Thandi Phoenix is a star on the rise who shows no sign of slowing down. Ahead of her performance at SUNSET20°NORTH at Barangaroo tomorrow night, she took the time to speak with us.
The first thing one notices when hearing one of Phoenix’s songs is her chillingly beautiful vocal prowess. She has one of those voices that is instantly captivating and genuinely gives you goosebumps the first time you hear it – not entirely surprising for someone who sites such breathtaking and soulful talents as Amy Winehouse and Billie Holiday as some of her biggest musical inspirations.
She went on to express some of her earliest memories of singing at a young age.
“Singing came to me naturally – It’s just something that I sort of fell into. When I was younger I was always sitting around the house doing Macy Gray [and Shakira] impersonations… I didn’t start really taking it seriously until I left high school.”
She also outlined one of her earliest inspirations in the form of pop supergroup the Spice Girls.
“Naturally, Scary [was my favourite]… As a little girl with curly hair growing up – I remember thinking ‘that’s me!'” She laughed.
But when it comes to the inspiration that Phoenix comes across in her day to day life she stated, “Honestly anything that’s going on. I think you can find inspiration from the biggest and smallest things that are happening in your world… Relationships are the thing I seem to keep finding myself writing about – Anything that I need to get off my chest – I just turn to music for that outlet and that release.”
The beautiful thing about music is its ability to transform emotion and personal experience into something that everyone can relate to. As great as happiness is – often it is times of sadness that hit us hardest. It is at times such as this that music is at its most powerful. Pheonix discussed how she is able to transfer times of pain into beautiful musical compositions such as her latest single, Standing Too Close.
“I don’t know why but I find it easier to write sad songs. Just because I find that when you write happy songs and when you’re happy you’re not moping around. It’s not that I can’t find inspiration from happiness but I find that it’s harder to write happy songs because sometimes they come out a little bit cheesy,” she explained jokingly.
“The cringe factor is high when you’re writing a happy song and you realise how cheesy it is… The things that I find really hit me to the core – they I find are the easiest things to write about and they mean the most as well.”
Being no stranger to the live music scene in Australia, Phoenix has performed at such festivals as Bluesfest, Soulfest and Splendour in the Grass. She has also toured alongside such acclaimed acts as Tinie Tempah and Vera Blue. It was her time supporting Rudimental however, that she described as having had the biggest impact on her personally as an artist.
“Stylistically and influencing my music I’d say it’s got to be Rudimental. I was just a punter and I went to see them at Enmore. I remember sitting there thinking ‘I would love to be their support one day’ – I got into drum and bass and garage… They were the first band that kind of tickled my interest to that sound and since then I’ve kind of delved more into that world.”
When asked who a dream collaborator would be if she could choose from anyone in the world, she expressed interest in Pharrell Williams.
“I feel like it would be amazing to work with Pharrell… I was just listening to the new N.E.R.D album and I was like ‘this guy’s a fucking genius!’… Everything he writes you just want to get down to straight away.”
The entertainment world as a whole is currently going through an extremely important transition. Over the last couple of years award shows such as The Grammy’s have come under scrutiny for the lack of diversity in which they embrace. This is a problem that also translates to Australia that Phoenix also acknowledges.
“When it comes to [festival] line-ups I think the figure of males versus females on line-ups and getting awards and recognition is disproportionate. I think its good that we’re talking about it now because before people just didn’t see it as anything… People just need to start seeing us all equally but also see that we need to represent both sides. There are so many incredible female producers, singers and musicians and I think that sometimes we just get caught in another category – We just need to start appreciating everyone for their talent.”
Looking into the future, Pheonix expressed excitement for what’s to come next, “I have my next single coming out very very soon and I’m excited because I got back from LA at the end of last year and did the video clip. So I’m very excited to put that out… I’ll be going to South by SouthWest [SXSW] in March too which is crazy.”
Thandi Phoenix is not only a delight to listen to but also proved to be a delight to chat with. She truly is a young woman with a very bright future ahead of her. Make sure to keep an eye (and an ear) on her!