Welcome to Spotlight Series, a monthly feature shining a light on emerging local music makers in the stellar music community in Manitoba. Come back every month for a new interview!
By Mahlet Cuff with files from staff
Tommyphyll may be new to the local music scene, but he’s already established some deep connections.
The multi-talented artist kicked off his career three years ago after switching from posting skits on YouTube to creating music that truly reflected who he was.
“I started making music professionally in 2018 and joining Manitoba Music in the last year or so, prior to that I would make a song and put out a song out myself but now with the resources, grants, and opportunities I can access through Manitoba Music, it’s nice to know that there is a support system out there for artists like myself,” says Tommyphyll, a past participant of the Careers in the Arts Youth Mentorship Program, of some of the opportunities and resources for up-and-coming artists.
Like many artists right now navigating their careers during COVID-19, working from home and not being able to perform live has given Tommyphyll time to reflect and think about himself as an artist. Being able to make music in his home studio has had a positive impact, making collaborations with artists easier.
“Working with other people has been super interesting, but now with having a home studio I can bounce ideas off other people virtually through Zoom calls and where in the past I would have to meet up with people physically,” he explains. “It has been a blessing for me personally because I am able to be featured on songs with artists from back home in Nigeria and reach other people in different regions."
Building that connection with Nigeria, his birthplace and where he has a loyal fan base, has been part of Tommyphyll’s career plan. While noting the role of local creative scene in his development as an artist, that connection is a big source of his inspiration.
“Maintaining a connection to Nigeria and my heritage as a Yoruba man is very important to me,” he says. “Nigeria is a part of my identity. It will always be. In fact, my music really would not be the same if I lost that connection. I have discovered so many rich sources of inspiration to draw from and it just gives me joy knowing that the rest of the world is beginning to see that Nigerians have always been more than the stereotypes that have been used to describe us. You just cannot ignore us or the creative marvels we produce.”
Influenced by a wide variety of genres and artists including Jon Bellion, Burna Boy, Coldplay, Hans Zimmer, Fall out boy, and Kanye West, Tommyphyll blends those influences with his style of storytelling, which you can hear on his 2020 album, Art of Dreams, and recent singles.
“Before I started making music I used to write novels which were mostly fantasy and come up with stories, and I was thinking why don’t I transform the way I write fantasy novels to song lyrics," he says, "And from there I was writing songs about not only my own experiences but also interpreting situations friends would tell me and make those into songs as well."
Drawing inspiration from his own experiences as well as others has taught Tommyphyll about being better listener and how it influences his writing. “Everyone has things they want to say or try to convey but by really listening to myself and others I am able to navigate the emotions and thoughts, and figure out what exactly they're really trying to say and how can I accurately represent that in the song I am making."
The experimental artist aims to creates music that connects with people, including avid fans and people that are new to his songs.
“One of the main goals for me is to be able to create songs that are very relatable because human experiences 10, 20 years from now they might have slight iterations, but someone is always going to be sad, angry, fall in love et cetera. I want to make sure that the songs I make are timeless.
Stay tuned for more new music from Tommyphyll, who is currently working on an Afrobeats album slated for a summer release.
“After releasing the Art Of Dreams album in September I decided I was going to completely change my approach with this project,” he explains. “I have been reaching out to more people and just soaking in knowledge from all sides. It's funny I don’t even have a name for it yet but it's going to be partly self-produced with collaborations from other Genius producers and Artists. I am really excited about this one and I know my fans are gonna love it.”
Mahlet Cuff is an emerging interdisciplinary artist and curator who produces their work through digital and film still photography as well as audio recordings. As well as she is community organizer with Justice 4 Black lives Winnipeg and is a part of multiple artist collectives such as Patterns Collective and Rind.