Contemporary R&B singer-songwriter Phé offers up a dose of soulful prowess, as her commanding vocals, combined with raw and honest lyrics, expose a realness that truly sets her apart from the crowd. Born and raised in East Vancouver, Phé fell in love with the arts at an early age, taking to the stage as a dancer, actress, and singer. In college Phé sang as a background vocalist on projects including the Marianas Trench song, 'Shut Up and Kiss Me', and Aloe Blacc’s hit single 'The Man', but before long she found herself yearning to tell her own stories. Inspired by the strength of her childhood idols, and female powerhouses Erykah Badu, Sade, and Lauryn Hill, Phé began exploring her own artistry. Her debut EP, CRISIS is the result of this musical exploration and a first look into Phé's mind and world. Touching on themes of love, heartbreak, female sexuality and sexual exploration, healing, mental health and self-empowerment, the stunning release takes an in-depth look at how Phé handled each new space she entered as she attempted to heal.
Unheard Gems: We are so excited to welcome Phé to Unheard Gems. You are such a powerful artist, I am so glad we get to talk to you.
Phé: Thanks so much, that really means a lot! I’m super excited to get the opportunity to chat with you guys too.
Unheard Gems: Just so our readers can get to know you a bit more if they haven’t heard of you, how did you get started in music and what made you drawn to music?
Phé: Music has always just inherently been a really big part of my life, and because of that, there wasn’t really a specific moment where I “got started” in music. Growing up I was always singing and making up my own songs and musical numbers. I was also a dancer when I was younger, taking classes and performing across Canada and around the world in different West Africa, tap, jazz, and hip-hop groups. Then, in elementary school, I started singing in choir and began playing the Alto Saxophone, and from there just continued exploring music as a student.
I think I was drawn to music so young because it is such an expressive medium, and helps you to work through so many emotions without really having to think about it. Singing and music helped me to feel seen for more than how I look and helped me to actually be heard as a young person.
Unheard Gems: You just released your debut EP “Crisis”. I have to say, it is one of my favorite releases of 2018. What can you tell us about the story or themes behind this EP?
Phé: AH thank you! That's so sweet, and means a lot. This project has been with me for a long time and holds a special place in my heart.
CRISIS tells the story of my first real experience with love and heartbreak. Each song gives a snapshot that explores how I dealt with/was affected by different moments within that whole journey. It talks about mental health, self-worth, self-empowerment, female sexuality and hook-up culture, drug and alcohol abuse, and how
prior to falling in love, I was honestly pretty skeptical about the whole idea, and afraid to put myself in such a vulnerable position -- having seen heartbreak and disappointment growing up and knowing how that can affect people. I figured it was easier to have this wall up and not let someone in like that than to give someone the permission to see my heart and possibly break it.
But, you don’t really get to control when you fall in love and being with this person made me feel safe and seen, and I grew to feel that we were worth trying for. But, we were young, I was in school, and he had to move back home, so we ended up doing long distance, which eventually led to us breaking up. And that's when I fell apart. I had built him and us up in my head and had sort of lost myself in this relationship. So when it was over, I couldn’t find myself. And that manifested itself in me in the form of super self-destructive behavior -- which I talk about in the title track Crisis. I just didn’t want to feel bad anymore, which meant distracting myself so I didn’t have to face that pain. I eventually got to the point, where I was pushing my friends away, embarrassing myself, I wasn’t healthy, and I was scared. And then and there, I decided that I either needed to make a choice. I either changed how I was treating myself, or I was going to get to a point where I was completely isolated and couldn’t recognize or save myself. So I changed. And from that, CRISIS was born.
Unheard Gems: I think your songs are important for women to hear. You write about love, heartbreak, female sexuality and sexual exploration, healing, mental health and self-empowerment and I think more women need to hear the sincerity of those topics in your music. Is there anything you would say to women listening to your music or just in general that you have learned through experience or in writing music?
Phé: I think the messages in my music are important for both men and women to hear. Every relationship involves two people, and the decisions of both sides impact not only the relationship as a whole but also each individual and how they see themselves.
