June Digital Cover: Pheelz
He’s got one of the hottest Afrobeats songs out right now, and a lot more up his sleeve. I sat down with hit producer, artist and viral sensation Pheelz to talk about his 10+ year “overnight success”, the most important element in his music and next steps.
Pheelz’s music, whether he’s produced it or been the main artist, connects with so many people so directly, I had to find out about his entry into music and the kind of experiences that formed his musical foundation.
Were you brought up with music, or was there something you saw one day and decided this is the path you wanted to take?
I don't think I was brought up with music, but I would say I was as well because my dad is a pastor and he owns a church that has a choir and everything. I can still remember being like 5 years old and that was like my introduction to music, my first time in the adult church. I heard the choir sing and saw what it does, the emotions and like the power music had, I still remember that feeling as a 5-year-old kid like just wanting that. I was just sold from that point.
Did you find the foundation of your earlier cuts of music being influenced/rooted in the gospel music genre because of this?
I think the foundation is music in all the words, gospel, contemporary, classical, I’ve always accepted and absorbed a lot of that from HipHop like everything. So I never started listening to gospel and wanted to make it, but I was like ‘oh, THIS is music’, ‘okay how do you read music? How do you write music? Okay, what's this score? Who’s Beethoven?’ That's how it went because I’m a very curious person, and I’m also a Gemini shoutout to all the Geminis out there, I’m just up and down you know.
That makes sense, so this curiosity kind of drew you deeper into music as an entity, and you mentioned reading and writing music, did you make it your mission to learn how to play any instruments in particular?
Oh yeah, I play 5 - sometimes 6 depending on how I’m vibing. Well, I play the drums and keys, I play the guitar, the lead and the bass. I play the saxophone a bit, I play a bit of the piccolo - with those two instruments it depends on how I'm vibing but the first 4 ones are my main ones.
Woah so you’re a walking one-man band. I don’t like putting artists in boxes and you’re one it’s tricky to do that with because I’m hearing you say “just vibing” a lot. But in terms of the kind of music you make or your personal genre how would you describe it?
Urm to be very honest I have never had a genre I just had a location. If you listen to my productions from day one I’ve never been genre-specific. Yes, I’ve dabbled into different styles but I feel like my footprint has always been distinct regardless of the style that I'm in. So I wouldn't say I have a genre, I just have a vibe, like I just vibrate on a certain frequency and whatever genre that frequency goes to, that will be my interpretation of that at that time I just move like that.
How did Finesse come about? Were you in a mood and feeling exactly like the lyrics of the song? What were your feelings/vibes at that moment?
The feelings of finesse I call it a cocktail of shit, that's what I call it *laughs* and that’s the feeling. Because it was just a lot of things like the inspiration, especially for the lyrics, I got them from a lot of cocktails of shit that’s happened to me and I just put them all on a canvas.
Like you have the first half that goes “And I've been living fast life but I see it in slow-mo (Olohun)...And you see my lifestyle like a G's in the turbo (For sure)” because actually, I have friends that have turbo Benz and always whip it around you know.
Okay, so you really live what you rap.
*laughs* Yeah, you know. Then I have the line where I said “Bad girl say she wan Netflix and chill’ it's like you know, I give her a warning - if you fall in love it’s certain you go chop breakfast. Now, ‘breakfast’ in Nija is another word for a breakup.
Then I have the hook that says yeah “Ahhh, finesse (Ge ge ti), If I broke na my business (Ye ye), Ama shana e go bright o (Ge ge ti)” which means urm we’re gonna turn on the sparklers in the club and we’re gonna be bright, and then folake for the night.
Ah pure vibes, and then we have our other star boy BXSN jump in with his verse. Had you two worked together before this or planned to?
We’ve always wanted to work together, we’ve been saying we want to for like a year and a half but just been so busy and yeah…Then I recorded Finesse and posted it online and you know it blew up. He sent me a message on Instagram and was like “Bro what is this sound, is it just a TikTok sound or is it a song?” I’m like ‘ah bro it’s a song oh, do you want a verse?’ And he was like “ah I’m down”, and we linked up and he recorded his verse that’s how it happened.
That’s so great, very natural, and how did you record the chorus, is it all you?
Yeah, it’s me and the producer, Micheal, we just stacked our vocals together in different dimensions of the room, because different positions in a room sound different and have like different textures, yeah.
When you posted the snippet on TikTok did you think people would take and run with it the way they did?
