Musical Discoveries: Would you tell us a little bit about your background and where you are from.
Phillippa Lusty: My name's Phillippa Lusty, but you can call me Pip. I've just turned 22 years old and I'm a singer-songwriter from sunny Cornwall, in the far south west of England. My parents were hoteliers in the seaside town of Newquay for over ten years, so I spent a great deal of my time on the beach and surfing. As I got older I worked in the hotel as a waitress and housekeeper.
Where did you go to school and how did you get into music?
My life as a musician began at the age of eight when I started having violin lessons. I don't come from a musical background, but it was something I had a natural gift at and it soon became a part of my life I couldn't live without.
I have always been a very determined young lady, and when I was ten years old, I successfully auditioned for two music scholarships as a violinist. Until I was thirteen, I went to school in Newquay. In fact, it was the same school as the singer/songwriter James Morrison, although he was older than me.
When I was twelve, my violin teacher suggested that I audition for a scholarship to Wells Cathedral School and I was offered a place as a specialist violinist. Wells is a world class specialist music school so it was very encouraging to be given a top scholarship at such a prestigious school. So I moved from Newquay to my new boarding school at Wells just after I was thirteen.
What did you do at Wells?
At Wells I studied violin as my first instrument, with voice and piano lessons too. But my love of singing was growing fast. I quickly became the youngest member of their senior choir, chapel choir and sang for their Big Band--which I loved!
By the time I was fifteen I knew that singing would be my career as it seemed to fill my life. I was performing far more as a singer than a violinist. When I was back home in the hotel I would perform regularly for guests and honed my skills as a performer. I hope to take my teaching diploma for the violin and would like to improve my piano skills. I am also currently learning guitar!
What university are you attending and what are you reading there?
In September I will enter my final year studying Music at Royal Holloway University of London. I am majoring in music composition and performance. My other modules include "music, power and politics," "film and media scoring," and "choral conducting."
What can you tell us about your musical influences along the way?
There are a few. When I was eleven, I met Nigel Kennedy at one of his concerts. His playing is fantastic. He has such a distinctive way of expressing his music and his passion and sense of fun really touched me.
Then I guess it would have to be Dame Kiri Te Kanawa. I first met her when I was fifteen and since then she has encouraged me tremendously. She is just a stunning singer and has had the most incredible career spanning longer than I've been alive. She really is my idol.
The music I write is worlds apart from the opera she sings, but her voice is phenomenal. Another musical diva I love is Beyonce. Again, completely different to my music, but she is just an incredible woman.
Did you go right into classical crossover or did you perform in other genres along the way?
I discovered my love for singing when I was ten years old. A friend of mine had asked if I wanted to sing a duet with her in a competition, so a month or so later, I competed in the festival in both the violin and voice, and won both classes. It felt so good to sing and to receive encouragement to do so.
I have been classically trained from the start, and in my training I have performed in a number of genres including French art song, German Leid, baroque and classical Oratorio and Opera. I have always been a part of choirs or musical groups in some way, but always performed solos for the concerts. It has been a natural progression to develop as a solo artist.
I began working with a producer at seventeen and started writing to adapt and re-arrange song suggestions. It all kind of grew from there. I wrote my first song at seventeen, which went on to be the most listened to song in a national talent competition. This really encouraged me to continue writing and my crossover style is what I do naturally.
Why were you drawn to the classical crossover style?
Crossover is a style that suits the way I write. For me it's a happy medium between commercial pop and the higher arts that I aspire to. I love writing and some of my songs could be produced in an entirely different way. I enjoy experimenting with different instruments too. In the last couple of years I have performed principle roles in Handel's Semele, as well as the lead in Gilbert and Sullivan's comedy opera Princess Ida.
In September I will be performing in a cavern with a jazz band, so that will be interesting. I'm writing new arrangements now for that event!
What kind of things have you done to develop your stunning voice?
Firstly, I take care of my health. As a singer your body is your instrument, so your health is paramount. You also need a 'body' to sing. You can't be size zero and expect to have the stamina required! You need to be physically strong. It takes a great deal of patience too, as your voice gets better with age.
