Birmingham singer-songwriter Phil Madeley is currently gearing up to the release of his debut EP, coming very soon indeed via Nice Swan Records. In the meantime, he’s teasing it with foreboding lead track ’21st Century Witch Hunt’ – a dark and thoughtful effort that spotlights his unusual depth – and playing Dork’s upcoming online festival, Homeschool, too. Introduce yourself, and make sure you catch him live once we’re all allowed to leave the house again.
Hi Phil, how’s it going? Are you coping ok with this virus business?
All good thanks. Just keeping my head down. Cooped up indoors noodling and scribbling away, all for a good cause I suppose.
How are you spending your days at the mo, do you have lots of projects to work on?
I’m writing and demoing mostly. I get up at about 9am. May check the news, or not, for a treat. Have a tea. Go through whatever I’ve written the day before. Usually sees me through till about 11/12. Call it lunch. Then I’ll come back, and if it’s at a reasonable standard, I’ll try and get a decent recording of it. And so the process goes on. This all sounds pretty regimented, and in reality, the process is often sidetracked by reading, watching films, and trying not to waste away entirely.
What do you reckon the best hobby is to do while stuck at home?
Explore something new. I’m reading a lot. Also trying to learn piano on a cheap, battered Casio keyboard. It’s remorselessly unforgiving and hard to get anything good out of. Everything sounds naff, but like all good 8-year-olds across the country, I’m working hard on practising my Classical Grade 3 pieces in time for when all this is over. The plan is in 10 years gimme a Rhodes, and I’ll be whirling like Donnie Hathaway.
What first got you into making music, did you have a musical upbringing? Have you always wanted to be a performer?
At school, I got roped into a friends band playing guitar in a Battle of the Bands. As the rounds went on, I was slowly pushed to the front and centre. From then, I knew there was nothing else I wanted more than to do that forever. At the time I was getting really into Dylan, The Smiths and The Strokes. The Holy Trinity. And I just wanted to be all those things at once. I’d mope around the Sixth Form common room considering myself the only human alive to truly understand Desolation Row. I began writing songs, and like all aspiring 17-year-olds, much of my inspiration stemmed from heartbreak and rejection. I think they’re called soft boys now.
Did it take much experimenting before you hit on your sound?
I’ve always written by myself on an acoustic guitar, focusing heavily on lyrics and being as creative with melody as I could. And I guess I was happy knowing that my voice was my sound. But I knew it wasn’t necessarily the vehicle that would carry the songs alone. I started working with the band last year, and this is where the sound was derived. We just did our best to represent the essence of each song as opposed to placing these songs I’d written into a set form. I don’t think I go in too hard on trying to find a sound. It’s more about giving the song what it needs to carry its message most effectively and emotionally hit hardest.
What do you most enjoy writing songs about? What inspires you?
I’m disillusioned. I’m writing about the drastically changing world and where that leaves us. I enjoy ironising the hypocrisies and contradictions of people and the way they live. The far-right, the far-left and all those in-between. Stuff that divides and unites us. I write about those above me and myself, I suppose, my experiences.
We hear you have an EP on the way, what can you tell us about it?
It’s out on Nice Swan Records and was recorded at RAK. Which is crazy cause we used the same setup Liam Gallagher had left from the day before. We played an acoustic guitar on the final track that Jimmy Page used on the early Led Zep albums. It was recorded in the same room as ‘Fools Gold’. All of this makes us sound like spoilt kids. We’re not. I saved up for a year, and we did it in a day. R&R, mate.
Has the lockdown impacted your upcoming plans at all?
We had a UK tour booked for early May. That’s been postponed until September now. Our EP release date has also been pushed back slightly. It’s a shame because I’m ready to get it out and to play it to people.
Do you have any predictions for later this year?
SONY will be hand delivering suitcases of money to my doorstep begging for more by about November.
Anything else we should know?
Get in touch. I’ll send you a ’21st Century Witch Hunt’ badge. Please save our Church.
Phil Madeley are taking part in new online festival Homeschool, which runs from 8th-10th May – visit homeschoolfest.com for details.