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Interview of Phia by Freya Bennett

Tell us a little bit about yourself and where you are from:

My name is Phia, I’m a musician living in Naarm/Melbourne, which is also where I was born. I lived in Berlin, Germany for 5 years. I make my music running my vocals and instruments through a loop pedal. I also run a choir called Melbourne Indie Voices, and I arrange my favourite indie songs for the choir to sing.

Your new song Someone Out There is so stunning and rich, can you tell us a bit about the process of making this song?

Thank you so much. I actually wrote this song when I was living in Berlin and then put it away for a few years, because I wasn’t ready yet to confront what it was I’d written about. When I started working with Nick Huggins (the producer of my record) and I could see that a theme of the album was about getting honest with myself, I remembered this song and realised that thematically it really fit with where my head was at. And I was finally ready to delve into the song! Once we layed down the kalimba and vocals, we sent the track to my friend Xavia who is a cellist and vocalist living in the Northern Territory. I had met her on tour there and fell in love with her music. She recorded the beautiful cello parts and some extra backing vocals and then it was complete!

I resonated with the lyrics a lot, are they based on your own personal experience?

Yes the song was written at the height of some pretty intense emotions! I tried really hard to turn off the voice in my head that wants me to self-censor, and just wrote what I was feeling. It can be hard to write about the nuances of long term relationships, it can be complex, ambiguous and not straightforward. But ultimately rewarding.

Do you write lyrics first or music first?

Always lyrics first. I write in my diary – I try for nightly, but that fluctuates. Then later on I might sit at the piano and leaf through it and see if anything jumps out at me as being “song worthy”.

I absolutely adore the Kalimba throughout the song, what qualities do you feel Kalimba brought to the song?

Thank you! It’s such a beautiful instrument. I think it brings an innocence and child-like quality to the song, echoing the sincerity of the questions I’m asking (although the questions are quite grown up).

Your album launch at the Melbourne Recital Centre featured Melbourne Indie Choir, how does it feel hearing your song sung by a choir?

It’s an amazing feeling. There is something so joyous about a choir of people singing in harmony! Bringing together my two musical worlds – my live looping and my choir – is a very grounding and spiritual experience for me.

How was the pandemic for your creative practice?

For me the pandemic goes hand in hand with another big experience that happened to me – getting pregnant and having a baby. They’re inseparable! Contrary to what I might have expected, I found the last 2 years really solidified and strengthened my creative practice. I had a lot of feelings, wrote quite frequently in my diary. And then after my son, Asher was born, I had even more feelings and things to write about! Which I would do for little 10 min blocks at night. When I found moments during the day when he was asleep or out with his Dad I would jump on the piano. I’ve written my next album which I’m excited to get into in the second half of the year.

How are you as a musician, recovering from the pandemic?

I think it’s caused me to reevaluate some things. I used to tour a lot and now I’ve only done one show in the last few years. Before that would have been an awful feeling, but now I think I gain a lot more fulfillment from the creative practice of songwriting and recording and collaborating with musicians, whereas I used to derive a lot of meaning from touring. Of course I love to play live. But it’s not as crucial to my identity anymore. 

Where to from here?

More choir, more songwriting, more parenting – and some more touring of the album in 2023!

 Do you have any advice for those wanting to follow their creative dreams?

Try not to self-censor when you’re creating. There is a time for editing in the creative process, but it’s not at the beginning! Learn to talk back to your inner voice when it says “this is boring” or “no-one wants to hear/see this”. You can say “OK, I hear you. I’m going to keep going anyway”. The more unique and truthful your art is, the more the world needs to hear it.

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