Since the release of Face of A Phoenix this past June, I’ve been bumping pHoenix Pagliacci‘s It’s You on the regular. I’m not really into love songs but the subject matter on this track is different from the cheeseball/sleazefest content you hear on most love songs today. The song is sung by an assertive woman. The lyrics state “And I am forever grateful that I chose you” which essentially means that she wasn’t bending over backwards to get some dude to pick her to be wifey, but rather, she took the time to find herself a partner that would make her feel the love she deserved. The track is best described as joyful and to me, it serves as a template of how I want to find love and what kind of woman I want to be when I do find it.
When I hit up pHoenix to do an interview for Bad Perm and she agreed I was ecstatic to come face to face with the person whom these inspiring lyrics and melodic voice belonged to.
pHoenix arrived to our interview fresh faced in a jeans, t-shirt and sneaker combo and heart-shaped sunglasses. She gave me a hug and we immediately began conversing and getting to know one another before the interview officially began. pHoenix was very transparent and spoke about her life in an earnest and humble way. There was no diva attitude or pretension when she told me stories and anecdotes about her past. There is a softness about her; she has soft eyes and is very soft spoken. But the way in which she carries herself let’s the world know that this is a woman who possess strength, much of which she’s acquired over the years simply through living and learning.
“You have lovely eyes,” she tells me. I can’t help but blush. I wonder if she knows just how lovely everything about her is.
First I’d like to congratulate on the release of Face of A Phoenix. It’s You is my jam. Your vocals and the production are supreme. How has your style and work process evolved from your debut Books, Bucks & Beats Vol. 1: Holla At A Schola?
I think that my first album was kind of like, you know, do everything that I’m seeing other people doing but as a female I’m going to do it better. You know, it wasn’t so much focused though, it wasn’t an idea that I had to…you know, like an actual project, it was more like I’m going to do a bunch of songs with a bunch of people and I’m going to put my best foot forward on it and so that’s basically what my premiere was. On my debut album I was just more focused on getting out there as opposed to my second album which was more focused and I had a theme and was more reflective of my progress. So I’d say my debut album was kind of just more an introduction to meet me, kind of like saying ‘Hey! I’m out here!’
Out of your entire music catalogue what song was the most difficult to bring into fruition? Which song is the dearest to you?
The most difficult to bring to fruition would be The Phoenix which was the introduction on my first album because basically that song is telling people who I am. Its very personal; if you listen to the lyrics I’m talking a lot about myself, me growing up, being an angry kid, being unable to control my emotions and where that led me and at the same instance, its kind of inspirational because I’m saying ‘you’ll see me again,’ because a Phoenix always rises. But that one was very personal and its kind of hard. As my first album I wanted people to not have to put up with too much personalization and so it was hard to be awesome and be what people wanted to hear and at the same time give them what they needed to hear so that was kind of difficult for me. And the most dear song would have to be Hurtin’ only because I did it with Jean Grae and she’s like my favourite, favourite, favourite!
I get along well with mostly the Toronto producers and other Toronto artists. I relly enjoyed working with Rapsody of Jamla Records only because, she’s very genuine; she’s confident through what she says and who she is. She doesn’t need to add anything else to what she says. She doesn’t need to go over and above to prove that she has talent. She’s an awesome individual. She’s very genuine, very caring; she’s very funny and all the times that I was allowed to be in the studio and watch her work I was very impressed. She could just turn it on like that and then turn it right back off and just be her normal self. I’m very honored to have worked with her and she’s going places – she’s doing really great now and its really great to see!
I feel like the Toronto art scene has recently experienced a boom that’s making artists rethink migrating south to jumpstart their careers. How has the city and its environment been influential in your work?
