Resilient, strong, irrepressible.
These are all words that can be used to describe singer, songwriter, producer, and director Phildel.
Having grown up in a household where music was banned, Phildel used school as a creative refuge, and her creativity bloomed against the odds. Lunchtime was spent writing and performing her own compositions with her music teachers and a piano. Her desk hid the one CD she owned.
After withstanding a decade of oppression, the London-based artist eventually escaped her strict home life and abusive Islamist stepfather, but not without leaving her family behind in the process.
2019 brings along a brand new era for Phildel, now fresh off the release of her new album Wave Your Flags. The album serves as the anticipated follow up to her acclaimed 2013 debut album The Disappearance of the Girl.
While The Disappearance of the Girl was an effort to bring the man who had abused her to justice—she took her story to the police without prosecution and without the support of her mother and sister—Wave Your Flags shows Phildel moving on from the life she’s worked so hard to overcome. Filled with an abundance of strength, Wave Your Flags explores powerful themes of fracture and self-repair, loss and renewal.
Musical Notes Global sat down with Phildel to talk all about her new album, being a woman in the music industry, and more. Check out the full interview below.
MNGBlog: Congratulations on this beautiful album! Can you talk a little bit about how the concept developed?
Phildel: The concept developed over a few years - and it started with imagery - which I find useful to translate into sound. I was initially interested in art deco, then the fusion of organic and geometric designs...in the end I stumbled across these iconic masks made by Steve Wintercroft and realised I would love to use them for the album imagery, somehow the character of the geometric ram became an emblem of the journey of the lonely self, organic but moulded into a geometric shape by aspects of the outside world, to fit in. The album is about being authentic to yourself...despite the judgments of others. And so, the ram felt like a relevant symbol for the journey towards that authentic destination. I think authenticity became my main life theme and so it provided a thematic anchor to the album "Wave Your Flags" - I've battled and overcome a lot of loss, in order to live authentically.
MNGBlog: Being a natural creative, how hard was it for you to grow up in a household where music was forbidden, and how were you able to overcome that obstacle?
Phildel: It was soul destroying. It was a decade in what felt like prison. I managed to continue my love for music at school during school lunchtimes, in the piano practice room. And that really set the foundation for the presence of the piano throughout most of my music - including "Wave Your Flags".
MNGBlog: What do you hope people take away after listening to the album?
Phildel: I would like people to enjoy the experience of the various worlds created within the songs, we move through quite a range of instrumental and emotional places. I'd also love for people to perhaps see some evidence of universal human resilience. We all suffer challenges in life, but we are also incredibly strong.
MNGBlog: What was the most valuable lesson you learned while creating it?
Phildel: To trust my instincts and invest total confidence into my artistic vision.
MNGBlog: Did you discover anything new about yourself, either on a personal level or as an artist?
Phildel: Yes, having had twin boys two years ago, I honestly never thought I would have the energy, drive, focus or organisation - to pull off an album of this standard - whilst feeling I'm spending plenty of time with my children. So, I'm pretty surprised by how I've managed to balance everything. I am hugely grateful to Chris, my partner, for always going 50/50 with me in the way we handle our domestic and family life. His bond and care of our children which is equal to mine, had afforded me time to continue with music. I think historically I've struggled to give up control over my projects, but I've now learnt the incredible benefits of delegation for sure...I also have my manager Philip Tennant to thank for how well everything has gone. I think I've also felt stronger than I thought I would, presenting an album that covers some difficult themes.
MNGBlog: What do you love most about being a woman in the music industry? On the flip side, what are some of the challenges you've come across as a result?
Phildel: This is a hard question to answer - because some of the positives, are just the other side of the same problematic coin. I'd say being a woman in the music industry (an industry that places a lot of emphasis on aesthetic), means we can play the objectification game quite successfully (should we choose to) and increase our exposure in this way. Flicking through any blog or music magazine, there's plenty of evidence of attractive women who have tipped the scales and landed the exposure on the basis, at least partly, of how sexualised they look. That's quite a dark advantage, which I personally wouldn't actively be utilising.
I personally haven't been involved in anything where I have felt discriminated against because I am a woman. But I see issues around me that point to inequality a lot in the music industry - such as certain roles being almost entirely male dominated - engineering, mixing and producing, for example. Which seems to communicate women can be the aesthetic front woman, but not the technician.
And I would say just witnessing that, is damaging on an unconscious level to me. Because I do definitely have this voice of doubt, that tells me I don't belong producing or mixing my own music. Somehow, the image of the world outside, does permeate the mind in that respect. And I find the only helpful thing to do, is to work in quite a solitary fashion. So that I can just forge my own creative work space away from that prevalent social-gender dynamic...and dip in to the wider music community for collaborations here and there. But I would avoid saturating myself in that world.
MNGBlog: Who are some female artists that inspire you as you build your career? What have you learned from them?
Phildel: Tori Amos, Kate Bush, Imogen Heap, Bjork....all of these incredibly visionary women have paved the way for artists like me. They make me feel like my imagination should know no bounds and when I look at them and their work, I feel so creatively empowered.
MNGBlog: What advice would you give to aspiring female artists?
Phildel: Spend a good portion of your time working alone experimenting with various ideas. It's a powerful way to develop your own unique voice and vision.
Listen to Wave Your Flags below.