I have a fantastic singing teacher called Elaine. She has helped me tremendously through various vocal issues. It's very important to have a positive relationship with your singing teacher and that they ensure you only sing what you are able to, without causing any damage.
I love opera, but only sing arias that I am ready to perform, rather than damage my voice. Opera training often doesn't start until mid to late twenties, because the voice isn't ready before then.
Please tell us about the writing and recording of the songs from 2007.
I had already written and recorded a number of songs but was not happy with the results. I was introduced to Fiona Pears and Ian Tilley (Hayley Westenra, All Angels, Libera, Choir Boys) through an A&R manager at Universal. Fiona and I re-worked the arrangements and Ian re-recorded the songs. Fiona played the violin parts, with Ian layering in my voice for the different vocal harmonies.
After these songs were recorded, what did you do next?
Being independent gives me a lot of freedom in how I go about promoting myself. You have to be resourceful and innovative sometimes, but I believe anything is possible if you have the determination.
The songs were uploaded to MySpace and we were receiving excellent feedback--from a real cross-section of people too--they seemed to like what I was doing. Many people said they found the songs had a healing and soothing effect, which was rather nice.
In spring of 2007, I was in the final four for a national talent competition, and my own song, "Guiding Light," was the most listened-to song of the competition which gave me the courage I needed to continue writing.
The coverage and feedback that followed was just fantastic. I received so many positive messages and comments, even from unexpected sources such as punk and heavy metal bands! Subsequent radio interviews were very positive with "Guiding Light" being given airplay. West Country newspapers covered my story for three weeks.
I performed my new songs alongside classical arias at gigs and concerts and in 2008 was named as "Cornwall's Hot Talent" and also Eden Project's "Bright Young Thing" after winning a talent competition. It's been a case of building on what you have and creating a fan base of supporters very gradually.
How would you say the 2010 songs differ from the earlier recordings?
As I continue to experience more of life, I find my songs becoming more autobiographical and true to my own emotions and experiences. I hold the stories behind my songs very close to my heart. I am also more willing to experiment with instruments and sounds.
My new songs have a mix of classical and band sounds. I guess some of the songs are less classical sounding. In fact, a couple of the songs have the potential to use with a rock arrangement. So who knows what I may turn up with next! As an independent artist I am entirely free to follow my own direction and that is how I want it to remain.
I worked with Fiona and Ian again for this recording, myself and Fiona on the arrangements, Ian recording and mixing. They are a very professional team and of course Fiona's violin playing is just heaven!
With the new recordings I have enough music to release my debut album. But it may be that I will release a number of singles first to try to create a build up, rather than have an album that is released with no coverage. Although I have uploaded two or three of the songs for feedback on a small number of sites, I have only sent all of the songs to you!
I've played my songs to friends and family to get honest opinions, and of course now I sing a selection of them at concerts and gigs. They are being well received which is wonderful for me.
When do you plan to complete the debut album and what do you think it will contain?
I haven't decided exactly yet. It's possible that I will release a number of singles first, building up coverage and support before releasing a debut album. Being independent is great is many ways, but can have its disadvantages. Money is one of them. It costs so much to put songs into the studio and then there are huge other costs to produce a CD as well as marketing and distribution, etc.
Tell us about your live performances.
Actually, I'm pretty much myself onstage. Often you find outwardly confident people crumble in the spotlight while supposedly quiet people come into their own. I however, don't really surprise anyone, because I'm loud and confident on and off the stage.
That doesn't mean I don't get nervous though! I often feel like a bag of nerves and jittery right before I perform. I'll be offstage fidgeting, pacing around with far too much energy and adrenaline. Once I've started singing though, the nerves disappear and I become Pip the Performer.
After most of my concerts I don't try to make a quick getaway. I enjoy staying behind and talking to people in the audience. I value people's feedback and love that they have made the effort to come and watch me sing. I feel very appreciative of that.
