By Poppy Tohill
"It's a nice, sunny afternoon here," Pip tells me over the phone fromLos Angeles, on a bleak and windy Auckland morning. The 22 year old funk-pop artist and born performer has had a busy few years since he entered season 2 of the popular American talent show, The Voice, in 2012. Participating as a part of ‘Team Adam Levine' getting as far as the quarter-finals, Pip tells me "it's really what you do after the show that sets you up as an artist or musician," and it's exactly his journey thus far, following the show, that we talk about.
"I'm originally from Atlanta," Pip began, "so when I first came out to Los Angeles it was for The Voice," he explained. "Then when I was here, I met a group of very creative people who all lived together and I just ended up skipping my flight home and staying with them, now we've lived together ever since," he laughed. "So it was a very random, spur of the moment decision, but definitely one I don't regret," Pip admits.
"The music in Atlanta is mostly hip-hop and R&B and I predominantly do ‘pop stuff," Pip went on to explain. "Also, not as many people go out to live shows in Atlanta as they do in LA, because it's so spread out. So I think the concentration of people here in LA definitely helps creatively, as you have a lot more people to chose from with your writing and producing, rather than having to spread yourself thin and trying to find fewer people out in Atlanta."
With that, we moved on to chat about the early stages of Pip's musical career in Los Angeles and his time on The Voice and ‘Team Levine.' "It was amazing!" he chimed enthusiastically, reminiscing about the show. "I came from Pharmacy school back home and just being able to get on a show that is so highly watched and highly rated, with some amazing talent, not only in the coaches but the other contestants, was fantastic. I learnt a lot of different musical and vocal techniques just by interacting with the other talent and hearing their stories. It was hands down one of the best times of my life, for sure," he concluded.
Moving on to the fact that all four judges - Adam Levine, Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green and Blake Shelton turned their chairs around for Pip, he went on to fill me in on what this experience was like. "Off stage I honestly couldn't even remember that moment very much, my mind was in such a blur," he laughed. "I was like, ‘hey, what just happened?' But it was truly incredible to be able to choose between all four of them. Just to have them all believe in me, gave me the motivation to do better throughout the rest of the season too, it was great."
"I've been a fan of Maroon 5 since I was very young and they have definitely influenced a lot of what I have come to bring into my style," Pip revealed, when asked about his choice to join team Adam Levine.
With the amount of controversy that has been apparent throughout New Zealand's X Factor lately, it is evident that many people in the music industry and public alike have varied opinions of these reality television talent shows such as The X Factor and The Voice, so Pip went on to fill me in on why he would recommend taking part in one of these shows, to other young and aspiring artists.
"I understand where people are coming from based on the show themselves because there are a lot of these shows now, but the platform it gives you and the exposure it gives you is really invaluable," he pointed out. "You get to be seen by so many people and it's not what you do on the show, it's really what you do after the show that sets you up as an artist and that's where the show is just the best," he went on. "You can't really compare the amount of opportunities it gives you, with anything."
Following his time on The Voice however, Pip has had an incredible musical journey to date. With a number of singles and a debut EP under his belt already, we went on to talk a little bit more about his sound, greatest influences and proudest achievement in terms of his career, so far.
"I usually say funk-pop," Pip declared when asked how to best describe his sound. "I try and pull as much funk and R&B influence into my music as possible, but I always go with ‘funk-pop' as the description," he reassured us.
"I'm definitely a big Prince fan so I'd have to say he's probably my biggest inspiration," Pip continued. "I'm really into a band from the UK called ‘The Great Good Fine Ok,' and Zak Waters is also a great songwriter out here in LA. I'm inspired by a lot of new music and I think it's good to stay on top of what's current and trending in the pop pop world, but I would definitely have to go with Prince as my biggest influence," he reassured us.
"That's a hard one!" Pip added, when asked what his proudest achievement thus far is. "I think probably my new music video," he eventually responded confidently. "It's coming out on March 24th and I had a lot of fun working on it," he declared. "It's for my new song ‘Trash Talk' and it's kind of a combination of different relationships and a lot of hard work that I've been doing out here for these past few years. I'm very proud of everything that went into it and I think it has a really good message."
That message being anti-bullying, a concept that Pip holds very dear to his heart. "It stars about 30 little kids who were all a lot of fun to work with," he informed us. "Just growing up in music, as a dancer and artistic little kid you do get bullied a lot and to see these kids come onto set and all be so passionate about being in this video because they themselves have experienced the same sort of thing, was really inspiring for me to see. The video will be released alongside an anti-bullying campaign and I'm very excited to see that side of it come through with the song."
"When we first started the concept of the video it didn't begin with the anti-bullying idea at all," Pip confirmed. "But as we slowly created this story, we kind of delved into what the song was really about and we saw how we could use the opportunity to shed light on something that is an important issue right now," he went on to explain. "I think bullying, weirdly has gotten to be even more prevalent in schools, which seems strange because you'd think in 2015 we'd get past this, but I think its definitely something we saw very early on as potential for the song and video to become, so I'm very excited to show everybody!" he happily chimed.
Not only is the anti-bullying campaign something Pip holds very dear to his heart, but the young artist also set up his own charity a couple of years ago called Youth In Mission to help young teens and adults with mission work throughout the US.
