London native, Libby Phippard stepped into the music scene at a young age before studying music at the University of York and later going on to train as an opera singer.
Each of these distinct experiences has led her to write and release her own singles that blamed folk and very traditional choir and opera elements. This ability to genre blend gives Phippard’s tracks a musical theatre-scene and orchestral sound that centers into a simple core melody.
Her new single “Please don’t ask me to stay” focuses on the feeling of outgrowing individuals around her and moving towards a feeling of comfort within herself. The touching lyrics have a gripping emotional nature and each whole filled high octave vocal draws listeners into the depth of her story.
Phippard’s production includes a backing choir to bring this single back to her roots while still remaining a traditional folk song. The instrumentals perfectly complement her rich vocal tone and enhance each rolling verse into themes of love, loss, letting go, and ultimately, personal growth.
Phippard’s musical ability has grown dramatically since she begins her choral career over a decade ago making her new single the perfect return to the classical music industry early last year.
Your new single is filled with such rich vocals and meanings, tell us what the process was like when creating this single?
Well, the funny thing about "Please Don’t Ask Me To Stay," is that it’s probably the single that feels almost like a cheat in terms of the composition process. I normally work out the lyrics and the melody and the chords and build it from there and that’s usually the hardest part, but that part practically came fully formed with this one! I started playing around with a tune that felt familiar like I’d heard it from somewhere before. (Incidentally, if you can tell me where I nicked it from, I’d be very grateful, it’s been driving me up the wall for months!) But I started vaguely singing some words along a familiar theme about letting go of people holding you back, who may or may not have the best of intentions, and twenty minutes later I had a song that felt fully formed! So yes, I say it feels like a cheat because there’s usually a lot more work that goes into that part and the lyrical construction, but with this one, I literally started singing and the words practically wrote themselves. But afterward, I sent off a demo to my producer Danny, who works at The Online Recording Studio, and we started working together and built it up from there.
You mentioned the importance of choir and opera in your musical background, how has this created your distinct sound as an artist and how do you attempt to carry these traits into each of your singles?
What’s fun about my background in opera is that I’ve got quite a big range, but I can’t belt to save my life. So I can sing in my chest register for a lot of the lower parts which is the sound most people are used to in pop music but if I want to do anything higher than about an A then I’ve got to go into my head register to get those higher notes. So I’ve been playing around with the different sounds of those top notes and finding a way to sing those higher passages in a way that sounds like I’m not just singing opera because it’s not really appropriate for the music I’m trying to sing. So particularly with this single, because it’s quite an understated song, with the main vocals, whenever I needed to go into the upper register I kept it quite soft and quite breathy to make it feel intimate, but with some of my other songs when I want to get up to those top notes and have them really hit hard, I tend to create quite a hard, bright sound. However, in this single as well, there’s basically a choir going on in the background which helps bring a new dimension to it, because while the melody itself is very simple, I wanted to have a feeling of growth throughout to build to these (to me, at least,) really impactful lyrics at the end of the song before bringing it back and the choir was a really good way of doing that because it starts off very quiet, very gentle, to the point where you don’t really notice it’s there, and then the upper voices just start to rise out of the texture towards the climax of the song before coming back into the rest of the texture.
“Please Don’t Ask Me To Stay” has more of a traditional folk nature than some of your previous pieces, can you explain why you decided to move along this route and how you were able to adapt your sound to fit that traditional folk nature?
So as I said, the song itself was written in about twenty minutes, (which I would not recommend as a course of action if you wanted to write a song because I have never been able to do it since,) but by the time I’d reached the end, I had two verses and I didn’t really think there was anything more to be said, and it felt like anything I did add was actually detrimental to the song. I listened back to it and even when I was writing it, it felt much more like a traditional folk song than anything else and I wanted to keep it that way, with very soft and very intimate sounds. I also explored some slightly more musical theatre aspects of the accompaniment, so we’ve got some string sounds going on in the background and of course there’s the choir I mentioned, but Danny suggested keeping the modern drums and the bass there as something to ground it in more modern music.
Do you have any specific artists or individuals that you draw influence from when creating your music?
I love this question! Probably the big one at the moment is Hozier, who is one of the best lyricists I’ve ever heard, but depending on the song there’s also people like Ed Sheeran, Mumford and Sons, Ariana Grande, Taylor Swift, and probably loads more if I stopped to think about it! ‘Please Don’t Ask Me To Stay’ draws a bit on Simon and Garfunkel too, just to really get that folk element, but really it depends on the song – I’m always on the lookout for different artists and types of music and techniques to draw on that help inspire my music.
What's next for you?
Well, to celebrate ‘Please Don’t Ask Me To Stay’ I put on a virtual concert which I really enjoyed doing, so I’d like to put on some more of those! It was great to actually perform again, even to a screen with people tuning in from home, and of course, the perk of doing it virtually is that people aren’t limited by geographical constraints, so I can reach people from all over the world, which has just been incredible! I’d like to do some more live performances, whether virtual or – dare I say it – in person, but I’ve also got a big back catalog of songs I’d like to get produced, so what’s next is probably working through those.