Philip Sayce has made a big impact in the music world, with great things written about him in various aspects of the music press. Guitar magazines rave about the sublime guitar work whilst the likes of Classic Rock talk about the singing and songwriting. Philip’s new album Steamroller has just been released and now we are pleased to say he has taken time-out to talk to Rock-Zone UK.
Hi Philip and thank you for talking to Rock-Zone UK.
Hello, it’s great to talk with you!
Various writers have tried to describe your sound (you could say pigeon hole you).How would you describe what you do?
The best way I can describe what I do artistically…I would call it Roots Music. Metal, Reggae, Jazz, Rock, Blues, R&B – if an artist is creating music from an authentic and deep place, I call it Roots Music. For me, music has soul, passion, and emotion to make it really stick, and all of my heroes had no shortage of this! I’m doing my best to create this every time, and look less at the “pigeon hole” that someone might try to force it into. I’m creating music from experiences in my own life, and doing my best to be honest in the moment.
Has making music always been your blood? What has brought you to the point you’re at now?
Absolutely! My parents listen to some great music….much of it from the UK. It was what me and my brother heard in the house on a daily basis growing up…Beatles, Stones, Bob Dylan, Ry Cooder, Mark Knopfler, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Albert Collins, Eagles, on and on….Some really great stuff. I guess you could say the watermark is set really high with these influences! My parents also enrolled us into music lessons from a very young age, percussion, wood & brass instruments, piano, and then I picked up guitar and singing in high school.
In the current era where people seem to take years between releases, you have been very prolific in your solo work – releasing one album per year since 2009. Where do your song writing ideas come from?
I try to put my personal experiences into my music. That’s what I know best, and especially if it’s something I’m dealing with in the moment. For example, “The Bull” was written in the studio after a phone call…I was doing some vocals, got a phone call from a former business associate, and well…Dave Cobb and I wrote the song right there on the spot. I was furious, and that emotion is definitely in there!
I also try to stay out of my head, and not treat music too technically. I‘m a self taught guitar player, so I don’t know names of scales on the guitar per se, but I’m always reaching for what I’m feeling in that moment. My goal is to allow myself to be open and to allow the music to come through me. Combine my head & heart as one.
What or who inspires you to keep writing and performing? In fact, I am interested in who first inspired you to start your musical journey (my first musical memories are of watching The Sweet on Top of the Pops and thinking I want to do THAT!)?
Everyone and everything! Every day I hear or see something that makes me think “I’ve got work to do!”. All I need to see is some albert Collins, or listen to Donnie Hathaway, and I’m back in the woodshop practicing. Or, I sit down and co-write with someone I admire, and we come up with something new. I’m doing my best to keep growing as a person first and foremost, and this reflects in my art. Where I am in my life is directly represented in my music.
You have played with some wonderful musicians over the years – Melissa Etheridge (criminally under-rated in the UK, Jeff Healey and Uncle Kracker – what has been your best experience of this and why?
All of them!! These were all incredible learning experiences. Coming out of high school and having an opportunity to play with one of my biggest influences, Jeff Healey, was a beautiful dream. He was so good to me every night and gave me the room to grow on the world stage in front of thousands of people every night. He was a true musical genius, the very definition of it, and I miss him very much. He made this world a better place.
Playing with Uncle Kracker was amazing too…When I worked with him, he had a #1 song for 28 weeks that summer! Everywhere we went, you’d hear “Drift Away” playing…coming out of subway stations, out of cars driving by, out of the ground and from the sky. It was amazing, and again I learned so much during my time with him.
Melissa Etheridge is a force of nature and someone I have a huge amount of respect for. She’s also a big influence on my music. She taught me so much about confidence, being truthful in my music and my message, and there’s no better rock n roll singer in the world today! She can connect with an audience like none other…She gave me SO much room to grow on her stage as well, and really got me ready to step out on my own. All of these experiences were like an incredible apprenticeship. I did my best to be open and learn as much as I could every moment I was around these artists…watching how they did what they do, soaking it in. I look at it like going to the world’s best Universities to get my degree, and now I’m doing it for myself!!
What do you think of social networking? Is it blessing or a curse for musicians? How significant do you think it has been to your career?
I think it’s incredible. To reach large numbers of fans and people instantly, fantastic! I think it’s important to embrace the ever-changing social networking platforms, and explore the new ways we can exponentially reach people with music and positive messages. I’m doing my best to put goodness into the world, and these platforms allow me to connect with people instantly, and vice versa.
Where is home? Or perhaps more significantly where do you consider home?
I live in Los Angeles, California right now. Home is where I want to be with my wife at any given time. We like it here now, but who knows…We could end up in the UK. I’ve got my UK papers, you know! Just a warning….ha!
How often do you get back to Wales (I’m guessing your Welsh background still means something to you given the track “Aberystwyth” on the new album?
Haven’t been back to Aberystwyth since I was little. To me, it’s a mystical place because of this, and it became the perfect title for the song. When I play the song I imagine the coast and the beauty, power, and history of the area.
What are your views on the disposable nature of pop-music (the X-Factor/American Idol thing)?
My views on this…I think these shows are fun, and there should be room for them, but they are by no means the full scope of what’s really going on in music and art today. They’re a distraction, a bit like McDonalds. If you live your life eating junk food every day, it’s going to make you sick. I think the problem is less about these shows, but more about how as a society we’re being groomed to actually believe this is the state of modern music, and the fact that we’re falling for these distractions. Everybody wants to be famous, but at what cost? What are you putting out there?
I had a manager who thought I needed to audition for one of these shows in LA, to network. So, we set it up ahead of time, I went down & auditioned with a Freddie King song and my guitar. For starters, they didn’t know that an electric guitar had to be plugged into something called an “amplifier” (this is a MUSIC show, right!?)
I played and sang a tune, and they asked me to be on the show. They handed me a thick contract with the most unscrupulous terms. Let’s just say I used it for scrap paper in the house and never called them back. It was an interesting experience, but it did not resonate with me as something I could get behind as an artist and music lover.
I would like to see more room for wider forms of artistic expression connected to personal experience and self expression. I have a responsibility to do this. I think we all do. It’s easy to blame Simon Cowell’s shows, but he’s just the candyman. We’re the ones buying into it.
Once again thanks for taking the time to talk to Rock-Zone UK.
Thank-you for having me….and thanks for helping to keep Roots music alive & thriving!
Interview by David Wilson