Phil has always played music, encouraged at a young age by his parents to play the piano and then drums in the brass band at Kesgrave High School. Throughout his teens and early twenties, Phil played in different bands before taking a creative break when adulthood began to take precedence in his life, his career as a teacher taking off and having kids of his own.
When the pandemic struck and he took voluntary redundancy due to health issues caused by Long Covid, Phil saw the break as an opportunity to ‘reinvest’ in his passion for music, which he likens to the styles of Crowded House and early Kinks with a splash of Badly Drawn Boy in the mix.
He told us: “In summer 2020 I had a real creative burst where I wrote a bunch of songs, some of which I thought were really good, so I started sending them off to places of interest and signed a record deal in the autumn with an
independent label called Wobbly Music.’
“What seemed to be a negative thing, in terms of being ill, seems to have turned into something positive that I probably would’ve liked to have been doing 30 years ago. Better late than never, I guess!”
Phil’s indie/Neo-folk style five-track EP is mostly reflective of his childhood in Suffolk, brought on by his children maturing into adulthood and was almost entirely recorded at home, which presented some challenges.
Phil explained: “It was a bit harder to do really because in the studios you have someone to bounce ideas off, they suggest a new way of approaching the music. So, I had to bounce off my family for quite a lot of the EP. I said to
them you don’t have to be positive about it, just say what you think. My wife was really good at saying, you’ve got too much going on there, or not sure about your vocals on that last part and so on.”
The track ‘On Black Tiles Lane’ is a ‘poetic’ version of a time in Phil’s life when he lived in Martlesham. He delves into his formative years of growing up in the village, which is something he’s wanted to write about for some time.
He told us: “Childhood is such an important time, it’s your formative years. I think you can fall into two camps, you can either write a song that explains how your childhood was terrible and I’m glad that everything’s better now or
you can write a song where your childhood was wonderful, but everything went wrong. I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle for most people, so I was kind of trying to capture that.”
Phil explained that at least four out of the five tracks are all, unintentionally, linked in some way to Suffolk. Another track, ‘Geniality’, is very reminiscent of when he grew up on a farm with his parents and siblings in Martlesham, while ‘Glue’ is all about his kids growing up and the importance of keeping family traditions.
Phil said: “The last song on the EP is called ‘From the Hedgerow’. When I was working in Manchester, there were some quite challenging areas with social deprivation. As a headteacher, I was confiscating weapons from kids. I would come and tell my wife about it all and she would say, ‘you pretend you’re from the streets, but you’re from the hedgerow’, which stuck in my head and so the track was made.”
Now that restrictions are easing, BlackSheepLad is looking to slowly but surely start touring again, this time with two new members… one of whom Phil used to be a headteacher to!
He chuckled: “It’s an interesting dynamic because I’m older than both of them put together!”
BlackSheepLad is set to tour nationwide from August through to November currently, though Phil still hopes to be able to travel back to Suffolk to play.
He told us: “I think people have missed live music, I have anyway. Although I enjoy playing live, there’s something nerve-wracking about it because it’s your own stuff. If someone shouts out during the song, they’re not criticising
some big musician, they’re criticising you. We’ll know we’ve won audiences over when someone sings along with the songs.”
You can listen to BlackSheepLad’s EP anywhere you can download music and you can also view some behind-the-scenes material on their YouTube channel. If you prefer the old-fashioned medium of CDs, as Phil does, be
sure to contact him either on social media (@BlackSheepLad) or via his website to purchase one.