Formerly of the duo Chasing Grace, singer-songwriter Phil Plested adopted his surname as a recording moniker and set out on a solo career with his 2018 debut album, First & Foremost. While the London native's own fanbase was growing, he was also working behind the scenes as a hitmaker for fellow UK artists, co-writing Lewis Capaldi's poignant, chart-topping ballad "Before You Go," Little Mix's dance-pop smash "Touch," Zayn Malik's post-One Direction track "I Won't Mind," and the Kygo/Miguel collab "Remind Me To Forget," among others.
But ask a Plested fan where to start listening, and you'll get an entirely different set of songs: "Habits," "Worthy Of Love," "Ribcage," "Either You Love Me Or You Don't," "The Least That I Could Do" and "Beautiful & Brutal," to name a few. They're all about complicated romances (at least on the surface) and they're all written and sung by Plested.
In our chat with the singer, he gave us the stories behind "Before You Go" and "Beautiful & Brutal," and let us in on which of his love songs really isn't about a romantic relationship.
Plested: I always start my songs with a lyric or a concept. Then the chords and the melody follow. I never like to spend more than a day or two on a song, as I start doubting my ideas too much. The process is pretty similar when writing for others, but those songs start with a conversation. What the artist has been feeling/going through and what message they want to get across. Then the song begins.
Songfacts: What is your earliest musical memory?
Plested: My parents bought me one of those little plastic drum kits. I didn't really understand it and thought the game was to break all the drum skins. My parents weren't too pleased with that.
Songfacts: At Songfacts, we like to get the stories behind the songs. What was the inspiration for "The Least That I Could Do"?
Plested: This song started with a little idea I wrote in my notebook: The least I could do is die for you. I thought it was such an interesting thing to sing about. I went to the studio with my friend, and he played this amazing guitar riff and the chorus just basically fell out of my mouth. I was thinking about my mum when I was writing the lyrics, but I think everyone has those people in life that they would do absolutely anything for. We finished the song in a day and the vocals have never changed! I love it!
Songfacts: What's the story behind "Beautiful & Brutal"?
Songfacts: Who were your sources of inspiration when you were putting together your debut project, First & Foremost?
Plested: I think my main inspiration was actually working with so many other artists. I learnt a lot from hearing their stories and emotions linked to being an artist. One thing I got from everyone was that it's so much easier to just be honest with your fans, so my first project was an introduction to me as Plested. I just wanted to talk about how I was feeling with trying to find love and a career and balancing the two.
Songfacts: As a film fan, what's an example of a song that evolved out of dialog from a movie?
Plested: I have a song called "Lost For Words." One of my favorite films is 500 Days of Summer (WHAT A FILM) and there's a moment where Summer says, "I've never told anybody this before…" I instantly thought, that would be the best first line to a chorus ever!
Songfacts: What are your memories of writing "Before You Go" with Lewis Capaldi?
Songfacts: In another interview, you talked about manipulating songs like "Worthy Of You" into love songs to make them more relatable. What's an example of another tune that sounds like a love song but is really about something else?
Plested: Another song of mine, "Backup Plan," sounds like I'm singing about a person, but I'm actually talking about my love for music - there's no backup plan, it's all or nothing with this career.
Songfacts: Where were you when you first heard one of your songs on the radio?
Plested: I think I was in the car with my mum! That was the moment we both realized why I'd spent the last five years of my life in a studio, rather than university.
Songfacts: Little Mix had a big hit with "Touch" but you didn't write it for them specifically. Who did you imagine singing that song when you wrote it?
Plested: When I started the song, it was originally guitar driven and quite bluesy. I had no idea what it was at first let alone who should sing it. But it was when a couple of my friends got in to finish, we all realized that it would be huge as a pop record. The first I heard of Little Mix being interested, was when I got their version fully recorded, saying it was going to be on the album! That one was very lucky.
Songfacts: You've posted a number of demos on YouTube to get feedback from fans. What was the most helpful piece of feedback you received on one of your songs?
Plested: The best feedback I get is when people say it helps them emotionally. I think I forget the power of songs and getting messages like that remind me that even if just one person hears my track and they connect with it, I'm doing the right thing. And it also makes me less scared to release music.
Songfacts: Finally, you've written songs for several popular artists. Who would be your dream person (still living) to record one of your songs?
Plested: Adele, Bruno Mars, Rihanna are all obvious ones! But I'm actually dying to get in the room with Celeste right now. I think she is incredible.
March 3, 2020
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