After Nyne prides itself on being at the forefront of the field in shining a light on rising artists across the creative spectrum. For the first of our dedicated ‘Spotlight’ interviews, After Nyne’s Daniel David Gothard meets Oxford-based singer-songwriter Phil McMinn
Phil’s debut EP, ‘A Crystal | A Diamond | An End | A Start’ was released in December 2012. This was followed by ‘The Space Has A Meaning’, a three track EP that sold out within three days of release.
He has spent the last ten years playing music, fronting Oxford’s Fell City Girl and, more recently, The Winchell Riots. His lush compositions, and heartrending vocal style make him a joy to listen to and an After Nyne ‘one to watch’.
Phil it’s great to talk to you for After Nyne. What inspires your work?
Mostly things outside music. A few years back I realised that writing to other bands / artists / labels / shit bloggers / booking agents was making me extremely sad, because I didn’t really care about what these people thought about my music. So instead I wrote letters to my favourite writers: Graham Swift, Dave Eggers, Philip Roth and Tim Winton.
All of them, except Roth, replied to me with thoughtful letters responding to the music I’d sent. In the case of Graham Swift, I’ve stayed in touch with him over the years and – while he’s not exactly a friend – we regularly write to each other and send our work to each other. Knowing these people are interested in the music I’ve made over the years gave me a strong and unshakeable peace that I’d never got from music before.
What do you consider your greatest artistic achievement to date and why?
A memory: in the late 2000’s, my first band Fell City Girl played at King Tut’s in Glasgow to a sold out room supporting a band called Longview. This crowd had never heard of us before. We walked onstage and people were openly shouting at us “GO ON BOYS” to encourage us on.
Right at the back on the raised steps was my (since departed) Mum who had never seen us before watched us play, singing along to all the words, proud as hell. She’d never really believed in the path I’d taken but she became a believer that night. That’s my greatest achievement.
What’s your view on “Art for Art’s Sake”? Do you feel your work needs an audience to be ‘complete’?
I’ve played to empty rooms, and I’ve played to arenas. I’ve played at Reading Festival twice, and I’ve played at a funeral. You need an audience, but some of the best work I’ve ever done has been when I’ve known no label would touch it, and when I started to aim small, I ended up much happier.
That’s not exactly the most ambitious sentence, and my younger self just died a little, but it’s about setting yourself a goal that you know you can reach, and reaching it.
Do you work best alone or in a collaboration?
With other people. But these things can carry heavy, heavy costs.
What best advice would you give to an artist starting out in your field?
Trust no one. And bearing this in mind, try to enjoy yourself.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m in the middle of a project called Beginners. My friend Dan and I copied The Postal Service, sending music back and forth to each other and working on it independently. We then hired out a church in the centre of Oxford and brought in a 20 piece choir to sing on the tracks we’d recorded. It was life affirming and I’m so proud I got involved in the project.
Who or what is your greatest influence and why?
No one person, but in no order the following people changed my life: John Martyn, Bjork, Philip Roth, Four Tet, Idlewild.
How have you suffered for your art?
My back still aches from carrying an Orange 4×12 amplifier around the UK for years. Appalling hearing. A lot of lost friends.