Like a ray of sunshine that keeps you warm or the serenity you feel hearing the ocean waves, that’s how Phum Viphurit’s music will make you feel. Born in Thailand and raised in New Zealand, Phum may just be the next big thing in the indie music scene.
The singer started writing his own songs when he was 17 and has since grown into a pretty consistent hit-maker. With over 26 million views on his latest single ‘Lover Boy’, Phum managed to solidify and expand his fan-base worldwide when he was noticed by trending social media channel, 88rising.
Limiting Phum to one genre wouldn’t do him justice. He uses a hybrid of different genres — like folk, funk, and alternative — in his own songwriting to form a diverse body of mellow yet distinct original music. “My objective is to make people forget all the bad vibes and have a great time listening to it [his music]. That’s all I want,” he told #TeamCLEO in an exclusive phone interview.
A star in his own right, Phum is on his currently sold out tour in the US, but admits that he didn’t expect this at all. “This year when I graduated, I wanted to take a gap year. I definitely wanted to travel the world, learn how to be a barista and work in coffee shops — nothing more than like that.
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“But I’m grateful that the timing of my life has worked out really well, and now I guess I get to work and travel. I get to play music for all these new people I’ve never met before. Yeah, it’s been crazy — to go to the States where the majority of my fan base is so amazing,” Phum gushed.
When it comes to inspiration, Phum admits that there isn’t a specific artist that he idolises, but rather a mixture of different artists. But if he really has to name one, he cites Mac DeMarco. “I do get influenced by Mac DeMarco. Not so much his music direction but I guess the way he goes about it and his lifestyle.”
He also gets inspired by his surroundings a lot and says that he’s inspired by everything now, especially his travels.
Many identify the 22-year-old singer as a new face in the Neo-Soul genre, but we couldn’t help but wonder if he ever thought of dabbling in a different genre.
“Mmm, dabble. I like that word. I definitely want to try world music — world music is very festive. I feel like it’s very universal; even though world music comes from different cultures, it’s something that I feel people around the world would appreciate. It’d be interesting to make a song where you could mix all the influences of the places you’ve been, like mix it into one, somehow. I’d love to try that out.”
A recent film school graduate, it’s no surprise that Phum also has a hand in the film making process. He actually directed the music video for his song ‘Long Gone’, which now has over 8 million views on YouTube. He does hope to produce more music videos — if not his own, then of his friends who are artists as well. His aesthetic? Bright, chill and uber ’90s, but just the right amount.
Phum was quick to say “yes” when asked if he would ever direct a short film. “I’m still in touch with my friends in college who are working in films and stuff, so definitely! I did spend four years getting a degree for it, so it’s not going to go away for sure. I’m really into making short films and whenever I find the time, I will try to write up a script and direct it in the future!”
When asked about his favourite song off his record, Phum hesitated. It’s like picking a favourite child! But after plenty of consideration, he chose a song off his Japanese edition album called ‘Fresh off the Boat’.
“It was inspired by my field trip with my friends to the States where we lived in Orange County and LA for like 3 weeks. I made this song on my computer — I didn’t have my microphone or guitar with me so I made it all digitally, which is something quite different than what I usually do, but I ended up having a good time. So I guess it was just being in the moment and realising that you’re not in some sort of glass cage that you can’t break out off.”
Phum admits that he hasn’t really figured out how to describe his music style but he sure hope it gives the listener chill vibes.
“Aw man, that’s hard. I can’t really describe it. My music style is very lazy. Okay maybe not lazy but very chill. Like I hope it relaxes people (when they listen to it).”
So who is Phum? Not the recording artist, but the Thai boy who grew up in New Zealand.
“Oh man who am I? In three words? I’m very smiley. I’m a lot more shy than people think I am, and last one, I would say that I’m very content with everything. So yes, smiley, shy and content.”
In his downtime, Phum is usually out thrifting or in his room playing video games. “Generally just being really lazy and not leaving my bedroom the whole day is one of my favourite downtime actually.”
When it comes to the future, Phum couldn’t help but laugh while calculating how old he’d be then. He admits that he hasn’t thought that far. “I’m just going day by day really. I hope to still be passionate, with whatever I’m doing at that time, and I’m sure I’ll still be making music and writing songs. I hope I still get to travel, get to make music with my friends and do my own work. I hope to make a short film like I planned, and I hope to be with my family in my home.”
Aside from playing a lot of European EDM to mess with his German tour guide and bus driver, Phum confesses that he too listens to an array of artists, never limiting himself to a genre. “I’m always listening to Bombay Bicycle Club. They’re on a hiatus right now but definitely check them out. I’m listening to a lot of old school stuff right now- Earth Wind and Fire, George Benson, the old Whitney Houston albums as well. Like the 80s pop songs ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’.”
Since it has been awhile since ‘Lover Boy’, many are wondering when we’d get new music from Phum but one thing’s for sure, it is coming. “I’m really taking my time to make sure I’m happy with each one, before I play it for people. But yeah I’m hoping people would want some more and hopefully by the end of this year I can put it out!”
We asked him if he was excited to come to Malaysia and he excitedly agreed. “I’ve been there a couple of times and I just went for Good Vibes earlier this year. The way people were interacting with the artists I thought ‘Wow, man it would be really cool to play in Malaysia in front of that crowd’. I hope I will get a similar reception.”
With his feel good vibes and smooth vocals, we’re sure he will!
Phum Viphurit will be performing at the Unlimited Grooves Festival on 10 November. Get your tickets here.