“They never thought I’d make it this far. It’s no surprise they thought I would lose. But I’m hell-bent on raising the bar — making them liars — by telling my truth.” – Philmon Lee
What Philmon Lee has is on-the-spot talent. Ahead of any poetic production or engineer mixes — he can sing — he can play. The LaGrange, Georgia native discovered his love for rock and roll arm’s reach from the Alabama border. And the musician’s father taught him everything he knows.
helpful to have someone so close that assisted me in a hands-on way. I was a four-year-old on a tour bus. Then I would watch him go on stage,” the Epic Records newcomer explained.
Lee’s musical hero was an independent artist and big on the love of gospel hymns. Together, the pair’s daily routine included singing and songwriting. This trait proved to be fruitful — adjacent to the 370 thousand YouTube viewers of his “Memories” music video. The breakthrough’s visibility is something Lee credits to the freshly-inked legs under him after his deal.
“When we recorded the track, there was a lot of inspiration from my childhood and growing up. There were dark times. There were good times. It was one of the first songs I made when I got signed,” the singer affirms.
His lyrical content plays through like a tell-all memoir. The Knockturnal connect with the Sony Music Entertainment starter on why he fell in love with Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and The Temptations. We delved into why Lee wants to prove that he “can drink more Bud Light than Post Malone” and how he is manifesting work alongside The Weeknd. Meet Philmon Lee, humbly unfiltered.
The Knockturnal: You have said your songs are a “cultural gumbo.” How so?
Philmon Lee: Yeah, I feel there are a lot of different influences in my songs. You definitely get some soul. You can get some pop music — [I like] Motown and rock and roll. I have many influences.
The Knockturnal: With the mention of those influences, who has influenced you on the artistic side?
Philmon Lee: On the music side, my dad was an influence. He was in a rock and roll band. Yeah! He introduced me to a lot of things. By way of him, I was introduced to Motown musicians.
I fell in love with Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and The Temptations. I grew up listening to them. Once I got older, I began to broaden my musical preferences. I still loved rock and roll — but I picked up The Weeknd, Post Malone, Sam Smith, John Legend, and more.
The Knockturnal: The title of one of your first Epic Records singles is poetic. Describe the feeling of releasing “Sunflower (I Refuse To Die).“
Philmon Lee: It is an uptempo [song], but it has a deeper meaning behind it. I say this all the time. Sunflowers are one of the strongest flowers. I definitely had the feeling that everyone was trying to knock me away from chasing my dreams. I dropped out of college. I had to get away from the people who were trying to hold me back from growing.
If you listen, the lyrics have a deep meaning to them. I did not want to depress the listeners. I thought it would throw everybody off if I made the song’s tempo upbeat. I left school to pursue music. I made some originals on my own that got me noticed ahead of this Epic Records single’s release.
The Knockturnal: Your song, “Memories,” is beautiful. What inspired its vulnerable songwriting?
Philmon Lee: I always felt that if I was vulnerable with my fans, they could connect more to my music. When we recorded the track, “Memories,” there was a lot of inspiration from my childhood and growing up. There were dark times. There were good times.
It was one of the first songs I made when I got signed. I knew [it would not have been possible if] I was not vulnerable. I had to open up! All my songs have meaning, but “Memories” is reflective.
The Knockturnal: The song comes across as super introspective. Are all of your songs personal to you?
Philmon Lee: Absolutely! Yes, some aspect of a song is.
The Knockturnal: The track “No Saving Me” was assisted by Lindsey Stirling. What was your time like recording in the studio?
Philmon Lee: Well, because of COVID-19, we did not get to work in the same studio. I was able to meet her when we filmed the music video. She is charismatic. She is a hard worker, and I admire what she does. I had an awesome time. It was a blessing and a great opportunity to have her work with me.
The Knockturnal: Can you describe your creative process for those becoming familiar with your music?
Philmon Lee: When I go to the studio, if I am working with a writer… you have to be vulnerable with them. You have to tell them what is bothering you. You have to say to the writer how you are feeling.
If you are going to open up about your past — or open up about how you feel that day — you have to sit and talk for a bit. We will wait for the producer. We will speak with them, too. And then we start cooking up stuff.