"It actually was based off my best friend's father who is from New Zealand," Pip remarked. "He was a very large advocate of mission work, especially for kids and he passed away a couple of years ago, so we started this charity in honour of him. It helps to fund teens and young adults go on these trips," he explained. "So we fund their travels, hotel expenses and just help them get there, so that the money they raise can actually go to helping the people and them as individuals. It's been great so far, we got to give away $7,000 this year as our second year so I'm very happy for the path the charity has come down and I'm really excited to see where it goes next year," he concluded.
Reverting the conversation back to music, Pip went on to tell us a bit about his songwriting technique, what's next for him over the upcoming years and what one can expect from his live performances.
"I really think the album is going to be something that's a very large piece of work for me," he revealed. "I think I want to get one more EP under my belt before I do the full record, because I'm currently working on really solidifying my sound and getting to know exactly who I am as an artist and if I do an album I truly want to tell a story that's going to be a large representation of who I am. These EPs will give a glimpse of that, but I think the album will be the first real look at who I am and my story," he honestly expressed.
"I really love getting in the room with a producer and finding the vibe that we want to portray that day and then building the track first, or at least a demo and then creating the melody and top line over that," Pip explained when asked about his songwriting technique.
"The important part for me is to have a song portray a certain vibe, he continued. "I draw a lot of inspiration for my songs from my own personal life experiences, but then I also think you want to create a song that relates to a lot of people and there's a number of things I haven't yet experienced, because I'm still fairly young. So some aspects I do draw from those around me, more than myself, because I believe as a performer and singer, to be able to put yourself in somebody else's shoes is really important. I think it's a good exercise to write songs on subjects you can relate to, but haven't necessarily experienced first hand, yet."
"When the shows all together it's a full band with keys, drums, guitar, bass and some back up singers too," Pip proclaimed, telling us of the touringand live performance aspect of his career. "We have some choreography too, just to keep us on our toes. There's lots of energy," he continued. "I grew up performing and really that's what my passion is. I love creating and writing music in the studio, but being on the stage is my passion. I've always wanted to make it my goal and have shows that people leave and think of as ‘one of the best times of their life.' I can remember going to shows as a kid and even now leaving a show and just thinking, ‘wow, that was incredible, I'm going to remember that moment forever.' So that's what I try and impart onto people as a showman myself."
Recently partnering with indi.com who are funding the release of the ‘Trash Talk' music video, Pip let slip that he's currently working on a lot of new music and a tour for the end of the year. "Most importantly I just want to make really good music right now and I think we're in a really good time where the production and everything is in such an interesting place," he stated. "I'm working with a lot of really cool and interesting songwriters, so we'll see what happens, but I'm very excited to come off of this ‘Trash Talk' experience and go into a new world with everything. I think I'm going to get a little funky with everything and maybe even slightly more electronic, so we'll have to wait and see!" he laughed.
"The main goal for me at the moment is to be able to reach the most amount of people. So I hope to be creating constantly and being able to get those creations into the hands of as many people as possible. Whether that involves crazy international tours or just small stuff Stateside, I just want to be able to create quality content that people can really relate to," he honestly admit. "I don't know where that will take me, but as long as I'm making good music and performing great live shows with the band, I'll be happy. I absolutely love travelling so much, I love seeing the world and The Voice actually got me a really good amount of international fans, so it'd be really good for me to get over there and be able to see some of them in person, because they've stuck beside me for so long now."
"New Zealand of course!!" Pip burst into a fit of laughter in response to being asked what country he would most love to perform in. "Honestly, growing up with my best friend's parents, I've grown up with those influences and I've never been to the country, which they always talked about being so beautiful and amazing. There's a lot of good music coming out of New Zealand right now too," he chimed, "so it would be very interesting to come down there and see you guys, hopefully soon!" he repeated.
With this, we ended the interview with a brief game of ‘Kiwi Trivia' to see how good Pip's knowledge of New Zealand really is.
1. Name three NZ musicians/bands/artists...
- "Oh my gosh. I don't know if I can," Pip laughed. "My problem is I'm always so into the music, I never really research where people are from. How about you name a few and I'll see if I recognise them?" he asked.
"You must have heard of Lorde?" I asked.
"Oh yes, of course. She's from NZ isn't she," Pip laughed again.
"Gin Wigmore?" I continued..
"Oh yes, I actually do know her, I didn't know she was from NZ though!" Pip excitedly responded, in a genuinely surprised tone.
Then getting caught out myself, for having a total mind blank and not being able to think of a third artist, I eventually came up with a final kiwi songstress- Brooke Fraser.
"Brooke Fraser," Pip repeated. "I've never heard of her, but I'll definitely look her up for sure!"
Moving on to what was probably the toughest question of them all.
Number 2: "What are Pineapple Lumps?"
"Say that again!" Pip laughed. "Pineapple Lumps!?" he repeated a few times. I have no idea! Are they related to actual pineapples?" he asked between bursts of laughter.
With a few hints, Pip piped up - "Oh are they a dessert? They sound delicious, I'm definitely going to have to try some of those, they sound great!"
Then onto the slightly easier questions.
Number 3: In Nz we have more sheep than people- Is this True or False?
"True!" Pip laughed, "Wait is it?" he asked seconds later. "It is! Oh my, that is awesome!"
Then last but not least.
Number 4: What famous movies are New Zealand known for?
"Oh Lord of The Rings, for sure!!" Pip answered without a second of thought.
2 & a half out of 4 - not too bad of an effort!
The official video for ‘Trash Talk' is out today, unfortunately not available in NZ just yet but you can watch the teaser video below
and stay up to date with Pip's musical adventures via
and Twitter: https://twitter.com/pip_music