There’s something to be said about a person with strong goals. They usually have a bright future ahead of them. As a musically inclined child with admirable goals, Phyllisia’s father bought her a piano, while also picturing his young child as a future doctor. Although her father unfortunately passed while Phyllisia was only 10, it is clear that she is still on that bright and prosperous path with many more goals still in mind.
Today, Phyllisia continues to make her family proud. While getting her education at the University of Miami, she worked to start a successful and promising musical career with equal dedication, proving that having more than one goal can be truly beneficial. She has already topped charts in other parts of the world, which is fitting for a person who can sing in various languages. She has managed to juggle education with the rigors of the entertainment industry, graduating with a degree in Biology and a minor in Chemistry. But, she isn’t done there. She continues reaching towards new goals, new heights.
In an interview with HipHopDX's Beauty & Brains, Phyllisia spoke to us about her father’s influence, her various musical styles and about the discipline needed to juggle a musical career on the path to a university degree. This classically trained pianist also spoke to us about speaking and singing in many languages, her love for various genres and why it’s important for her to “reach people all over the world.”
Beauty & Brains: I understand your father had a lot of influence on you early on. How did he influence you and help you find your way?
Phyllisia: Well, my father passed away when I was 10 years old. I lost him at such an early age. But, at the same time, he set the standard for me, even when I was too young to know what life was really about. But, I did know, from that point that I did want to try to become a doctor and pursue a musical career at the same time. He instilled a will in me to do whatever my heart tells me. At this point, I created a situation for myself where I can go either way. I could pursue my career. I received a Biology degree from the University of Miami with a Chemistry minor. I could become a doctor if I like and attend medical school. Or, I could do what I have chosen and pursue my music 120 percent. If it’s not in the cards for me, then I’ll become a doctor. So, I wish I had more guidance from him but the standards he set definitely made me what I am today.
Beauty & Brains: A lot of people can learn from that. Being a doctor seems like an excellent Plan B.
Phyllisia: I wouldn’t even call it a Plan B. Honestly, being a doctor is not something to take lightly. I really had to work hard to maintain my focus. It’s not that the classes were too hard or too much work, it was just being disciplined enough to prioritize education just as much as my music. I wouldn’t call it a Plan B, but being confident with more than one thing in life, something you could live with forever and enjoy doing, is definitely important. Nowadays, no matter how hard you work for something, you can never be a hundred and twenty percent about anything. Making sure that there is more than one option is definitely the way to go.
Beauty & Brains: Yeah, I was going to ask…How hard was it for you to maintain that focus and what kept you focused throughout the years in school?
Phyllisia: I had a lot of obstacles. I transferred schools three times. I lost twenty pounds. I think my hardest point in school was when I was attending Florida State University. I met my producers from SoBe Entertainment the day before I moved to Florida State. I was at a previous label. I was supposed to attend University of Miami but it didn’t work out. I attended a community college for the first semester of my college career. I was like, ‘I can’t afford UM, I’ll go to Florida State.” The day before I left for Florida State, I met my producer now, I sang for him and he wanted me to be on his label. He flew me back and forth while I was at Florida State for a year, back and forth from Tallahassee to Miami. I was a full time student and I lost twenty pounds. I was going through an emotional time. I was like, "Can I do this?" as far as losing weight and making him happy and making the label happy. I wasn’t secure with my position at the label as of yet and I wanted to maintain my work during my freshmen year in college. I was unsure of everything. I was unsure of school and of everything else. But, I wasn’t unsure of myself and the things that I could do. I knew. I’m an accomplished pianist. I can sing. I’m confident in my piano skills. I’m confident in my voice and confident in my mind. I just said to myself, ‘I can do anything that I put my mind to.’ And I have. So, after that year in Florida State, I moved to UM. It just got so much easier for me. My family’s in the vicinity of Miami. I was five minutes from the studio, fifteen minutes from school. So, I’m so blessed. What really kept me going was the confidence I had in myself and the determination to prove something to myself that I knew I had in me.
Beauty & Brains: When do you think you built that confidence?
