With over 20 years of experience in the music industry, solo performer Chuck Phillips has some tales new artists would give their left arm for. Drawing together the sounds of Leonard Cohen, David Bowie, The Beatles and Counting Crows, Phillips has an intimate intensity for old-school and contemporary audiences. We speak with the multi-instrumentalist about his upcoming album Act I: Scene II, discovering new music, being an insect and much more.
OSR: What drew you to music?
Phillips: The music itself. I’m not sure why, no one else in my family is musical, but from the age of 5 I was obsessed with my Fisher-Price record player playing old Beatles and Huey Lewis records and singing along pretending I was on stage. I think it’s just in my DNA.
OSR: I read that you recorded Act I: Scene II during the Covid-19 lockdown. What were the procs and cons of recording from home?
Phillips: My first release was recorded in a proper studio in New York and although that was an amazing experience I found, during this process, that I work much better in my home studio. There’s no pressure of time constraint. You can work anytime you like for as short or as long as you like. If you suddenly get an idea in the middle of the night you can flip on the computer and lay it down. I found that I was much more creative and productive this way. The only con would be not having access to all of the amazing sound equipment that proper studios offer. But I was able to accomplish all of the sounds I was going for with a pretty simple setup.
OSR: Do you believe song placement is important on an album?
Phillips: I generally think song placement and flow of an album is pretty important. I thought long and hard about how to arrange these tracks. The concept of this album was for it to be set up like a play, hence the title. The tracks are ordered for a very specific flow, including an opening, intermission and closing.
OSR: If you could change one thing about Act I: Scene II what would it be?
Phillips: One of my main goals when making this record was to have it available to my fans on vinyl. I’m a big-time vinyl collector and that’s how I prefer to listen to my music when at home so I was really looking forward to having my own album. However, I found out once it was all finished and mastered that it was about five minutes too long to fit on a vinyl record. I had written and arranged the tracks with such intent that I couldn’t bear to cut a song off; they all had their place. If I could start over I would plan to make the album short enough to fit on vinyl.
OSR: What is your favourite song on Act I: Scene II?
Phillips: That’s tough, they’re all my babies! Probably ‘Counting Sheep’. I just like the sound, the way it moves and it’s probably the most autobiographical song on the album other than ‘Party Down The Street’. I’m also quite fond of ‘Greta Garbo’.
OSR: What do you believe is the best way to discover music nowadays?
Phillips: Good question. I don’t listen to much new music and what I do listen to I rely on my friends to tell me about. I think they mostly find it through Spotify playlists.
OSR: If you could spend the day with any celebrity who would it be and why?
Phillips: That’s a tough one but I’d have to say, Paul McCartney. I’ve been a huge Beatles fan from day one and I would give anything to sit down and chat with him about songwriting, musicianship and the incredible life he’s led.
OSR: If you were reincarnated as an insect what would you be and why?
Phillips: There’s a huge bumblebee that hangs around my back door all day long. He never does anything. Never lands, never meets other bumblebees, he just buzzes around in circles like he’s looking for something. I’d love to be that bee for a day so I could figure out what the hell he’s up to.
OSR: Do you have future plans?
Phillips: Those are the only kind of plans we can have, right?
OSR: Do you have a message for our readers?
Phillips: Life is crazy and getting crazier by the day. Don’t fall for it. The world is simple and so beautiful it’s hard to believe sometimes. Be kind to each other and listen to lots and lots of music.