If you haven’t yet heard Shane Philip’s sound, you’ve got a treat in store for you. His music somehow surprises you – because it’s so different – and captures you – because it’s so good – on a whole bunch of levels. It includes flavours of reggae and blues as it sets up an organic dance feel along with a folk rocky sound. Philip’s resonant voice, moving rhythm, topical lyrics, sweetly different combination of instruments and overall unique, full sound appeals to most everyone with ears.
Once a teacher of high school students, Philip would, “play music for the kids.” He called it “dabbling.” He found himself to be, “a fairly decent song writer and (he) enjoyed it.” When he decided to engender more student interest in the Social Studies curriculum through his funky rock and reggae, it worked for everyone, including himself. His students commented, “(Your music) is very cool. What are you doing teaching school? You should be making music.” So he got busy doing what he now loves to do. “That’s when I decided to do music (full-time),” remarks Philip. “That’s when the journey started.”
Although Philip sees himself as first and foremost a singer songwriter, the one man band’s eclectic array of instruments brings various qualities to his primal message and one-of-a-kind sound. The collection includes an electric kick drum. “It gives the music the pulse,” remarks Philip. ”And electric music is addictive.” H’s also got a djembe in the mix. “Africans have been doing it (drumming) for years. It’s organic.” When he plays the drum, Philip says, “I feel it myself. I feel it rather than think it.” The guitar lends, “the melody, voice and mood” to the mix. Philip adds, “I’ve always played guitar.”
He discovered an age-old Australian instrument’s enchantment, the didgeridoo, on Quadra Island where he now makes his home. His research on music as healing showed that the didgeridoo was used for sound therapy. “What a great expression,” says Philip. “It’s a natural, healing element. I love the way it complimented the other sounds. It opens up a whole new canvas.”
The didgeridoo also, “brought Spirit into my consciousness.” Now, Philip is aware of Spirit in his life all the time. He comments, “It’s there when I wake up in the morning, stretch, go for a walk or go for coffee.” He feels Spirit in his work, but it’s not something that he exactly has a precise language for. “I just know that the music is super powerful for changing moods, thinking and memory.”
On top of the didgeridoo, another divine aspect shows up in how Philip composes his lyrics. “When I write a song, it just comes to me,” he reports. “Bam, I have a song. The (rough) lyrics come out of thin air.” His inspiration comes from his surroundings. “I write lyrics at home on Quadra about my world,” explains Philip. “I live on an island, I talk to people about kayaking, and I’m surrounded by gardens and such. So that’s what I write about.”
Philip presents his music as more than entertainment. Similar to his original teaching platform, Philip continues to teach and sing about the environment, social justice and personal experience. “The role I play is I try to make the world a better place,” says Philip. “It’s my way of contributing to the world’s wellbeing.”
In putting it all together, the didgeridoo and drums produce the “visceral rhythm.” The lyrics are the “cerebral” dynamic and the guitar and voice lend the “melody and mood.” The arrangement is, according to Philip, “a tool to expose what I’m writing. People respond in a magnificent, positive way. It’s unique to them.”
Philip’s organic sound has been recorded on three CD’s, i.e. OM Cooking, Earthshake and his latest, In the Moment. Each work has a slightly different ring to it since each reflects whatever he was doing at the time and how he was developing personally. In his first CD, OM Cooking, he enjoyed a “musician’s dream” as he had access to a recording studio in Smithers, BC. There, he explored the mystical dimensions of the didgeridoo and incorporated its unearthly sound in his mix. In Earthshake, his second production, his message is, “about the natural environment and human nature.” His latest CD, entitled In the Moment, is a call for people to take care of the environment and of each other. As in the past when he was a teacher, Philip now continues to teach and sing about the environment and social justice through his recordings. His personal experience also shows up in various tracks. It all makes for a topical, authentic, powerful, and intimate way to reach out to his fans.
Ultimately, he keeps it simple. “I have a gift – a message that I offer,” he comments. ”It makes me and other people happy. This is where I’m supposed to be. It feels right. That makes it right.”
It’s not a surprise that his live performances are real, raw and spontaneous. “It’s amazing when I go to do a show. I can be in any state of mind but when I sit down and start playing, it instantly takes me into the zone,” says Philip. “When I’m performing, something takes over. I see someone (in the audience) respond and I go with their reaction – try to carry it. Sometimes they drive; sometimes I drive. The energy goes two ways. That’s where the magic is.”
He’s passionate about his music and minstrelling around British Columbia, frequenting popular venues such as the Queen’s in Nanaimo. Philip comments, “In my life on the road, I can be driving and realize, ‘I live here – all over British Columbia – it’s incredible’.” He’s a country boy and he loves the water. “That’s why I live on Quadra. I stay away from metro centres. They all look the same.”
“I have the foundation – the experience, instruments and songs,” reflects Philip. “But I’m always trying to polish (my work).” Interestingly he finds basking to be not only lucrative but also a venue that keeps him tuned in to his audience. “Basking in Coombs shows me that it’s the most honest form of entertainment.”
Plus, he has his 16 year old son, Zach to keep him on course and real. The young man gives dad the honest feedback that he needs. Philip has found that, “If he (Zach) likes it, it works.” His son is also one of Philip’s biggest influences. Dad reflects on his generation’s legacy, i.e. the condition of the environment, to the next generation. Philip feels intuitively that, “There’s definitely a big change is going on. It’s building. Will the world be uninhabitable? I don’t know. We’ll have to wait and see.”
As far as success is concerned, he cites, “(As a businessman) I expose my music to as many audiences as possible. It’s my job and I’m confident that if people hear it, they’ll like it. (On a personal level) it’s my passion. I’m just going to do what I have to do. Financial success is the by product rather than the goal. I’m just a guy who’s trying to do what he’s passionate about – music,” says Philip. “I just do the best I can.”
But Philip isn’t fixated on a destination in the future. He is grounded in the present and holds it all lightly. His attitude is playful. “Now, what’s going to happen to me today? What do I plan to do? I’m hanging on for the ride,” he ponders. “I’ve never reached a destination. I’m always in process. It’s a journey.”
For more information about Philip, you can visit his website at www.shanephilip.com.