Since my first album, I’ve really come to love and appreciate my city. On the first album I was kind of working with artists who I felt should be heard and should have a voice. This past summer, a lot of Toronto artists are putting out their best work and so initially it was the people who weren’t as talented getting all the attention which made a lot of Toronto say ‘Yeah you know, I’m going to go to America where they appreciate good music’ ..I mean, that’s to be argued. But a lot of people didn’t want to be here because they felt like it was basically a big crab bucket that was pulling everybody down instead of supporting everybody and pulling everybody up. Now, Toronto is getting a lot of recognition south of the border and a lot of people are starting look for a Toronto sound. Now Toronto people are actually claiming and appreciating that identity. They’re actually wanting to be labelled as a ‘Toronto artist.’ Whereas before it was kind of like ‘just another Toronto artist’ and you’re kind of swept under the rug or you’re picked up in a group with all these other artists that might not be working as hard as you but are getting twice as far.
Which artists are currently inspiring you and is there any artist or trend that completely repulses you?
pHoenix begins laughing…
Oh gosh! Without getting in trouble…artists that inspire me right now, even though she’s not making any music I continuously listen to Lauryn Hill. She’s a constant inspiration. Angel Haze is inspiring me; she’s actually doing the whole personal thing where she’s talking about what’s happened in her life and then she’ll turn around and just rap the pants off of any other rapper. Kendrick Lamar, he’s got stuff to say and he’s got a witty way of saying it – so those are artists that are kind of inspiring me right now.
In terms of trends…ok, so Toronto is just catching on to the ‘Trap [music]’ thing and there’s only so much trap that I can take. It has to be Trap-a-clock or like, half-past-Trap. It can’t be like three o-clock, four o’clock, there’s Turn-Up-Time for me. It just seems like right now every time is Turn-Up-Time for Toronto. I think we’re taking it on more as a trend and not so much a music genre – we’re just doing it because other people are doing it which kind of makes me upset. There are artists out there who are really good at that kind of music. Its not for everybody and I really don’t want to see Toronto make it for everybody. That’s one trend that’s really bothering me.
Other than that I think everything else is O.K…all the other trends that I kind of see that are cute like e-bikes now, everyone’s biking and doing yoga, yoga pants are in. Those trends are cool. But um, Trap music needs to be regulated – I think there should be designated Trap areas and designated Trap times.
You’ll be performing at this year’s Manifesto Festival and your name takes up a nice spot on their flyer. What are some of your feelings, performing for such a diverse crowd at a Toronto landmark? What can the crowd expect?
Man, I am just honored that Manifesto would allow me to participate in their festival! They’re seven years strong; they could book anybody at this point and for them to choose me and put my name on the flyer is like a huge, huge honour for me. I’m just really grateful. Its our Times Square, its such a memorable spot. Yonge and Dundas is a staple in our community and I’m really nervous to be honest and I don’t get nervous. This could be a good thing – I’m really hoping its a good thing. You can expect a lot of energy, a lot of rapper hands, I’ve got to work on my rapper hands apparently, so there’s going to be some of that. Just expect a really good time. I’m there to have fun, the ladies I’ll be rocking with are going to be having fun… and like I said, its just a huge honour!
What is the best, and the worst stories you can share from live shows that you’ve done?
Lyrics. Messing up lyrics – it’s not something I like to do. The best thing I’ve done when messing up lyrics is rhyme somebody else’s [giggles]
BP: Who did you rhyme?
I forget who it was but it was an artist that I didn’t think anyone would know. And that was pretty bad because I’m pretty sure somebody knew. But yeah I got some compliments on the verse afterwards, people came up to me and they were like ‘Yeah I really like what you did there!” And I was like “…thanks…” So that was probably the worst.
BP: But even Tupac forgot his own lyrics!
Did he?! That makes me feel a lot better. If Tupac can do it, I can do it. The best live show I’ve ever had was at Big Ticket and in the middle of my performance some dude walked up and put like forty bucks on that stage and I was like ‘um…O.K.’ He really liked what I was saying apparently and I told him “I can’t take this. You need to buy an album or something. You can’t just give me forty bucks.” He wouldn’t take the money back so I just gave him a CD. It was just random. No one’s ever put money on the stage for me before while I was rapping.
Is there something that you really want to try but your gut is telling you is probably not a good idea?
