by: Thomas D. Mooney
We caught up with singer-songwriter Phlip Coggins this past week and discussed his recent record “Soljourn,” the journey it took to make, and his varied style and influences. Coggins will be playing this Sunday at the Red Velvet Music Festival at Wreckers. Like Phlip Coggins on Facebook here.
New Slang: You just recently had a record come out. What’s been the reception so far?
Phillip Coggins: Yes, “Soljourn.” Actually it’s been a pretty warm reception. I’ve managed to sell around 150 copies in the first month of the release. People are really diggin’ it. It’s should be available for purchase everywhere online within the next few weeks…I’m working on the new site as well.
NS: About how long of a period of time were those songs written over? Did you see any major changes with them from when you initially wrote them to that finished product that’s on the album?
PC: Well that’s a funny thing. It differs from song to song. I actually started “Soljourn” the summer of ’09 at Mt. Vernon Studios with Jon Taylor. It was the first time I had ever really tried to play everything on studio recordings. The first four songs on the record were written at various times the year before, and recorded then. Jon mixed them. I took those with me when I moved to LA at the end of the summer and shopped them around, but it still felt like unfinished work. So, I kind of held on to the whole thing, woke up about the realities of LA (I was there about a year), and decided to move back to Texas (Austin) where I stayed for a year and a half, just cocooning and learning. I went back out to Cali to tour with some friends in November of 2011. When I came back to Lubbock in early February 2012, I decided to add the last two tracks. It was like a restructuring of what I originally intended I think. I re-did a song called “What Happened” from my first record [and] “Seeds” by The Fieldside Refugees–a sort of trio jam band with handrums, acoustic, and sax–making it full band, and a heavier reggae vibe; and gave my first attempt at hip-hop with a very talented friend from Temple, Texas (Keanrey MilitiaMuzik Ward). The result kind of floored me…I didn’t think I had it in me. The main things that I think evolved over that period of time were my drumming skills and my voice. You can kind of hear the difference in the last two tracks from the others on the drums, but I re-tracked all the voice parts throughout the record to make it fluid, after all there was almost three years of evolution to my chords…makes a difference.
NS: Obviously, with it being so new, you’re probably not planning on releasing anytime soon. Saying that though, I’m sure you’re already working on another batch of songs. Do you try and pace yourself when writing new material, knowing that you’re not going to be recording it any time soon, relatively speaking?
PC: Honestly, I’m looking at going back in the studio in July. There’s several possibilities on which direction I could take it. I may even do two EPs before the year is up. Most of that is dependent on revenue streams. I kind of like that thing, though. Smaller records are easier to produce and it stays fresh for people, including myself. And the way I write is like cataloguing. I diversify genres, so a lot depends on when I have a certain number of congruent songs that would blend well together. “Soljourn” jumped around a little on the genre issue, which is why I think labels will always be hesitant to pick it up, but I wanted it that way. Sort of like saying, “Here’s a wide taste of what I do, now get ready!” A sampler of tastes if you will. I don’t like boxing things in, so in a way the songs write me into the direction I am to go, not the other way around. I follow them. But I definitely want at least one more release before the end of 2012.
NS: One of the important elements I hear in your music is your voice. You tend to sing differently from song to song. Do you think that’s something that’ll stay with you throughout your career, or do you think you’re still experimenting with sound and style?
PC: This kind of ties into the diversity thing. It’s deliberate. I used to be heavily involved in theatre. Part of being an actor is being able to portray different characters. Why not do the same with music? I don’t take it to an extreme, but I never wanted to be just reggae, or just blues, or rock, etc. So when I tackle these differences in music, the voice just kind of naturally takes on different characteristics. And of course I’m always uncovering new things about who I am and want to be, but I enjoy the variances. I guess you could call me a character musician.
NS: You’re not afraid to throw in some covers. One of those that I think works really great is your cover of “LoveStoned” by Justin Timberlake. Your decision to do a cover like that, was that more a serious decision or a “I’m wanting to kind of parody of Timberlake up here?” My opinion is that it sounds very appreciative–which I think is a good thing.
PC: It was a little in jest, but there is definitely an admiration there. Timberlake is talented. Most musicians I know would agree with that. But I think the decision came from just wanting to shake things up. I like it when people don’t know what to expect next. It keeps them from being able to label you. A friend of mine in LA is interested in getting me onto some electronic stuff…and I’m down. When I was young, I used to think that good music was limited to certain styles and elements. Most of that was influenced by other people’s opinions. When I started to form my own opinions, I realized good music is good music. I would throw in Stevie Wonder, and then some Bluegrass, and then Garth Brooks, then Primus or Dave Matthews. Like I said, diversity is king in my world. It’s really funny you mentioned this, cause I’m actually working out a Taylor Swift cover…I know, I know…but she’s growing on me. [Laughs]. And the plan with the wife is to move to Nashville sometime around August…so maybe her cover will play in my favor [Smiles].