At the time, I didn’t have a strong enough hold on who I was as a young woman, and so when this other person came into my life, I was so ready to drop everything and give it all to them. I didn’t have a healthy outlook on love or what a relationship was supposed to be like -- I just wanted to be seen and heard, and to love and be loved.
So if I was to say anything to my experience and what I’ve learned, it's that you deserve to give yourself the time to know yourself and learn to love yourself before you invite someone else in. Otherwise, that person is sort of just a band-aid, rather than being this additional layer of love and support.
Unheard Gems: I’m not alone in terms of the love for your music. You have received so much positive feedback from major media outlets for your music and your song ‘'Feel You' gained over 93 thousand streams on Spotify and 'About Us' having been featured on Spotify’s Just Vibing playlist. Those are not small numbers or things to achieve! What has been getting all this positive feedback been like for you?
Phé: It’s been so crazy seeing people react to my music so positively. My heart is so full, and I’m just so happy that people are able to resonate with it! That’s all I’ve ever really wanted. It feels nice to work so hard for something and actually have it be heard and enjoyed. With so much new music coming out these days and so many new artists, it can be hard to work your way through the noise. So I’m really thankful that people are taking the time to listen to my music.
Unheard Gems: Before becoming a solo artist you worked with some pretty big names in music. You sang as a background vocalist on projects including the Marianas Trench song, 'Shut Up and Kiss Me', and Aloe Blacc’s hit single 'The Man'. What did experiences like those teach you about working in the music industry?
Phé: Those experiences were really different from each other, but both were huge learning experiences and super fun.
I actually met Josh from Marianas Trench when I used to model and act and was at an audition for one of his music videos. I didn’t get the part, but he found out I was a singer, and later asked me to come and sing on the “Shut Up and Kiss Me” track. He wanted two vocalists so I asked one of my best friends from high school who was also a singer, and we went into the studio and laid down the vocals. It was both of our first experience being in the studio at that capacity, on a project like that, so that was huge for us!
I did the Aloe Blacc track with a local Vancouver band called the Boom Booms, and some of their other close friends. That one was more choir style, so we all had out parts and were gathered around the mics, and we just sung our hearts out altogether. The energy in that room was amazing, and we had a lot of fun. It just felt like a bunch of friends getting together to sing.
Both experiences taught me to just go for it. In this industry, you don’t really have time to second guess yourself, and some of my biggest regrets are moments when I felt like I wasn’t prepared so I didn’t go for it and take a chance -- cause I didn’t want to embarrass myself.
Unheard Gems: Do you have any words of advice for other people who want to get a start in the music industry and tell their story?
Phé: Really take the time to figure out who you want and build your foundation as an artist. You’re the only one who knows your story and sees your true vision. So trust yourself and be honest with yourself. Then find yourself a team that wants to take the time to help you realize that vision and make it a reality.
Unheard Gems: I love this question because it is great at expanding who I listen to. If you could recommend to us one emerging artist or Unheard Gem that you think deserves more recognition in the music industry right now, who would you recommend and why?
Phé: I love these kinds of questions because I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by a lot of insanely talented artists! So I just get to plug my friends ahaha. I would recommend you check out Madz and Luke, Horace Gold, and Floyd Fuji.
Madz and Luke are a super talented folk-rock/indie pop duo from Toronto Canada. Their live shows are some of my favorites to watch because they have such great chemistry and are super talented performers. Horace Gold is soo fun and does this really funky pop music. I’ve had the pleasure of writing with him a few times and he’s such a creative person, super inspiring. And Floyd Fuji is just crazy. He constantly blows me away with his kind spirit and incredible music -- he has a unique mix of aspects from indie rock, hip-hop, funk and 80's synth soul.
Unheard Gems: Lastly, for all of our readers, where can they find you and your music and is there anything else you want to leave us with that we didn’t talk about in our questions?
Phé: You can find my music on all streaming platforms -- Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, Soundcloud, iTunes etc. Or you can follow me on my socials to stay up to date with new shows, releases, and other fun things.
Interviewed and Edited by Hannah Schneider