Interview with Phillip Small

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what your role in the band is?
I am a producer singer and songwriter who has been playing piano and composing original music for over ten years now. I am one of the lead singers of the band and play keyboards and perform backing vocals for some tracks.

What first got you into music? / Who inspired you?
I was a huge fan of teen pop icons like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera when I was a child, and would listen to their hits over and over on a boom box in my room, probably driving my parents mad. When I was about eleven I asked my mother to enrol me in keyboard lessons at school. I don’t remember what inspired this and she doesn’t know either – it’s entirely possible that seeing classmates get out of class for their music lessons was a factor. I initially wanted to be a pianist, but eventually lost interest in this when I began learning pop songs by ear and arranging them for piano. I unintentionally taught myself pop music theory by doing this and I had always had an interest in creative writing. I paired these together and began writing original songs.

Who would you most like to collaborate with one day?
Probably Sufjan Stevens. He is my favourite songwriter because of his ability to write from a huge range of different perspectives. He also creates beautiful arrangements for his backing tracks.

If you could improve one thing in the world, what would it be?
It would have to be instilling in everyone the ability to imagine themselves in the position of another whose life is nothing like theirs. I think this is one of the most important skills that a person can develop throughout their life, and yet very few people seem to be able to do it.

If not music, what would you be doing in life?
Ideally, I would be a published novelist and making a living from writing. However it’s probably more likely that I would be working in retail or something.

How would you describe your sound for those who haven’t heard your music yet?
Catbird’s sound is probably best described as folk-pop, but there are some rock influences and psychedelia in there too.

What’s your favourite song of all time?
My favourite song is “Lithium” by Evanescence. It deals with a difficult theme – that of a person going through depression and trying to decide whether the side-effects of going on medication are outweighed by its potential benefits. It tells the story in such a visceral and emotional way that I am blown away every time I hear it. It also has a wonderfully-constructed backing track with guitar and piano passages which run throughout.

“Music for humanity” “Make the world a better place” – tell us what that means to you and how your music aims to accomplish this?
Essentially it is about addressing issues that are relevant to us as young people, inheriting a world rife with problems of human devising. Catbird’s music aims to provide our perspective on themes of environmentalism, politics, religion – really anything that we feel needs to be said can end up in one of our songs. We hope that our music will also inspire audiences rather than simply entertaining them. You probably won’t hear any songs about having a good time in a club though.