Sweet, smooth, sensual and mesmerising, Claire Phillips has that knack of setting the perfect love scenes with her music. When she appeared on the scene in 2006 with her album Say My Name, it immediately garnered her a Sama win for her notable fresh RnB soulful sound.
Now Phillips could have another love-conconcted winner with the release of her second album next week.
Already shining on the radio charts is her single Little Things, warming up fans before the full release.
At an exclusive listening session at the Salty Dogs studio in Woodstock, Cape Town, the singer took me through her new collection.
It’s Phillips’s sultry, soulful vocals that tickle the ears, along with killer grooves that weave through each song.
Her sound is distinct and the sound for this album is different.
“The first album was all about pain and hurt, me screaming ‘Somebody please love me!’ and this second one is to say ‘Thanks for loving me’,” she says.
“I don’t go for any specific vibes. I have a preconceived idea what I want when I make my music. This is the Claire Phillips sound that’s got my stamp on it. I don’t follow trends.
“When I wrote Little Things I thought: ‘Don’t come here and give me big flashy jewellery; being told ‘I love you’ makes my heart tingle.’ Just a whisper in the ear, that’s all we want.”
Phillips’s vocal range complements a repertoire that includes jazz, funk and soul.
The fine, intricate and surprising melodies are delightful. The basslines, electric guitar solos and trumpet melodies blend behind her voice and the control of her sweet guitar whispers.
“I wanted that real live sound, so everything you hear are live instruments where I had the musicians come into the studio and no computer programming doing it for me.”
Right Kind Of Loving starts.
“I like this one,” she says, as she makes her eyes seductive, mimic-king a guy with a seductive tone: “Come here, let me show you what it’s about”, after giving a big laugh.
Phillips’s songs are playful love songs but the mood quickly changes when she shares her disappoint-ment at not seeing an R&B category at this year’s Samas.
“When R&B artists play, shows are well supported.
“If you listen to Ceelo Green’s style, it is remniscent of Cape Town and that tells me that the world out there wants that sound.”
Earlier this year, the media were abuzz when Phillips asked on Facebook why she was not booked to play at this year’s Cape Town International Jazz Festival.
“I’d like to play in my own town, where I come from. They told me if you leave your manager, they’ll give me a slot. I left and I asked and didn’t get anything. I am arguably the biggest soul artist Cape Town has and I’m not on the bill? A Sama award-winning girl.
“I’m not expensive, so I’d actually like to know why, is my music not good enough?”
During a six-year hiatus, Phillips says, it’s been a journey of self-discovery.
“I’ve been living life, finding the financial aid for this album. People talk a lot in terms of coming on board with finances but when it comes to black and white on paper, they disappear.
“So in the six years I’ve been writing, finding myself again...I discovered myself and rekindled my love for music. I’m extremely proud of my body of work.
“The album is called By Request because a lot of people wanted me to do it – 15 000 people nagging me because even though I lost my drive, they wouldn’t let me.”
The last track, which is stripped down to her bare voice and piano, shows Phillips’s most vulnerable side.
“Believe it or not, the last song was the most difficult because it opens something that I thought was closed. Initially I didn’t want to do this song, but I decided at the end to put this song on the album.
“It’s raw, beautiful, honest – it’s just me.
“This album is an introduction to what I do but still doesn’t reveal Claire Phillips.
“When I leave this Earth, my music will be the only thing left of me and when you listen through the albums I would have made, you’ll be able to thread pieces of who I am.”
Claire Phillips’s album will be launched at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Waterfront, Cape Town, on August 1.