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Artist Interviews

Artist Interview: Philip Jonathan

Hello. In your own words, how would you describe your sound and style?
In a nutshell, it’s cinematic folk – or Ben Howard at the front and Sigur Ros at the back! I spend a lot of time in the hills or on the coast and this inspires a lot of my writing. So I tend to like these earthy, organic folk sounds sitting on top of wide open spaces and atmospheres created by orchestral and electronic sounds.


You’ve just released your debut EP titled “Pluma”. What is the story behind the EP and its title? What themes and ideas influence your music and writing?
Pluma” (‘feather’ in Latin) is about searching for hope in the highest, lowest and most mundane moments in life. The tie for me between a feather and the concept of hope goes back some way. Chokehold came about through the grief of losing a close friend who passed from cancer a few years ago. As he got more unwell, he kept on seeing feathers everywhere, and this prompted him each time to remember things to be thankful for and to live in the moment – that things were going to be okay. He was someone of faith and for him, existence was bigger than the life lived here so he had a different perspective. I worked the feather into most of the music videos – leading the woman to the shore in Seafront, behind the sunflower at the end of I, Hope, and all the bird-feeders in In the Garden. The artist who made the cover art, Goutham Tulasi, had shared with me how Seafront had accompanied his journey making peace with his father’s death. He suggested having a flower bursting from the end of the feather. Even after the feather has fallen from the bird: its story isn’t over yet. 

I couldn’t pin down any one thing that influences my music and writing. Often I find writing songs is a way to authentically examine some of the questions I ask myself. But a recurring theme in that process is a search for some kind of redemption – to find meaning and beauty in the middle of some of these struggles.

We really enjoy your music and had the pleasure of seeing you play at a Sofar Sounds event in Gateshead. What have been career highlights for you so far?
The day I released my first track, Seafront, stands out for me – the amount of messages I received from friends and total strangers about it was totally overwhelming! It took me about a week of near-constant messaging to reply to them all. That was a huge moment for me after years of not sharing so much of this music to realise that people actually valued what I was making. After that, another big milestone has got to be the gigs around the “Pluma” release. I played Sofar NE, sold out my first headliner for the launch gig and played to a packed room in Berwick the week after. It was both humbling and surreal to realise that so many people were coming out to support me! I’ve always wanted to play at Sofar – they have the best audiences, so that was really special. At the launch gig, the crowd started singing along to In the Garden – Alicia (my backing singer) and I were so surprised that we forgot all the lyrics! We had a good laugh about it on stage and managed to carry on though.


Do you have any plans for the year ahead that you would like to share with us? Also, what would you like to achieve in the upcoming year?
The next few months are about taking time to allow creative ideas to bubble up again. The last year has been so intense learning how to self-promote, use social media, send out press releases etc. that I’ve had almost no time for the most important bit – songwriting! But I’ve already been back in studio getting started on the next EP. I hope to be finishing off that through the Summer and Autumn, whilst getting out and playing as many gigs as I can in the meantime! Expect some new releases towards the back end of the year/early 2023.

What advice do you have specifically for other north east artists? And what advice do you have for artists in general?
I recently wrote a piece on just this for the fantastic local music Zine ‘Every Day is a Rhythm’ – you can read it here: https://t.co/8JuMtQ62v2. But in summary: Figure out what drives you and what your internal metrics of success are – the things which aren’t dependent on anyone else. Don’t make art about numbers or what other people are saying, make it about what moves you or you’ll probably burn (or sell) out. Second – and I’m still on the learning journey here – don’t compare yourself up or down. Celebrating and championing those around you is a great antidote to the urge to compare yourself to others.


Lastly, what artists are on your radar that you would recommend others listen to & see live?
There’s a few most established artists who massively inspire my sound that I’d love to plug. The Staves are phenomenal live. Also, if you like any of my music, I thoroughly recommend Roo Panes, Matthew and the Atlas, the Paper Kites, the Oh Hellos and Francis Luke Accord.

However… locally (as I’ve recently been discovering!) we have some phenomenal talent. I’m a particular fan of Benjamin Amos live (so much energy!), Tom Joshua (can’t wait for him to release more music), Jodie Nicholson (a rising star + beautiful vocals) Matt Hunsley (cracking vocals and interesting arrangements) and Ceitidh Mac (some serious music there). I also saw Faithful Johannes live recently and I can say it was a unique and truly extraordinary experience.

Follow Philip Jonathan on socials: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | YouTube

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