Phyllisia: That confidence is a lifetime’s worth of building. I’ve been singing and playing the piano since I was three years old. It’s not something that I just woke up yesterday and said, "I think I’m gonna do this." Most of the people that we see nowadays in entertainment and the people who make it have been doing it [for years]. They might not necessarily be the most talented but they have the most confidence and they’ve been going at it for a long time. You could look at any artists right now. Beyonce, Alicia Keys, Keri Hilson. Seemingly, they’re brand new in the game but they’ve been doing this for 15 years, you know? My confidence comes form remembering, when I was five and doing my little shows or during middle school for performing arts or high school for performing arts and doing this all the time, every day. The goals change every day. You have to set a big goal, a dream, I would call it. Then, you have to set goals, little goals you achieve along the way. You set those goals, you make them and then you move on to the next goal. I think that from setting so many goals and achieving them, I built my confidence.
Beauty & Brains: You were classically trained as a pianist and developed your skills as a songwriter and singer through hard work. How does that skill set help you now as you work with different genres?
Phyllisia: For me, that’s the most fun part of my career. I started off singing Broadway type-style music. You know, just as a little girl singing [songs from] Lion King and Pocahontas. It was more musical stuff. I was just playing with it. I didn’t know what I was doing. Then, going into middle school, I was like, "I want to go to school for this." I applied for a middle school for the arts and I was accepted. I was singing Bel Canto style, operatic style, which I was completely not ready for. I didn’t think I’d be singing that kind of music. At that time in middle school, I was also playing a lot of classical music on the piano. As I got into high school, I started to experiment with R&B and things that I enjoyed listening to. I started exploring stuff like Anita Baker, Sade, Smooth Jazz and I just kind of created this little sound for myself. Depending on the day or the track or the sound or whatever, I can make any style of music because I’m so versatile, because I was raised with so many different types of songs. I was exposed to so many different artists. I’m a very big Bob Marley fan and the Reggae community. Now, I have songs out in the Reggae community with Jah Cure, two number one singles, “Unconditional Love” and “Call On Me.” I have “The Money Clap” out, which is out right now and doing really well. In two days, we had 25,000 views. That’s just pop and people say it’s like Beyonce. I wrote these songs so to me, it’s just me. It comes from so many different places. I have so many different songs. It depends on the day and what I’m going through. But, I think through the training that I’ve had and being able to explore, it stems from that confidence and knowing that I’m not just playing around with this. This is something I was exposed to and that I really delved into.
Beauty & Brains: Your name rings a lot of bells in Jamaica. How has it been to see such a response from outside of your home country?
Phyllisia: I am so thankful for that because honestly, I would have never thought that I would be so embraced by…well, I mean, I’m Haitian. My mom’s from the Caribbean and so I have that Caribbean in me but I’m not Jamaican. I have no Jamaican in me. None of my family’s Jamaican but I do love Jamaican music. Bob Marley’s one of my biggest influences. Having Jah Cure on the label, it’s funny because we recorded records without ever meeting each other. He would send something over on Pro Tools in an email. We’d send each other [tracks] back and forth and made a sound. When you hear me singing on his songs, I’m not necessarily singing Reggae style, I’m just singing over reggae songs and I’m putting my own twist to it. I’m just really blessed that these people appreciate what I’m doing and showing me love. I can’t stress how much that has built my confidence even more. That was something I never really was confident about. That’s been such a blessing to me.
Beauty & Brains: You have songs in Creole and Spanish. Do you speak those languages as well?
Phyllisia: Well, I don’t speak Spanish but I do speak Creole fluently because like I said, my mom is Haitian. But, once again, from High School, when I sang Bel Canto style, we sang in all different languages. First and foremost, we sang in Italian. We sang in Russian, French, German, Mandarin, and Spanish so I was exposed to a bunch of different languages. Honestly, I could sing a song in another language and sound like I kind of know what I’m talking about and I might not know anything but I do speak Creaole fluently. But, it is important for me to reach a bunch of demographics because I don’t want to just touch people here in America. I want to reach people all over the world, because I’ve been exposed to so many different types of music that I can offer something to a bunch of different genres. It’s been amazing for me because I have people from Kenya, Belize, Canada, Netherlands, the Caribbean, from everywhere, saying that my music inspired them, which is a huge inspiration for me to make sure I touch upon everything. I need to make sure that I don’t ignore anyone. I’ve got to expand my musical horizons as much as possible because there are people everywhere listening.