever since I can remember, I’ve been involved in the performing arts, whether that be theatre, musical theatre, dance, film and TV acting, or music. It started when my mom put me into this kid’s musical theatre class when I was like two. We basically just ran around a big room shaking tambourines and singing little songs. It’s funny, cause I ended up being too nervous to get up and participate in the end of the semester performance for all the parents. So, I sat with my mom and watched all the other kids have fun performing. That was my first and last experience with stage fright. Despite that little hiccup, I was hooked! I attended a fine arts school from grades 4 to 10, where I was “taught through the arts”. So all my core curriculum classes integrated components of the arts, like writing and performing plays or songs about different topics we were studying, creating art installations as class projects, etc. This really stuck with me, and even after I left this program and went to a new school, I continued to use these methods to learn and study — often writing raps or songs in order to remember my school notes for tests.
Over the years I joined a number of different dance troupes, including West African Dance, jazz hip hop, and tap — teaching workshops, competing, and performing all around the world. I played the alto saxophone from grade 6 to 12, joined all the different vocal ensembles at my school, did all my school plays and musicals, and then in grade 10 I began attending the Sarah McLachlan School of Music, and after school program that provides students who live on the East Side with free music lessons. That’s where I took my first voice classes and learned about the Berklee College of Music. I was lucky enough to have a lot of really supportive teachers and mentors growing up, which was huge! I think the arts are instrumental in the growth and education of young people, and I don’t know that I would be where I am today without the knowledge, support, and passion of my teachers.
After graduating high school I got into Berklee, and studied music business, vocal performance, and songwriting for 4 years. I graduated from Berklee with a degree in Professional Music and then made the move to LA.
What is your creative process like? How do you prepare yourself to write your music?
I mean, the process depending on the situation in which I am creating. If I’m writing by myself, I will usually sit down and start freestyling melodies into my voice memos on my phone, over a random chord progression I makeup or a beat that I have from a producer. And then I let the words find themselves within the melody. But in this scenario, I don’t typically have a predetermined idea of what I am trying to write or express.
If I’m in a session with a producer or another songwriter, I like to try and come into the with a concept, melody, or some sort of lyrical idea prepared as a starting point. Especially if it’s my first session with someone. This just allows for things to get started a little easier, so we aren’t just floating around trying to pull an idea out of thin air.
Either way, I like to write about stuff that I am experiencing or that is using my mental energy. It helps me to process and heal, and I figure there’s someone else out there trying to work through or understand the same things about themselves and their life.
How did your music video collaboration come about with director Brit Phelan?
I like to think that this music video is the first large scale thing that I’ve been able to consciously manifest in my life. At the beginning of the year, I was doing some manifestation work, working through the practices taught by a woman named Lacy Phillps, and one of the first things I wrote down on my list of things I wanted to call into my life was to shoot and release my first music video.
So, I was working from home one day when I randomly received an email from this young woman named Brit. She told me that she was a director, living in LA, who had worked primarily in commercials but was looking to transition into working with up-and-coming artists on music videos, and that I had been recommended to her by a mutual friend. I checked out her work online and really loved her style so we decided to meet for coffee to chat about the possibility of working on a project together. I showed her some of the music I was working on, explaining the very rough music video concepts I had for each, and we hit it off pretty instantly. She was like, “Okay, send me the songs. Send me these ideas. I’m gonna expand on them more and come up with some treatments. I think we should just do this… We have no budget, team, or location, but we will figure it all out. I promise.” And my gut told me to trust her.
A week later, we were putting together a team, scouting locations, and trying to figure out ways to raise money. We tried to keep costs down, but wanted to create something with high production value and didn’t want to compromise the vision. So, we started an Indiegogo and share it with our networks, raising about 50% of our total budget, and then funded the rest out of pocket — woohoo independent artist life!
This project really epitomizes the beauty of collaboration and put to test the idea of creating something with the community and resources you have available to you. Our networks really stepped up to the plate to help and support us in this journey, and we were able to bring together a group of insanely talented people — many of whom volunteered their time and expertise — to shoot this video. It was really a beautiful experience to be a part of and honestly makes the whole process and final project that much more meaningful to me, because everyone involved was there simply because they wanted to create something special and believed in the project.
How does it feel to be on the other side now that the videos are over? Have you and Brit become closer?
It feels awesome! We had a release event last night with all our friends and supporters here in LA, and it was really special to be able to gather everyone we love in one space and share this project with them. All this means nothing if you can’t share the experience with your community.
It’s been a long road for sure, and while we still have another video that we are preparing for release in early 2020, it feels amazing to be on the other side of this particular release. It’s my first music video! This has been a lifelong dream of mine, so to see it come into fruition and feel so proud of the work that’s been created means the world to me. I’m so thankful that Brit and her wonderful creative mind came into my life when it did. Being able to share this creative process with her has definitely brought us closer, as I think is the territory when working on something that means a lot to you and comes from a really personal place. I’m so excited to see what lies ahead for our friendship and what we will create next.
Tell me more about your other interests. What do you like to do in your free time? Hobbies?
I feel like with where I am in my career right now there isn’t a lot of free time. I have big dreams and big goals, and I don’t currently have a huge team or budget to help me make things happen. Luckily, I have a lot of support and people I can turn to for help, advice, etc. But besides being an artist, I am also working as my own intern, assistant, content creator, graphic designer, social media manager, booking agent, promoter, stylist, hair and makeup artist, day to day manager, and songwriter. All of which are typically full-time jobs on their own.
But, I have been able to incorporate the things that I love doing (that aren’t music-related) into my life and daily routine. I do yoga and I meditate every day and have been diving into exploring my spirituality a lot more this year. My family does this monthly book club, so I’ve been reading a ton — highly recommended to all, I swear Netflix was just slowly sucking my soul and creativity. I also love cooking and baking so I make sure I have time to cook my own meals each day.
Most recently, I’ve started embroidering, which, it turns out, is a super fun hobby. I just decided to start selling hand-embroidered, custom made “wtv, it’s cool” hoodies, so that’s been a fun little venture. People can order a hoodie add their name or other little custom things, and I will hand embroider it and have it delivered to them. A merch store will soon be live on my website, so keep an eye out for that!
Beyond that, I just try to make sure I am setting aside time each week to spend with the people I love.
So what are some upcoming projects you are working on?
I’ve got a couple more singles and another music video up my sleeve for the new year. Then eventually there will be another full project — either an EP or an album — but I don’t want to rush that process. So, right now I’m just trying to focus on writing music that excites me, and then we will see how we want to piece it together into a body (or bodies) or work.
What’s it like preparing for shows, do you have a routine?
I am actually in a space right now where I am exploring new pre-show “rituals”. I used to get super stressed and in my head on show days, which isn’t a nice way to spend your day leading up to performing. Especially since I really love being on stage and being able to share the experience of live music with people.
So, I am working on creating a routine that lifts me up and expand me as a person and performer, rather than getting stressed and worrying about everything going right. If I’ve put in all the prep, practice, and rehearsal time that I can in order to make sure I am delivering a show that I am proud of and that I can enjoy with my audience, then I just need to trust that it will go how it’s supposed to.
My pre-show routine now involves some meditation and breathing exercises to ground and center me, vocal warm-ups, and then dancing around my room to my favorite 90s and early 2000s jams to get pumped up and ensure that I’m feeling like a powerful ass, sexy lady whose about to go up on stage and kill it — ie some Christina Aguilera, Destiny’s Child, Kelly Clarkson, Jojo, TLC, Britney Spears etc.
Images Courtesy of Phé + Brit Phelan.
Stay tuned to Milk for more music moments.