Phil Putnam is one of the more prolific artists in the Ariel Publicity clientele, having produced a half-dozen albums since 2001. He draws comparisons to Rufus Wainwright and Tori Amos, also to Ben Folds and David Gray.
His video for "More Than This" has been picked up by MTV/Logo and, more impressively, recently was featured in this blog. :) Thanks to Ariel Publicity, you can right-click to download a copy of the .mov file for your very own. Thanks to them, also, for this interview.
Where are you from? How does living there affect your songwriting? My hometown is Sacramento, Calif., and I just moved to New York City in mid-January. Since my family and friends facilitate most of the growth that ends up in my music, being surrounded by these relationships keep me writing regularly.
The city environment plays a large role, too. I need the world going on around me when I'm in songwriting mode, which I learned when I was attending a music school on a secluded campground on Martha's Vineyard and couldn't write a decent line to save my life.
Do you focus on any political themes? If so, please tell us in more detail about them. Politics has not been a part of my music. I am politically engaged in my day to day life as a citizen, but the natural bent of what I write about is personal growth.
How long have you been playing, and what was your first instrument? My first instrument was saxophone. I played both alto and tenor sax in elementary school, but stopped after two years. Singing came later, when I was 14 years old, and piano came when I was 18.
I taught myself to play piano in college. Ironically, piano is my strongest natural talent and is the instrument that defines my work.
How much has heartbreak contributed to your songwriting? Heartbreak is a significant contributor. The greater heartbreaks in my life, though, have been borne of my journey with myself and with my family rather than the typical horrors of romantic relationships that inform most heartbreak songs.
What's the song you're most proud of writing? Tough call, so I'll give you my top three. "Sophisticated Life" from Casualties, "I Know You" from (What Became of) the Choirboy, and "Longest Night of the Year," which was originally on All the Courage Required and was redone in acoustic style for the Choirboy record.
(Note: The Choirboy record is available as a free download if you register for his fan list at his Web site.)
What's the last album you bought that you're enjoying? "Say I Am You" by The Weepies.
Have you seen any great live shows lately? I saw Bette Midler's show in Vegas, and she was exceptional. Wish the show had been longer, but hearing her perform "Hello in There" was a true privilege.
What is your guilty pleasure band? Dashboard Confessional.
What was the first album you ever bought? Paula Abdul, Forever Your Girl. On cassette.
First concert you ever attended? Reba McEntire, on her It's Your Call tour.
What's your favorite artist and album? There are many, but at the top right now is David Wilcox. Favorite album is Lady of Cicero by Hughes & Wagner.
If you could create your own fantasy music festival, who would the top six headliners be? October Project, Fernando Ortega, Hem, David Wilcox, Peter Gabriel, Ben Folds.
What is your favorite movie? As Good As it Gets.
M&M's plain or peanut? Peanut. Must have the nuts.
David Johansen or Iggy Pop? Ig.
Keith or Mick? Mick.
Sarah Silverman or Dane Cook? Sarah. Narcissistic women beat funny douchebags any day in my world.
You have $5 to spend on dinner. What are you eating? Smoothie from Jamba Juice.
Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert? Colbert.
What's your favorite magazine to read? The N*SYNC fanzine, of course. And the New Yorker.
What do you think is the most alarming media story in the last few months? "Jesus Found in Tomato in Rural California" aka "Honey, I Shrunk the Savior."
(Editor's note: Must include a "Most Creative Interview Answer" category in the 2009 Coil Awards. Onward.)
Do you support any specific charities, and how do you give back as an artist? The American Heart Association, Tourette's Syndrome Association and Human Rights Campaign are all very close to my heart and are a part of my music.
The primary way I give back as an artist is to be as accessible as possible to my fans and friends. More specifically, I donate concerts and fundraising CDs when I can, do the American Heart Walk each year, and speak about these important causes in the media as often as I can.
If you were a superhero what famous musician would be your arch-nemesis and why? Beyonce, because she looks incredible in black spandex.
What is the most adventurous food you've ever eaten? Cow tongue.
Do you read any online music magazines, if so, which ones? Wildy's World, of course.
Phil Putnam's music may be purchased from his Web site, on iTunes, and a limited selection at Amazon. He's also one of several artists who've appeared on Dancing Mattress Productions shows currently in the running in Logo's music video polls -- for the video to "More Than This" -- and would appreciate your vote.
(And I don't just mention that because he's offered to get me Chelsea Clinton's phone number. Of course, that doesn't hurt, either ...)
Phil Putnam - Casualties (2008)
Phil Putnam - Best of Intentions (2006)
Phil Putnam - All the Courage Required (2004)
Phil Putnam - Long Story Short EP (2002)
Phil Putnam - Equality EP