Interview: Philip Lawrence - talks new Album, Smeezingtons / Hooligans, Fedora hat collection...
H'es the talent behind some of today's hit records that you happen to hear on radio all over the world. The Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter/producer Philip Lawrence talks with us and discusses his role within The Smeezingtons production crew (Bruno Mars, Ari Lavine, Philip Lawrence) that were behind hits such as B.o.B’s "Nothin’ On You", Travie McCoy’s top 3 smash, "Billionaire", and CeeLo Green’s worldwide sensation, "F**k You". However, with all the success given to other great talent, it was time to turn the focus on himself for a chance.
Talk to us about your upbringing..
I am originally from a small town called Evansville, Indiana. I come from a real music family. My mother was the choir director of my gospel choir. Like 90% of the people in my family are singers. So I knew at a very young age – I think the first time I was on stage I was like four-years old. I’ve been performing and I have had music in my life from a very young age. My dad was a DJ in the 70’s so I always had crates and crates of albums laying around the house. So at any given time we could be listening to some Stevie Wonder all the way to The Eagles, to Led Zeppelin, Ohio Players, you name it and it was in our living room.
Bruno Mars and yourself seem more like best friends than co-workers. How did you meet Bruno and become such an important part of his team.
Bruno and I met years ago. I think seven years ago now through a mutual friend, Keith Harris, who is actually the drummer for The Black Eyed Peas, also a producer. He was working with Bruno and myself independently back then. One day he just called me up and said “Hey man I got this kid who is super talented, he is signed to such-and-such label but I think he’s looking to get in a new situation. We’re doing some great work but you know he could use a writer to kind of help him get his ideas out.” I could remember at the time I was beyond broke. I was living in LA and didn’t have a car and for years I was taking public transportation. So it was going to cost me my last five dollars to get to the studio. I was like “Yo Keith is he really good man. Please tell me he is.” [laughs]. But me and Bruno hit it off and that first sessions was the first time either of us had fully written, recorded, and produced a song in one night. From that point on, we haven’t stopped working together.
How does it feel to finally have a solo project and how did you find time to work on that while being a Smeezington and Hooligan.
I stole every bit of free time I could find. The majority of the album was recorded years ago, back in 2009. Sort of around the time that Bruno was just taking off. You know, I moved to LA to be an artist, I have always had those aspirations. Sometimes you get dealt a different hand and you adjust and you make your way into writing – which is another passion of mine. So while we working on Bruno’s stuff, I knew that he was going to be something great – I knew it when we first met there was something special about him. But around that time, I knew that if I wanted to record an album, I had to do it now so that I have it when I need it.
“Letters I Never Sent” (on iTunes now) is the name of your album. Are there letters that actually exist or are they metaphorical?
Yes they are metaphors for the songs at a time when I didn’t think they would see the light of day. These songs a.k.a. ‘letters,’ have been sitting since 2009, unheard and unreleased so that’s kind of where the album title came from. Now I am finally able to put these songs into the world and let people ‘read’ and feel the content.
The music is rock, soul, funk, uplifting, and each song holds a great message. Is there anything in particular you want people to know about your music or any message you want them take away from it?
The music is very autobiographical, they are things that happened in my life. A lot of it is a very personal and honest portrayal of things that I have been dealing with. I would just hope that if there are any of the songs that people can relate to, it can give them hope to get through difficult times, to ask honest questions about their life. I hope that it can be sort of a beacon of hope and inspiration to get them through some trying times.
Lullaby (Track #7) is a lullaby to your children. Tell us about them and why it was important for you to have a track dedicated to them?
Being a musician forces you to be away from your family most of the time. I have three beautiful kids so if I never recorded another album, I really wanted them to be able to hear their Dad sing them a Lullaby and hopefully when they get older it becomes something they can pray with and remember that even though I am far away that I am always thinking of them and I am doing everything I do for them.
So you always seem to have some kind of hat or fedora on. Does Philip Lawrence have a private collection or will there be a line of fedoras soon?
I mean there could potentially be a Fedora move. People like to think Bruno started it but your boy had his own little hat situation going on [laughs]. I don’t know man, I have always worn hats and recently I have been collecting hats. My hats do have their own private section of the house that are very well taken care of, sometimes better than myself.