Interview: Phum Viphurit (Thailand) on the places that have influenced him

Thai singer songwriter Phum Viphurit has moved around a bit. Born in Thailand, the 22-year-old singer songwriter moved to New Zealand when he was nine. After being inspired to write music in New Zealand he returned to Bangkok and released his debut album Manchild last year.

Now, fresh off the back of an Asian tour and with his latest single ‘Lover Boy’ racking up almost 6 million views on YouTube, Hello Asia caught up with him to speak about gigs, the cities that have influenced him and what’s next.

Hi Phum, nice to speak to you! Your album Manchild is about moving from New Zealand back to Thailand. What was it like starting again?

It was hard to adapt at first, it was like reverse culture shock for me. But I soon found myself in a comfortable place as I familiarised myself with the setting, gained new friends and started to write music again in Bangkok.

Do you ever think you would move back New Zealand to pursue music?

I’d love to try, as New Zealand was the place where my love for music grew. The chill, mellow setting would be ideal for album writing.

What is the Bangkok music scene like?

It is very lively, [there] are an overwhelming amount of musicians and indie bands here in Bangkok alone. Lately, there has been more international gigs here too, giving the local audience more chances to see international acts.

In an interview you once said you don’t really consider yourself a part of the Bangkok scene, why?

I think it’s due to the fact that I feel like the majority of the times I’ve performed here, I haven’t really felt that connected to the audience here. It may be due to the language barrier, as my music is all in English, and sometimes you can sense that my music is going through the right ear and out the left. That’s not to say that I don’t have a genuine/niche following here, I just don’t particularly feel like I am the most ‘Bangkok’ musician and someone who plays a big part in the scene here.

And what scene do you consider yourself a part of? Do you think you will ever become a part of the Bangkok scene?

I don’t view myself in any sort of particular scene really. I don’t see myself performing live as being part of a movement or a trend that is associated to a title. My music is what it is, no matter where/who interprets it. I think I really get a kick out of playing to an audience who is engaged and is interactive, it feels like a two way communication and not just me singing them songs and I feed off of their energy too. If I become a part of the Bangkok music scene then that is great, but to play to a great crowd that listens to you, anywhere in the world, that is really all that I am thinking about.

On the same theme, there could be an identity issue there, do you think that affects your music?

Not at all, I am a Thai-born, New Zealand-raised songwriter, making music inspired by the old CD’s I used to put on in my mum’s car when we used to take road trips. Yes, all these influences have affected me, but not negatively. I am lucky to have experienced a lot of different cultures and realised which aspect of each relates to me more. I am constantly influenced by different things and don’t really think too much about my ‘identity’, I just make tunes that I vibe to, as simple as that.

You’ve studied film and directed and edited the video for ‘Long Gone’. What was that like and would you do it again?

I just recently graduated from film school here in Bangkok. ‘Long Gone’ was one of my many attempts to make a moving picture project and it was a lot of fun to craft the project from the ground up. I am looking forward to directing more MVs and short films in the future, whether it’ll be my own or other artists’ work.

You just finished your Asian tour, can you tell me about it and how you felt?  

It was my first tour of any kind and it changed my perspective on my early career as a musician a lot. Before this tour, it can often feel like there’s a ceiling for artists in Thailand in that music made here will never reach beyond our borders. My visit to Japan, Korea and Taiwan broke my own expectations that I had before. To play to new faces, great lively interactive full houses everywhere we went was a blessing. I am looking forward to traveling more for sure.

What are your plans for the future? Do you think you will ever visit Australia?

The plan this year is to finish my second album, taking my time to enjoy my youth and hopefully fly my family members somewhere nice, perhaps a spot I may get to tour. I’d love to pay Australia and New Zealand a visit, it’d be very surreal to play in Australasia, the continent where it all started.

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