Phillip LaRueBiography – Fall 2015: YOU
Writing a song for someone is the ultimate tribute. It immortalizes a relationship, freezing it in time to cherish forever. The individuals closest to Phillip LaRue populate his November 2015 solo album, YOU [Razor & Tie]. While in the midst of penning the ten-track set, he experienced a striking revelation.
“I didn’t realize it until we were deep into the process, but so many of the songs were about different people in my life,” he admits. “It’s a really unique record for me because each track is literally for someone around me that I care for.”
It was both a personal and powerful journey for the California-born and Nashville-based singer-songwriter. It’s also a proper gateway into his musical world. YOU might be familiar with Phillip’s work already since he is currently in high demand as a songwriter. He co-wrote the #1 gold-certified hit “Whiskey In My Water” for Tyler Farr, and his music has been heard everywhere in film and TV, including programs such as Nashville, The Vampire Diaries, and Pretty Little Liars. He has also written and performed in successful ad campaigns for Kohl’s, The Food Network, Verizon, Apple, and Ford. As an artist, he fronts the bands Us And Our Daughters and The Rival, and started his career with his sister as one-half of LaRue. Still, YOU properly introduces the world to his singular style.
“I wanted to make a non-traditional singer-songwriter record,” he says. “I wear so many different hats as a songwriter that this was my chance to really show who I am. When I’m writing for others, it’s like I’m in the backseat. When I’m writing for myself, I get to be in the driver’s seat. There are moments where it’s just me and an acoustic guitar; then there are moments that are musically more lush, ethereal and dramatic. My album is a mixture of those different worlds, and hopefully it encourages people to lean into the lyrics and melodies.”
LaRue’s success as both a performer and songwriter has sharpened his approach toward this album. “The best lesson I’ve learned from writing for other artists is the importance of story,” he says. “We’re drawn to it, because we all have a story to tell ourselves. The risky thing though is being willing to tell it. The greatest songwriters and artists are those who are willing to let others in. The best songs are written from a real place. I applied that concept to the new record.”
Showcasing his sound and storytelling, the album’s title track treads between transfixing production, plaintive strumming, and Phillip’s soulful delivery. With a bottle of wine and guitar on his front porch, he wrote the song in just one sitting.
“It was a really fun moment creatively,” he recalls. “I got the chance to just dive in headfirst and write something for my wife. I played it for her when she got home that night, and she loved it."
Elsewhere, the shimmering acoustic guitar of “Sweet Love” paints a vivid picture of Phillip’s bond with his infant son; “I was holding my son the first couple weeks he was born,” he smiles. “When I held him, I saw so much of me and my father inside of him. I was thinking about his life, all of the things that would happen, and the father I wanted to be for him. It re-inspired me to love intentionally.”
Featuring a poignant vocal turn and keyboard hum, “When I See YOU” serves as a touching tribute to Phillip’s sister who’s affected with Cerebral Palsy. Then, “I’ll Be YOUr Home” builds from a finger-picked guitar into a vibrant tale of struggle and searching.
“Life is hard,” he sighs. “It lets us down. In those moments, it takes a lot of energy and heart to get back up. I have a buddy who is really struggling. I wrote this one for him. It’s for someone walking through the hardest season of his life. If we can remind ourselves how others see us, it would make us less hard on ourselves and self-critical.”
Closing out the family connections, “Diane” is a very personal song inspired by Phillip’s grandmother and the effects of dementia on her and her family: “My grandma has always been a second mother to me. She even helped raise me when my parents had some trouble early on. She poured herself into me and always somehow was able to find joy when others couldn't see it. I've never stared dementia in the face before but I can tell YOU it's one of the hardest things I've had to go through. One moment she's here, fully aware, next she is someplace else. I was writing and working in LA but couldn't sleep. I just couldn't wrap my head and heart around what was happening to her. So I woke up and worked on the song ‘Diane’ till morning. It's a very special tribute to her and I hope it can encourage others that may be walking through the same things as I am and my family is.”
Outside of music, Phillip continues to evolve creatively. Painting has become both an outlet and a muse. “I really like painting, but I’m also a perfectionist, so a lot of paintings end up never being seen by anyone,” he laughs. “This last year, I haven’t cared so much about the ultimate result in the paintings, but rather the process, and I’ve created some of my favorite pieces. This notion helped me let go of what the end result of my album might or might not be and just enjoy the creation.”
By getting so personal with YOU, Phillip creates something entirely universal.
“After it’s over, I want everyone to feel like they got to hear my story,” he leaves off. “I’d love for them to even feel inspired. That’s why I do music. We all go through ups and downs and share that in common. However, we all can love a little deeper and feel more if we’re open to it.”