I'm really not a diva. If I was, I think my friends would quickly slap me back down to earth and tell me to "get real"! I think people can see that when I perform and like that I'm accessible.
How important do you think "image" to a female recording artist these days where so much visual information is portrayed in the media?
In today's music industry, image is paramount. I think this pressure to look the part has come from commercial pop music. Sometimes it actually seems to surpass the music.
My image has been a work in progress over the last couple of years and has been developing at the same rate as my musical style. I love playing with different costume ideas and trying crazy outfits and makeup. I think it's important to have an image that is compatible with the music you perform and I think I've just about got it right--for now anyway!
How has the internet has influenced your artistic direction and connection with music lovers?
Networking has been a lifeline for me! Through MySpace and FaceBook I have been offered free photo shoots, given lots performance opportunities, been given costumes and accessories to wear while I perform, radio interviews and performances, sold CDs and had interviews. I've also made new friends, business contacts and met various artists with whom I now collaborate with.
My performances at the Faery Fest on Bodmin Moore stemmed from MySpace connections and I recently performed as an international artist at a festival in Italy, also through MySpace. I wish they would take more notice of the classical and crossover genres though. I feel as though we are largely ignored by them. They have even removed our genres recently from their charts, which is upsetting, especially as I have been in the top three for over a year. It has made a difference to being listened to and "found" by new fans.
What do you think of the growth in digital music distribution?
We are working towards getting some digital distribution in place to enable wider sales of my music. I believe that whilst younger people prefer downloading their music, there are still the older diehards that want a CD in their hand, articularly in my genre where there a wide age range. We are still working on that solution!
In addition to music, what else and who else rocks your world and fills your waking hours?
I am a very sociable creature and my friends and family mean the world to me. I love dancing, singing, and making music with people. I love keeping fit by going to the gym, running, cycling, surfing when I'm at home). I'll do pretty much anything to keep me active.
I go to concerts and festivals whenever I get the chance. I love Pendulum; and Prodigy is my next concert! I also have two small dogs as pets and I have my eye on a pet tea cup piggy some time soon. I'm also an avid reader although most of the time that means study books. My current read is Black Swan Green by David Mitchell.
Recently you went to the Fairy Fest.
This is an annual three day festival held on the wilds of Bodmin Moor in Cornwall. It really is a magical event! It is one of many held around the world. There are many faerie folk you know! It's filled with music, magical moments and friendly faces. The atmosphere is always so happy and filled with fun and laughter! Most people are camping there in the woods and dress as faeries, or elves. Many of them are druids and I met some full-time faeries too!
I went along with two of my close friends and we went all the way with our costumes. Apart from my fantasy gown--made from silk, organza and tulle--I wore a fairy crown made for me by a talented jewellery designer known as Moondaizee. She made it as a gift, along with a beautiful dragonfly pendant.
My wings were loaned by 'Faerie Love' as my own beautiful wings were stranded in a car broken down on the motorwway! It was so much fun! Faery children were dancing to the music, there was a wishing tree, lots of craft stalls, workshops, woodland walks and activities, and there were some really amazing people there with breathtaking costumes.
The sun was shining both days I performed, and on the last day I can remember looking up at the clear blue sky while I was on stage and thinking what a gift life is. I can stand here and do something that I love and know that I am giving something back to the audience. I have been receiving messages from some of these wonderful folk at the festival, saying that I made them so happy they wept! How wonderful is that? I have also been invited to headline another Faerie festival in Belgium, so that will be very exciting.
What are your plans, hopes and dreams looking out through the end of this year and into next?
My ambition, as it has always been, is to become a major recording artist as well as writing musical material for others. My end game is striving for happiness, and for me, happiness and music go hand in hand.
Throughout my life, music has always carved the path ahead for me, often shown me the way forward, and has always been my driving force. Through music I have met some amazing people who have, in many ways, inspired me and encouraged me to chase my dreams.
Is there anything else you want to tell our readers?
Only that whatever you dream or becoming, don't hesitate. Go after it and follow it with all your heart. If you believe you can do something, really believe, then you can!