Phil Plested can’t help himself: get him started on the topic of songwriting and the cheerful musician will tell you all the myriad ways in which he’s a tried-and-true believer in the power of a well-crafted song. “That’s natural to me. That’s what I know,” the 23-year-old UK singer-songwriter says of that almost-surreal way in which a particular set of chords and words can pair with the right melody and then just when the entire world feels in total disarray suddenly it all makes complete sense. “I write songs for those moments,” the artist who performs as Plested offers with a smile. “Regardless of what I’m doing on any given day I’m going to go to the studio and write songs. That’s how I get my emotions out. That’s what’s always there for me.”


He’s spent the past several years penning songs for some of pop music’s biggest names, including Little Mix (the UK Top 5 single “Touch”), Zayn Malik and Kygo. But Plested says he has his own story to tell. Of his decision to sign with Atlantic Records, launch his solo career and release his forthcoming debut album due later this year, the winsome-voiced singer says, “When you have songs that you really care about and you know you love them there’s nothing to lose. Why give your song away to someone/another artistwho is not going to care as much for it?  If you can write beautiful songs and you can sing them then why not do it yourself?”


“I want to write songs that hit people emotionally and help them out,” the mature singer-songwriter notes of the tender, subtle and highly intimate songs like “Lost For Words” and “Least That I Could Do” that comprise his as-yet-untitled debut LP.[Not sure what’s actually going on the first LP, but wanted to mention the most meaningful songs to me]. “I write songs for those moments when people are like “This is helping me. I really needed this.” That’s the most important thing for me.”


Plested knows music’s power and pull from personal experience: during his most uncertain times, when he was studying art at Central St Martins University but still felt unfulfilled, it was taking guitar lessons from his grandfather and then steadily writing a slew of highly personal songs that became his salvation.


Still, at the time “it was just a hobby because I didn’t think you could actually make it in the music industry,” Plested admits. “To me it was such a mammoth thing. Like “Oh blimey, how am I supposed to do this?!” Only when he was offered an impromptu audition in a London school parking lot for the renowned UK producer Naughty Boy (Sam Smith, Beyoncé) did Plested finally believe he had the skills to make it in music. “It was an absolute leap of faith,” he says of performing for the producer who immediately invited him to his studio and soon became his songwriting mentor. “It was a big moment,” Plested recalls with awe of the serendipitous encounter. “It was an all-or-nothing kind of thing.” 


Where he’d previously only written a few songs, once working with Naughty Boy Plested was suddenly writing a new song nearly every day. Additionally, he began working alongside seasoned writers and artists including Emeli Sandé and Zayn who both encouraged him to up his songwriting game. “I tried to learn so quickly,” he says.” I was writing everywhere I could: in the corridors, in the stairs, in the carpark — wherever I could find space because I didn’t have my own studio.” In short order, Plested’s songs began being recorded by A-list artists. Still, breaking out as an artist “was always in the back of my head,” he admits. “I think with a lot of songwriters it always is.”


It was in writing “The Least that I Could Do” — an evocative, soaring ode to “that person you’d do anything for,” which, in Plested’s case, is his mother — that Plested and those around him finally realized he needed to make the move to an artist’s career. “From that moment on I was like “Let’s do this!”” he recalls. “For me it then became quite simple: I was going to go for it and worry about everything else afterwards.” Furthermore, once he began pouring all of his creative energy into his solo debut, some of Plested’s most personal and stunning songs started pouring out of him. “Lost For Words,” a piano-anchored meditation on how we stumble for the right sentiment towards those we love, he says was “probably the most honest I’ve ever been in a song.” And on the more bold and upbeat “25 Hours” Plested details “the endless quest” to find that elusive special someone. “Music is my girlfriend at the moment,” the singer adds with a laugh. “I spend so much time thinking about it so I have a lot of songs that look at music in that sense. I want to know what love feels like. I want to know where I’m going to find it.”


While he readily admits “the limelight is still alien to me because I’m just an average guy who used to have a paper route and work in a barber shop sweeping up hair,” Plested has his eyes firmly set towards the future. Writing songs has gotten him this far so the budding star says, “I’ll always remember that was the reason I started this whole adventure. For me it’s all about writing the best music I possibly can, anything that happens after that is a bonus.”

Nick Matthews
Assisted by: Jack Mathias