I’ve met a lot of amazing people here in my first year in LA. Singer/songwriter Phé (Natasha Pheko) is absolutely one of them. After standing in line for Akbar for about an hour and a half, me and a group of 8 new faces all became the fastest friends. Phé was one of the magnetic 8. Our “how we met” story is one of the highlights of the year for me. Later on in the summer, I heard her voice and was totally hooked to her work. Her glow not only brightens every room she walks into but also it commands a soft smooth power that truly reflects into her music. She’s a visionary. Her poetic cool artistry embodies so much realness that she exposes and refreshes her listeners with soulful relief. She sings as if she is twirling through memories, bringing them all to life again. It is such a delight to share her fresh sounds and inspiring thoughts with you.
Read on to learn more about this one ♡
Can you tell us about your musical background? Music was always a really key aspect of my life growing up. My dad had an extensive record collection, and so there was always music playing in the background whenever we were home. I was always singing some made up song or singing along to a Disney movie. While I didn't take voice lessons until high school, singing and songwriting was always something that sort of just naturally came out of me. My mom has old journals where she would write down the songs I would make up while I was in the bath as a little girl -- often about sunshine or dancing with fairies haha.
I grew up as a dancer -- doing West African dance, hip-hop, jazz, and tap mainly -- and also really loved musical theatre. As a dancer, I traveled all over the world, performing, competing, and teaching workshops. A lot of my first experiences on stage were performing in front of people. They involved music and were more physical, theatrical, and movement-based. Having that relationship with the stage from a young age, and understanding how to fill the space physically and spiritually, really allowed me to be comfortable and feel at home when I began performing as a singer.
From grade 3 to 9 I attended a fine art elementary school and then high school, where we ‘d learn our core curriculum -- math, English, social studies (history), and science -- through the arts. This resulted in me using music and songwriting as a key tool for learning and memorizing my school work. During this these years, I also started playing the alto saxophone, which I continued to study until grade 12. I began participating in the different choirs and vocal ensembles at my schools. In grade 10, I started attending the Sarah McLachlan School of Music, which is a free after-school music program for kids who go to school in East Vancouver. I took my first ever voice lessons there, which was a really different experience for me. While I didn't know exactly what I was doing, or the technique behind my voice, I was able to mimic and do what my teacher asked with relative ease. Attending SoM allowed me to better understand and control my voice, and it gave me the foundation I needed to be able to succeed in my future endeavors as a vocalist.
Upon graduating high school, I decided I wanted to study musical theatre, and actually got accepted to a great musical theatre program in Vancouver. After taking some time to think about what I wanted for my career and life after college, I ended up deferring a year and spent that time modeling, while also preparing my application to the Berklee College of Music. Musical theatre felt like too small of a box at the time. I wanted to be in a space where my education would support my growth as a solo artist and a young woman discovering her own voice. I got into Berklee that year, on a 4-year scholarship, and graduated with a degree in Professional Music -- which is essentially where you get to mix and match majors to suit your interests -- with a focus in Music Business, Vocal Performance, and Songwriting. During my time at Berklee, I was able to begin my exploration as Phé and I officially made the decision that I wanted to be an artist. I always knew I wanted to work in music, but I didn't have the belief in myself that I could really go after a career as an artist until I started writing for myself and had my first performance as Phé, in November of 2015.
I've now lived in LA for a year and a half, during which I have been working on my music full time -- writing, recording, producing, and performing -- while also interning for artists such as Ella Vos and Solange, and working as a personal assistant for Jared Leto. I've released 4 singles and my debut EP, CRISIS, which was a huge journey for me both emotionally and as an artist. Now I am beginning my journey into production, and have been producing some new music, really exploring that side of my sound and expression. It's been a super cool journey so far and I'm excited to see where that takes me musically.
What is your goal with your music? What are you trying to bring to it? I hope to be able to heal and connect with my music. It starts with healing myself, so that I may move through this world as a source of light and as my best self. This will be an endless journey for me. But beyond that, I hope to be able to help other people heal, grow, and better understand themselves. It is my goal to create a space in which my listeners feel empowered to step within themselves and be vulnerable and honest -- whether that be about their joy, pain, longing, growth, obstacles, or whatever they are going through. I want to build a community! Music has this incredible ability to bring people together for one common cause. I hope that my music and stories help people feel connected, seen, and heard!