We start applying the thoughts or the lyrics. I usually cut it the same day — or I will cut the song the next day. We usually go to the studio and leave with a song.
The Knockturnal: Beyond your songwriting’s collaborative aspects — you have detailed how it is a vulnerable process. How much involvement do you have with the string arrangements on that song? Yes, you have LP writers, but do you get involved with the music’s production side?
Philmon Lee: Absolutely! I like to co-produce a little bit. I give my input. Obviously, I am not good with the computer stuff. I am not familiar with Pro Tools, but I do put my feedback about the sounds and core progressions that I want to put into my music. Yes, I play the piano and the guitar. Still, I do not know how to put it into Pro Tools — if that makes sense.
The Knockturnal: LaGrange, Georgia, your hometown — what it like there. How does it influence your sound?
Philmon Lee: It is a very small town, but there are many talented people from there. Bubba Sparxxx is from LaGrange. So, I knew it was possible! The area has different musical opportunities.
People from my hometown encouraged me to chase my dream. Again, my dad was an independent artist from LaGrange. He toured the southeast. My dad was a big influence on me and my hometown, too.
The Knockturnal: Do you consider your father your hero. Is he your most significant influence?
Philmon Lee: Yes, I would say that. Growing up, that person was my dad. It was helpful to have someone so close that assisted me in a hands-on way. I was a four-year-old on a tour bus. Then I would watch him go on the stage. He is a huge influence!
The Knockturnal: You mentioned Bubba Sparxxx earlier. What other hip-hop artists do you listen to?
Philmon Lee: I like Lil Baby.
The Knockturnal: I am a fan. Good choice.
Philmon Lee: I like Drake and Roddy Ricch.
The Knockturnal: Away from your music, what would you like listeners to know about you?
Philmon Lee: That is a good question. I am a hard worker. I do not even consider what I do for a living as a job. If you are doing what you love, you never work a day in your life.
I feel like ever since I dropped out of school, I have not been doing much because I do what I love. I am committed to making the best music that I can. The money always comes. But I want to build a legacy!
The Knockturnal: I am not a musician. However, your final sentiment is relatable.
Philmon Lee: I want every generation to know who I am. I want my music to change the world. Music speaks for everything. Yes, when words cannot be said — music speaks for itself.
The Knockturnal: In regards to music speaking, your recent single, “Where Was Your Love,” is heavy. Do you believe forgiveness is vital in relationships?
Philmon Lee: It is definitely like a plight. I hate to curse. The whole meaning behind the song is a polite “f**k you.” [Laughs] Do you remember CeeLo Green’s song, “F**k You”? Where was your love when I was down and out — when I really needed you? Now that you have seen how my situation has turned around, you want to come back.
The Knockturnal: Oh, but that always happens. That is the perfect time to make amends!
Philmon Lee: [Laughs] Yes, but there is a motive behind it. And it is always like that! Everybody wants a piece of the pie. If they cannot get a piece, they will nibble at the crumbs.
The Knockturnal: Who are your top 3 dream collaborations? What are you manifesting?
Philmon Lee: I am manifesting Post Malone. Before we even sit down [to record], I just want to prove that I can drink more Bud Light than Post Malone. [Laughs] Yes, friendly! This would be a friendly competition.
Also, I would love to work with The Weeknd. The third one … I feel like a rock legend such as Steven Tyler would be dope. I got Aerosmith tatted on me.
The Knockturnal: Okay, you are a real stan.
Philmon Lee: Oh, yes! I think the first song I learned how to sing was “Dream On.”
The Knockturnal: What should your budding fanbase be looking out for next?
Philmon Lee: I always say this, but I definitely have a good catalog in my backpack now. I have a pack full of songs. The songs I have right now — some are slow tempo. I have a mid-tempo piece, too.
I have an upbeat one. Still, I tell everyone that is part of my team that slow and powerful songs are cool. However, I do not want to sell out arenas and fill up buckets of tears.
I want it to be, like I said earlier, a gumbo. I want my sets to be like — one minute, I make you cry — I make you emotional, or I make you feel it. At the same time, I want to drop the beat on them in the house. I want people to fist bump!