INTERVIEW: Philip Jonathan | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image by Joel Barwick

A debut is always a tricky thing to nail, first impressions are everything after all, however Northumberland-based artist Philip Jonathan’s Pluma EP is a magnificent first statement; it’s a focused project which explores feelings of hope and loss with gorgeous ambient, folk-inspired instrumentation.

Philip is classically trained and has played with the likes of The Lamplight Poet and Tom Joshua, and these experiences had a big influence on how he has approached Pluma. “Between my dad being a huge classical music enthusiast and the pieces I was learning, I didn’t listen to much else until I got to university. They share a value for storytelling through music. Before arranging a track, I’ll always ask myself – what is the song trying to say? Performing in orchestras taught me to listen to what was around me – how each part can serve the song; and that silence can be just as powerful as playing.”

The storytelling that Jonathan has incorporated into his poetic lyricism and cinematic soundscapes gives the music a theatrical edge. I mentioned to Philip that one of the EP’s highlights, Before The Dawn, conjured the image of ‘the end of an indie film, protagonist looking over the railing of a pier, having just gone through the greatest character arc ever’. “That’s a great picture! I definitely see my songs visually, so I love it when people share what they see too. I love stories, particularly when authors such as Steven Erikson or filmmakers like Wes Anderson are able to communicate complex and nuanced themes without it being too in-your-face.”

Performing in orchestras taught me to listen to what was around me – how each part can serve the song; and that silence can be just as powerful as playing

Philip talked in more detail about the imagery he invoked as part of the project. “The tie for me between a feather and the concept of hope goes back some way. Chokehold came about through the grief of losing a close friend who passed from cancer a few years ago. As he got more unwell, he kept on seeing feathers everywhere, and this prompted him each time to remember things to be thankful for and to live in the moment. He was someone of faith and for him, existence was bigger than the life lived here, so he had a different perspective. I worked the feather into most of the music videos. Working with Goutham on the album art was an important part of developing this idea again at the end – he suggested having a flower bursting from the end of the feather. Even after the feather has fallen from the bird: its story isn’t over yet.”

Despite just realising his debut, Philip is already back in the studio working on his next EP. “I’ve got a few different directions I want to go in. I think I’ve still got more to explore within the ‘cinematic folk’ genre, but I’d like to weave elements of other artists I love. Most of the tracks on Pluma are very layered, so I’ll also be looking to restrict myself on a couple of tracks and experiment with silence and space a bit more.”

Philip Jonathan releases Pluma on 11th February, he plays a launch gig at North Shields’ The Engine Room on Friday 18th February.


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