By Rosine Alleva – Rock At Night EU Editor.
I met Philip Sayce at Wood Stock Guitares in 2017, with whom I had shared a fantastic time. I had the privilege to have an online interview with him again last week to talk about his new album SPIRIT RISING and more. What an amazing moment with such a brilliant musician and a beautiful soul!
RAN– We met 3 years ago, what happened since, when did you start writing this new album?
Philip Sayce– It was really nice to meet you at that show at Wood Stock Guitares, a wonderful night. At that time, I had already written a couple of songs for this new record. There was a lot of feedback and collaboration on it, it just takes time to move things through. The record company needed a schedule to work with, with developing in close partnership with their team. They felt it was a good time to come out this year.
RAN– Lockdown launched streamed concerts, how does it feel to play behind a computer screen, although you’re reaching a public?
PHS– It’s a strange combination of feelings. I appreciate the privilege of being able to connect with one another through online platforms. However for me it’s not a complete substitute. At a performance in person, there is a physical charge, it’s a very different energetic experience. I don’t think the depth is the same as if you were there in person.
RAN– Digital changed the music industry but has seen a decrease since lockdown, do you think it could reinitiate more live performances once this will be possible again?
PHS– I really hope there will be a return for live performances. My concern is, how many people will feel safe coming back to a live music venue? This is gonna be strange for a long time, maybe once there will be a vaccine available but psychologically this is gonna change the landscape for live tours for sure! I don’t know if it’s necessarily for a better. The big promoters here in North America are talking about end 2020, 2021 but the psychological impact will take a long time to get over this.
RAN– Your new album SPIRIT RISING was released a few weeks ago on April 24th via Warner Music Group. You worked with songwriters Richard MARX (the L.A. writing team/band Distant Cousins), Gavin BROWN and Maia DAVIES. How did this collaboration start?
PHS– Richard and I met for many years and we wrote many songs together. He’s a real talent, it was a real pleasure to collaborate with him, I learned a lot from him. I met the songwriter Maia Davies at a show and Gavin Brown, great writer and producer from Toronto, through our record label, who helped to connect us. We did a lot of writing and some of the songs came up with.
RAN– How and why did you choose 3 covers on the album?
PHS– I recorded MAGIC SAM “Give Me Time” and LIGHTNIN’ HOPKINS “Awful Dreams” with my dear friend Michael NIELSEN who also produced them, it was a real collaboration we did together and certainly out of respect for these Artists and for JEFF HEALEY of course with “One Foot on the Gravel”! They are important in the shaping of, speaking for me, where my Music is coming from and where it’s going, it’s to honor them, to thank them for the huge impact they had on the Music world. And perhaps to share with people that never heard these songs.
RAN– “Once” is a beautiful tribute song that you wrote for your father…
PHS– The all album, the idea of SPIRIT RISING is dedicated to my dad, certainly honoring his spirit and mine because his spirit lives in me. It was a very difficult time, we’re all grieving, one day at a time still to get through things, a lot of that emotion, a lot of that wanting to reach my dad is in the album, all dedicated to him.
RAN– Beautiful…You really put your heart and soul into SPIRIT RISING. How did you feel when it was ready?
PHS– It felt really good, it’s been ready for quite a while. Different managers, agents involved in this told me that they needed to reinvent me, my image, my sound, my music. Some people want to help improving what you’re good at, who you are, collaborate in that way is fine, but others want to tell you who you are, just to satisfy their ego! You can really learn from this. So at a certain point I just took control of the situation, a lot of that had to do when my dad passed away. I said “this is what I do, I am who I am, this is my sound, this is from my heart, here’s the record”. That felt amazing to me, I stood up for myself, believed in who I am. As a good team player, I tried to incorporate whatever resonated with me, any constructive feedback and criticism. So I was very grateful to be able to collaborate with my partners, to use whatever was provided and helpful and the rest to learn how to really trust myself.
RAN– How did these times impact you personally as a musician?
PHS– Professionally it impacted hugely, cause there won’t be any touring this year and that’s hard around a record release. Personally I try to meditate as often as possible. It’s extremely helpful in staying centered, focused and grounded. The actual situation is out of our control, nothing we can do but follow the rules to stay healthy. It’s an opportunity for inner work, release what’s out of my control, be in the moment and put love in the world through social media platforms with my music and if this can make someone’s day better, wow, this makes my heart sing!
RAN– If I ask you which of your albums represents you the most?
PHS– PIECE MACHINE and SPIRIT RISING. They were both made in a similar way where I recorded live in a studio with my friend Michael LEASURE who plays drums (Walter TROUT drummer), just him and me. I added bass and organ after most of it was done. Very organic recording. So both feel very connected, different times in my life but both were done with all the heart that I could put into them.
RAN– Can you tell me about your collaboration with Fender for electric blues guitar online teaching?
PHS– I’ve never done online teaching in a formal setting, I may show a few tips every week on social media, but not like a teacher with technics. Fender works in collaboration with some artists and we discussed about a few opportunities to collaborate this year. We did a video a few weeks ago, it was really fun.
RAN– Thank you so much for your time, it was amazing, you’re amazing! All the best with your new album, and hope to see you back on stage soon!
PHS– Thank you for your support, hope to meet again soon, stay healthy!
Due to lockdown, my friend and colleague José Oliveira couldn’t unfortunately assist to this interview.
Many thanks to Kelly for providing the photos (by Matt Barnes)