The emerging indie-pop artist who recently played Muskegon’s Starlight Room is promoting her striking new EP, “Long Time Coming.” The Local Spins interview.
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I first met Kylee Phillips over coffee and in the good company of her partner and collaborator, Chris DuPont. After securing some fancy, hipster coffee, we hoofed it across uneven cobblestone streets in Grand Rapids’ Eastown neighborhood.
DuPont dropped his coffee before he got a sip. Then cursed the sky as a puddle of Costa Rican light-roast filled the cracks between the sidewalk. So Philips shared her own. It was a simple gesture, but a true glimpse of the personal and artistic partnership I was watching unfold in real time.
“There are abilities in Kylee that are immediately clear and arresting. She has an emotive, pristine, masterfully wielded voice. Great melodies seem to fall right out of her, and her songs all linger long after you’ve heard them. But perhaps even more importantly, she has the heart and attitude of a true artist,” says DuPont, who’s based in Ypsilanti.
“She’s creating exactly what she wants to hear, and isn’t considering its critical reception when she creates it. She wants people to connect to the music, but is miraculously immune to the numbers game and comparison trap that’s so common and prevalent in the modern age of streaming and constant music inundation. She just keeps creating because she needs to, and that inspires the hell out of me.”
When I meet with Phillips a year later, the coffee remains stationary. Weather is gloomy so we take refuge on the second floor of a small-town coffee shop, the kind that still has couches and lamps that look like they were lifted from your aunt’s living room.
Phillips has spent the last few years refining her craft as songwriter in Ann Arbor and released her new EP, “Long Time Coming,” in late September. It’s a deeply personal collection of songs that document pain, healing and redemption – but those themes are juxtaposed by catchy refrains and inventive hooks. These are still pop songs at heart.
“Writing about such autobiographical stuff, I sometimes grapple with whether or not I’m just being self-indulgent by writing songs or if they are going to serve any purpose. Especially because a lot of the songs were kind of like written in a really lonely place,” Phillips says.
“I just hope that people will see themselves or their experiences in it, that if they’re struggling to articulate something, that maybe these songs will put language to those feelings.”
The new record is expansive and uplifting. It features colorful synths, sequencers and anthemic guitars. But underneath those layers, it’s Phillip’s voice, and often a piano, that anchor the songs.
Phillips recorded most of the project at Florida’s The Vanguard Room with producer Evan Eliason (drums were tracked by Geoff Michael at Ann Arbor’s Big Sky Recording).
While helming the project on piano and lead vocals, she was joined by a cast of musicians that included Billy Harrington (drums), DuPont (guitar/bass/vocals) and Eliason (synth). To celebrate the new collection of songs, Phillips held an album release show at Willis Sound in late October.
“The release show was really special. Performing live still feels like the scariest part of this process for me because there’s a very real chance that you might end up just playing to an empty room or getting so caught up in your head that you can’t be present,” Phillips says.
“I was really humbled by how warm the room was and I really felt like everyone was in it and engaged with me, it made it a lot easier to enjoy the experience.”
Phillips will return to the studio in December with DuPont to record a “more stripped-down duo EP,” which will be released in the spring of 2024 in conjunction with a Midwest tour. Then it’s back to the studio to record a follow-up solo EP.
“The biggest challenge was honestly quieting the voices in my head. I have some regret that I didn’t do things differently over the last decade or so, I wish I had been recording and releasing music in earnest, and now that I’m in my mid-30s I have this complex that tells me it’s too late to start now,” Phillips says.
“Getting over that hurdle was tough, but Chris is the best cheerleader and collaborator and between him, my bandmates and Evan (my producer), I had a lot of people I respect telling me that these songs were important, so I decided to just go for it.”
Return to Local Spins later this week for an interview with Chris DuPont, who released a new EP earlier this month.
VIDEO: Kylee Phillips, “Where You Found Me”
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