You may know him as one tenth of legendary ‘a capella’ outfit The Other Guys but Richard Phillips is an accomplished solo musician in his own right. Hailing from Ratho, Edinburgh, Richard’s layered acoustic songs are all over YouTube and Soundcloud, displaying a level of musicianship and versatility heard reassuringly often around the Bubble at open mic nights and often sold-out gigs. We sat down with the St Andrews undergraduate to talk songwriting, the town music scene, and the making of that video. (Check out the bottom of the page for links to listen to Richard’s music!)
How did you first get into making music?
I started playing piano when I was seven or eight. That got me started. I gave piano up when I reached high school, just because I started to find the whole classical thing a bit boring. Then over the course of my six years at high school at one time or another I picked up the saxophone, bass guitar, acoustic guitar, and eventually piano again, and by the time my voice had matured, I started singing.
How did you get into songwriting and who are your influences?
Towards the end of high school, a music teacher heard me playing the piano in the Music Department one day. He then offered to do a songwriting workshop with me. Since then it’s all just kind of fallen into place and I’ve been writing ever since. For a long time my two favourite bands were Muse and Biffy Clyro, and that has had a massive influence on my songwriting. But more recently, artists like Brand New, Laura Marling, Jon Foreman, and most notably Frightened Rabbit, who I would tentatively name as my favourite band of all time.
How do you go about writing a song? Which do you find easier, music or lyrics?
It really varies. Often what will happen is I’ll come up with a phrase when I’m out and about and think “I like that, I’ll try and put that in a song,” and when I get home I’ll play some chords and then have a shot at writing an entire song. Other times I’ll sit down with the purpose of writing a song, but that’s often less productive. Music is definitely much easier to write, the problem is often taking the music and making it something I can sing along to.
What is your favourite tune you’ve written?
I have a few. The Weekend is a good one, and after writing and recording that, a lot of my following attempts at songwriting ended up trying to be the same. That and the Fisherman tend to be most people’s favourites seeing as they’re on Youtube. I’m always writing and adding material to the Internet so keep a look out!
You are also involved with the Christian union. Do you find your faith has an influence on your music?
Definitely. Part of the reason I started learning to play guitar was to be able to play at church, which is one of the things I enjoy most about music. It comes into my lyrics now again as well. It’s a huge part of my life, and because my lyrics end up being a bit of a representation of my life, my faith (hopefully) comes through in that.
What do you think of the music scene in St Andrews?
It’s lush. It’s a really good place to get started and do some casual gigging. The Music is Love open mic nights held in the Union are really cool events to be at and I seem to see new artists perform every time I go. The best gig I’ve ever been to in St Andrews (by far) was seeing José González last year at the Union. He’s just such an incredible guitarist.
What was the reaction like from other students after seeing you in the Other Guys’ video, Royal Romance?
It was surreal. I remember sitting at lunch in Uni Hall a few days after we released the video and people were saying things like “so you’re like, famous now?” Even my cleaners had seen it and would always remind me of it. What was really incredible on the day we released the video was when we announced at 3 p.m. that we’d be performing in the Byre Bar at 9 p.m. The place was totally packed before we got there and the crowd was singing along to every word. Absolutely incredible.
How was the process of making the video itself?
Honestly? Not particularly fun. As your readers have probably noticed St Andrews isn’t the warmest place in the world, even in sunny spring time. As such, spending hours at a time outside only wearing a suit isn’t the most pleasant thing in the world. But it was worth the cold to see Francesca – as Kate Middleton – push Ollie off the pier and into the North Sea! All in all, it’s made for a lot of exposure and gig oppurtunities, and the timing of the video release a few weeks before the Royal Wedding was spot on. We really couldn’t be happier with how it turned out.
Image 1 – Susannah Alltimes
Image 2 – The Other Guys
You can keep up to date with the Other Guys’ music on their website.