Urm to be very honest I didn’t see it as anything, I just saw it as ‘ooh I love this shit and I want people to hear it like I just wanna put this online’. It wasn’t about a release or a song; I had a different single I was going to drop, mix and mastered and everything.
Will we still get to hear it?
Yeah sure, it’s a jam! So I just posted it [Finesse] online because I loved it and I was just not overthinking anything. Creating fearlessly and just being in the moment, just letting it go and making art. At the end of the day you just have to go back to what really matters and that's just the art and the vibe…I’ve been doing it for over 10 years and nothing like this has happened for over 10 years, you get me, I’ve never seen this happen. I don’t think anyone’s seen this happen. I posted the video with 21 followers on TikTok, do you get? It’s crazy.
That’s very true, sometimes you just have to let go. So as an artist/producer/musician, you’re really all, what advice would you give to others trying to go down that path?
Be confident in yourself, like the universe responds to your energy so you know make it as positive as you can. Work just keep working, don't overthink it. Also, there's this quote that I've been living on now it says progress over perfection.
Just keep creating and keep progressing. You can never be perfect just keep moving.
If you keep waiting for it to be perfect you’re holding yourself back, I promise you
Love that, and it’s good advice for anyone. Back to Pheelz the producer, are there any tracks you wish you produced?
Ooh yeah I mean everybody has that…I wish I co-produced Happy with Pharrell. I love the feeling, that music there is beautiful. I wish I produced Superwoman by Wande Coal. I think those two are the ones I really remember, those songs are attached to a feeling so I always remember them.
And are there any tracks you produced but you wish you were an artist on?
Hm, that one is plenty.
Okay, let’s try a Top 4 or 5
I wish I was an artist on Turn up by Olamide, Champion by Fireboy DML, High - I lowkey wrote a verse on High that no one has heard, that verse is fire.
Wait woah woah woah, so how and when do we hear that verse?
We’ll see how it goes - once in a while I go wild on my socials and I just post things, so it could come out one of these days. There are a lot of songs, there’s also a song on Tiwa Savage’s album called Celia’s Song.
Love that, I’m still stuck on the fact you’re hiding a verse on High from us, but that’s great so I guess when you’re in the studio even if you’re in the producer’s chair you’re always in artist mode.
I’m deep in it, hands-on, co-writing, harmonies, backing vocals, directing, like when I go in, I go in.
I can tell, and it contributes to you being such a well-rounded artist and performer. I’m yet to see you live in real life, but that Glitch Africa performance was something, how was that all built up?
That one was fun man, like when people say how mad that is I just look at them and I’m like ‘yo growing up this was a normal Sunday service’ d’you understand? Like this was me in church leading, taking the keys and playing the drums, and jumping up and down and just creating. So it’s amazing that people get to see that side of me - and that’s a whole world of me, me on stage is a different me. Just put me on stage with a couple of instruments and a band then just watch me!
I like Glitch and I like watching their videos on YouTube. My manager sent me a message like “ah Glitch wants to do something for Finesse” and I was like hell yeah! Choir, keytar, I had it all up here *points to his head*. They were like “what’s a keytar?”, I went to Google and pasted an image, ‘here that’s what it looks like’ *laughs* yeah.
Wow, well it sounded and looked like so much fun so shout out to you and the team for that one! Back to the studio though, while you’ve been in the UK I’ve seen a few IG stories of you in the studio with people like Ms Banks. What's cooking and have you worked with anyone else out here?
We’re working sha, we’re cooking the vibes that we had yesterday are still in the pot but it’s amazing. Yeah, we made some magic.
Me and Tion Wayne have a very major ice block, that one is fire, urm I’m linking up with Steff, as well. Producers too like AJ, Lekkar beats, Element, Rudimental, a nice variety.
That sounds like a good group for sure, do you know what we might hear first?
I don't know, to be honest, me I'm ginerging like this. Maybe we’ll drop my next single first then yeah. There are songs coming though, like major major songs.
A song for the Summer maybe?
Definitely definitely. We’ll give them Finesse this summer then give them one more, the icing on the cake you know, Zazu *laughs*
Aha, great well I’m looking forward to what you do next, in fact, loads of people are, I know you must be looking forward to it too?
No, I’ve seen it, I have seen it, you guys are only getting to see it. I saw Finesse before anybody saw it. I mean I knew it was going to maybe get here but not this fast, that’s still what’s shocking me.
The rise of music from the African diaspora has been amazing to see over the past couple of years, and it’s only going to grow. It’s great to see artists like Pheelz gaining recognition and being able to share their talents on the world stage.