Stripping – I have a great bikini bod but that’s probably as far as I would get and I can’t take off my clothes and dance at the same time – there would be like awkward pauses and I also like to tell jokes so maybe I could do like stand-up strip comedy – I don’t know.
BP: That should be a thing!
That should be a thing, I agree. But if not that I’m definitely afraid to go rock climbing just because I have really big hands and if they don’ fit into the hole then I’ll be stuck! But if they do perfectly then my hand might get stuck again and then I’ll have to cut my hand off like in that movie!
What’s the sexiest song you’ve ever heard and what titillated you about it? And any things you like doing to that song?
Forever and always I will never not be able to gyrate to Slow Jamz by Jamie Foxx featuring Kanye West and Twista. That song, the sample, I had no idea where that sample was from before and I just remember hearing that song and the way it starts is very intimate and I really like how Jamie sings on that track. That song came off of The College Dropout I think so I might not I have been old enough to do anything to that. Now, do anything to that song to myself, that’s another question. But definitely that song, no matter where I am and it comes on I have to stop and gyrate. Its just mandatory.
What are some of your guilty pleasures? Be completely honest.
So I guess my mom won’t be reading this article. I have a thing for deep voices with Southern accents. Like you can get away with murder with me if you have a deep, Southern accent. I like bubble baths…
BP: That’s not really a guilty pleasure, I mean, you’re keeping squeaky clean.
I mean yeah you’re keeping clean during the bath but after the bath, whatever [giggles].
I like red velvet ice cream; I’ll eat a whole tub. Don’t judge me. Victoria’s Secret. I’m like an elitist when it comes to underwear. I don’t need anybody to see it, I just want to see it myself. If someone is honored enough to see it then they’re honored but just underwear shopping in general.
BP: So you’d spend fifty bucks on butt floss?
I would spend two hundred dollars and thirty-seven cents on butt floss. Some silky, fluffy, flowery butt floss. I think I have too many [guilty pleasures]. Oh and loose fitted sweatpants!
Summer is pretty much wrapping up this time around. What was the wildest/riskiest/most adventurous thing you did this past summer?
This past summer I worked a lot, I didn’t have too many wild adventures. But I do remember one evening I was downtown with some female friends and these guys were asking if we knew where this house music party was and we were like “no, we don’t really go to house music parties.” So this other guy walks up as if it was on cue and was like “I know about this party!” And he has a poster in his hand and he gave them the poster and these guys seemed like they weren’t from around here and they were like “Do you want to come with?” And we went there and it ended up being…not exactly a female-friendly club. We were like the only females in there. It was getting kind of cozy…we ended up leaving but I saw some wild things.
BP:…what did you see?
I could be mistaken, but…I think I saw some substance abuse going on. There were really crazy lights and there were guys doing really crazy things with each other.
I have a feeling it was a gay party – I don’t think it was mainly a gay party because its not really in The [gay] Village or anything like that but…it was pretty gay. That was probably the last time I went out.
However! I did go to Wilmington, North Carolina this past summer and I did do some karaoke down there with some friends and we had some guys come up and do ‘I Like Big Butts’ [Sir Mix-A-Lot’s Baby Got Back] and there was some spanking going on and some big butt-age on stage and that was probably the wildest part of my summer this year.
Quickly! Before you have a change of heart, share a secret with your fans.
I don’t really keeps secrets, that’s the thing. I…like to dance, but I can’t? Oh, I’m thinking now! Hold on!
BP: Something like, you masturbated before you came here.
And then we both erupt in laughter.
Guilty! That’s why I was late. Sorry! I actually prefer to do it in the shower, its just better that way. I’m all for post-modern women’s rights, you know, sexuality. My first love was a girl. That’s a secret. Surprise!
BP: Thank you for sharing that! You know, there are a lot fo young kids today struggling with their sexuality and even though gay rights is at the forefront of today’s culture they still have these insecurities about who they are. When they find an artist that the look up to that’s had similar experiences to them then I think that really means something.
pHoenix Pagliacci will be performing at the 7th Annual Manifesto Festival of Community and Culture on September 22.
Face of A Phoenix is available for digital download here.