Your lyrics are so raw and honest. What are your writing rituals? I don't have any official writing rituals! The process is so different for each song and writing experience. I always draw from my life and things that I am trying to work through within myself. Sometimes I won't even know what that is until after a song has been written!
As I mentioned earlier, I've recently started playing around with production, and that has changed up the songwriting process, because now I am starting to also think in terms of music and rhythm, rather than just melody and lyrics. So there's a whole new space to explore and express through, which has been super interesting and fun! There was awhile where creating had lost its spark because I had gotten so caught up in writing what I thought other people wanted to hear. Now that I've found this new source of inner inspiration, I feel like I've started connecting back to myself and my truth, which is really important to me!
How would you describe your sound? This is kind of a tough one for me because music is super fluid and always evolving. I've seen that in my music, especially as I evolve as a person and am influenced by my surroundings and experiences. I’d say my overall sound is very rooted in R&B -- with influences of other things sprinkled in here and there. I just like to make music that feels good in one way or another, whether that means it leads to me having a good cry or dancing alone in my room.
Who are your biggest influences? My biggest longterm influences are Erykah Badu, Sade, and Lauryn Hill. Growing up I really looked up to these women and the power they held and commanded. Their music always spoke to me on a really deep level, even when I was too young to understand what they were talking about. They were women that I was able to see different parts of myself reflected back in, and taught me a lot about the kind of woman and creator that I wanted to be. They taught me to own my sexuality and seductive side while also being educated, spiritual, connected and grounded in myself and what I believe.
I noticed you ~ curate ~ your own playlist “Must Be Magic” every week. What are you listening to right now? Yes, I do curate my own playlist! Whenever I don't know what I am feeling like listening to, I usually revert to the stuff I grew up listening to -- Janet Jackson, Erykah Badu, D'Angelo, Stevie Wonder, Sade, Bob Marley, Aaliyah, Aretha Franklin, The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, and so on.
But beyond that, some of the artists I've been listening to on repeat are Tom Misch, Cautious Clay, Joji, Men I Trust, Empress Of, Kind Prince, Rosalia, Teyana Taylor, and Frank Ocean (always).
You are from Canada! What is it like being Canadian and living in the United States right now? Prior to moving to Boston in 2013, I had only been in the states briefly on vacation -- and those experiences were often very "romantic" and pleasant because of all the excitement. But it's been super interesting living, studying, and working here for the past 5 years. It's been crazy to be here and live through everything that has been going on socially and politically over the past few years. Living here, and being a young mixed woman, who is affected by a lot of the decisions being made by the government, it’s been and still is, a difficult journey to try and understand where I fit in and what my role is in this society. At times I do feel like I'm in this in-between space, where I don't quite belong in Canada, because not only have I not lived there in years but also I don't belong here because I’m constantly jumping through hoops to prove that I deserve to be able to work and live here. I'm still really learning what my role is and how to use my voice and my perspective as a non-American person and artist living in the states. It's a challenge for sure! I do hope to be able to use my music to speak to that experience.
What is the best restaurant and coffee shop in Vancouver? Ouuuu this is a hard one for me. Vancouver has a LOT of really amazing and affordable food. I love sushi. Tentatsu is a classic for people who grew up in East Van. Pizza Garden is great if you're looking for a yummy piece of pizza. For cafe's, JJ Bean has great coffee and a great vibe.
Name the best part about living in Los Angeles. For me, the best part of living in LA has been the fact that it has really challenged me and tested me as a person. I had a really hard time when I first moved here. I got overwhelmed and distracted by all the shiny promises and trying to impress people who didn't care to see me as a person. I lost myself and forgot why I loved music and why I came here. Getting through that has allowed me to come out the other end really strong and what I want for myself and my career. And now, I'm really excited to enter into this new chapter with a renewed sense of self and self-worth.