Local singer-songwriter Filipa caught South Africa’s attention after winning the Ryan Seacrest cover competition in 2014. Eight years later, the 26-year-old is on her way to stardom with tracks like Little White Lie, Do Something and her latest release, No Words. In an exclusive interview with The South African, Filipa chats about her music journey, her songwriting process and what’s next for her.
ALSO READ: Local singer Filipa explores the ‘chemistry of love’ in new single ‘No Words’
You’ve been on the music block for a while now, from winning the Ryan Seacrest cover competition to releasing ‘No Words’…Take us through your music journey.
“I’ve been doing it since I was a kid. So I think my journey started long before the Ryan Seacrest competition. After matric I decided, look, I’m gonna start taking it seriously and I really wanted to put some really nice professionally done videos up and start to also look at writing my own material and putting that out.
That’s when I did the covers, one of them was the One Direction, Story of My Life cover. That was the second cover I posted. And a few weeks later, I got asked to be in the competition, because they found my video.
So of course, it was like, super unexpected and super cool. And from then on, it was such a great way to start everything, I think it was very unexpected, and it was such a blessing. And I started to also delve into my own music and writing because I was kind of scared of writing… that was something I was a bit afraid to tap into.
Eventually, I really started getting comfortable and collaborating with such great people. I got more into my own writing and becoming an artist and I think it’s so cool to see how that’s grown and how I’ve grown, and how my style also musically has grown. I will continue to grow and that’s the goal.”
Let’s chat about the themes of your songs… Boys, love, and drama. What inspired you to write about those topics in your music?
“I wanted to be an artist that was somewhat relatable. So you know, I’m not afraid to say it as it is, and I’m not afraid to express those kinds of feelings, and they’re not always good feelings.
It’s important to be able to share that and to share what I’ve personally gone through, in hopes that someone else can relate to it and that’s the wonderful thing about music. You know you can you write things and someone else can grab it and hold on to it, and it means something to them.
I write about literally anything that happens to me, and I think it’s more genuine that way that comes from something I’ve gone through and that’s where it came from. And I said I’m not afraid to say things even if they’re not the best.”
‘No Words’ is your new single and it explores an ‘an energy exchange’ between two people and that’s sort of something that doesn’t get spoken about a lot. Why this topic?
“It’s such a cool feeling. First of all, like that, that magnetic feeling that you can’t really describe that well, you have something that I think that everyone kind of knows and has probably felt before, but it’s so difficult to put into words.
When I got into the studio, I was talking about when you have this magnetic chemistry with someone…It’s such a nice feeling. And so I thought…I’m going to write about this and write about how cool that feels, how that can make you feel and then how that kind of chemistry can translate.
That’s just why I wanted to write about it, it was something that I had recently felt at the moment when I was writing it. There’s so much emotion around it.”
LISTEN TO ‘NO WORDS’ HERE
We did our own research and discovered that you’re a Harvard graduate! How did you balance music and school?
“It was pretty tricky. I’m not gonna lie. I think it’s because I was also working in different time zones. I was having classes from like 04:00 to 06:00 and I struggled with it. Then obviously to do my music I would have to do that in between.
I had to write in between all of that while also doing assignments on top of it. So it was very tricky. But the cool thing is, it was all online. I had that time to kind of schedule things myself, I had to be disciplined.
It did help that I didn’t have to necessarily be on campus all day. I’d have my classes and schedule everything around it. So I had a lot of time to still do my music during the day.
The only things were online writing sessions and stuff that would sometimes clash. I was also writing with people on that side too. So, you know, a lot of the times the time would cash, but it was manageable. I just needed a lot of discipline.”
You’ve had the opportunity the work with Pam Sheyne, someone who has been instrumental in the careers of some of the best artists in the world, how was working with her impacted your music journey?
“I consider Pam as like a mentor and she’s such a lovely human too, we just get along really well. I have a very special friendship with her too and she just taught me so much. She’s had so many years of experience and you know, just being able to work with her and just being able to collaborate on so many projects with her, it’s just taught me so much, even about myself.
It’s also given me the confidence to get out there a little bit more. When I started writing with Pam, it was the first time that I really was writing my own material and diving into it.
So Pam, in a way was always like there and she kind of inspired me to just keep going and just to keep pushing. So she has a really big impact. I still work with her to this day and we just have a really close bond.
We just get each other as well, musically, but yeah, she’s just taught me a lot just being in a room and just seeing how she works with me. It’s just, I mean, you can’t find that in a book, you know?”
Does Filipa usually have a songwriting process?
“It depends if I’m writing it alone, or if we’re collaborating. Usually, collaborations are a little bit more structured because you kind of have like: ‘Okay, we are going to meet at such and such time, and we’re going to start writing a song’ and we have to have something by the end of the day, you know, that’s kind of the goal and you, you work towards that.
It’s never the same because I mean, especially when you’re collaborating, there are so many different energies and it’ll always start differently. Sometimes it’ll start with a beat that the producer maybe was thinking: ‘This will be cool’. Or, you know, a lot of the times it starts with just me saying: ‘Okay, this is what I write about and this is the concept, and this is what I’m going through right now’.
Sometimes it becomes like a big, fat conversation, where we’re all kind of just thinking about something, and we’re all just putting ideas to it and thinking, brainstorming and just sharing experiences.
At the end of the day, you kind of need to open yourself up and be vulnerable to your co-creators, because then they’ll be able to help you with your vision and help you write this track.
When I’m by myself, I usually start with like little voice notes. I do that a lot. I’ll have a melodic idea. And I’ll record that, and I have all these voice notes. And then I’ll develop the idea. And I’ll think, Okay, I think this is kind of sounding like this. And this is what I kind of write to this. And sometimes lyrics come with it too.”
Now you’ve released ‘No Words’…What’s next for Filipa?
“I do have a whole bunch of songs that I’m wanting to share. So I’m not sure yet if I’m going to do it just single-based or if I actually want to put it together into an album.
I do definitely have other material that I’m going to be releasing. So I just don’t know how to do it as yet. You know, material. Yeah, because I’ve been quiet for a little while, but now I’m back.”