Article from Urban Mogul

FiL Straughan:

FiL the Power, FiL the Love and FiL the Music

For an ordinary human being, it may take a lifetime of achievements and accomplishments to understand how profound their existence is to the universe. Such is the phenomenon of some of the greatest musical entertainers of our time.  Gifted singers and musicians lend more to the world than just a note of a song or a chord of music.  They leave spiritual impressions that are forever embedded in our consciousness.  A gifted singer that is bound for global success creates music that is timeless.  It is seamless. It is without boundaries. It has no color and is full of soul and substance.  Decades later their music still impacts millions of people.  It ignites memories and fills the listener with an overwhelming array of emotions.  FiL Straughan is such a man.  Armed with the voice of an angel, the moment you hear the first note, the depth of his melodies and the power of his lyrics, you will be forever transported to a place where music has purpose.  You will become engulfed by the true purity of an art form that is known as Soul and R&B.

This is only the beginning for FiL Straughan.  He has an aura that is so potent that there is not one single hint of doubt that this musical genius has a sound that transcends all walks of life.  His music is universal.  It is global and it is epic.

I was blessed to interview FiL Straughan, a musical maestro who was born in the United Kingdom and has lived in the United States for most of his life.  He shares an awe inspiring story of his youth, his discovery of music and how he now travels across the globe sharing his love and passion for music with the world.  One week was all it took to learn every word to every song off of two full CDs.  His songs are that contagious.  Finally, an artist has arrived that is so full of charisma, so full of class and so full of robust maturity, that I can truly say that the sexy has been put back into grown folks music. I can report to the masses that since the days of Luther Vandross, Teddy Pendergrass and many of our iconic male voices have ceased to be celebrated, that we now have a new voice.  FiL Straughan introduces a new sound that respects and gives credence to our rich cultural history in music. He is a modern day icon in his own right, who now stands to be reckoned with as a voice that is now making waves across several continents.  He is in demand across the globe, and with a voice as smooth, sultry and commanding as FiL Straughan, it only takes the click of a play button to understand why.

The world has always embraced the embodiment of music as a soul stirring artistic way to communicate on a global scale. The United States has not been biased to talent that has emerged from outside of its North American borders. There is no denying the historical significance of artists such as The Beatles, Elton John, The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Rod Stewart, and Sting to name a few.  These artists have forever made a musical impression so important to the world that their legacies will resonate generations upon generations from now.

FiL Straughan has begun his musical odyssey. His time is now.  His sound is now. He is taking his place in musical history right now.  Read the article on FiL Straughan and get to know the man whose music will one day simply and very rightfully so, be nothing less than legendary.

Moe:  I would love to know more about your London roots.  You have such a phenomenal sound and you’re such an incredible artist.  Can you tell me more about your background?

FiL:  I was born here, in London, and moved to Mount Vernon, New York when I was young. I ended up going to Mount Vernon High School with people like Pete Rock, CL Smooth, Heavy D and The Boyz as classmates, Mary J. Blige was in school in the next town over -Yonkers, and then Sean Combs (P Diddy) was in the school on the other side of town. We were all basically in the same area. My aunt’s hair dresser was Denzel Washington’s mother, Phylicia Rashad lived near the high school and Andre Mills, Stephanie Mills’ brother, was also a classmate. So, I ended up in the most amazing place – Mount Vernon – a crucible of creativity.

Moe:  That’s incredible.

FiL:  I went to Cornell University and was the only black person to graduate in my class, which I suppose was a big kudos.  I got through Cornell’s architecture program and ended up getting out of there with my own business and created a bag (ToPAQ Inc) that was marketed around the world. From there, I ended up getting a job in the investment banking world where I became a manager in my department supervising about 150 people.  September 11, 2001 changed everything.  I had a cancelled training session so stayed home in Westchester; only to be called by a co-worker and to witness the horrific events unfold on TV, knowing that I was scheduled to be in the city. As a result I bought a house and decided that I was never going to fly again. I ended up leaving my nice six figure salary job and decided to pursue my passion – music.  I ended up doing music therapy, working with cancer patients, Alzheimer’s patients, and people in physical rehab, kids with disabilities and doing some motivational speaking. I will never forget the 11th of September, 2001 – it’s the main reason I am doing what I am.

Moe: Wow.

FiL:  It was hard coming from a good stable job into something where you actually had to hustle a lot but I have always been a hustler.  Let’s put it this way, I started working at the age of 11- my paper route.  I had the largest route, in Westchester County with about 75 customers, when the average was about 20 and I maintained that all through high school.  In my last 2 years of high school I wouldn’t have any breaks at all – no lunch, no study hall, and went in early for orchestra rehearsals. I have always been super ambitious I guess..  Let’s put it this way, I started working at the age of 11- my paper route.  I had the largest route, in Westchester County with about 75 customers, when the average was about 20 and I maintained that all through high school.  In my last 2 years of high school I wouldn’t have any breaks at all – no lunch, no study hall, and went in early for orchestra rehearsals. I have always been super ambitious I guess.

Moe:  I think that is phenomenal.  Have you always known you were musically inclined?

FiL:  Moe!  Let me tell you, in the words of Eddie Murphy in Delirious “I am a musical genius”(laughs)! No…I’ve actually always loved to sing, however, it took the rest of the world a while to catch up with me (laughs). I’ve grown.

To go back to your first question, why am I in England?  I flew my nephews over from London to New York for Christmas 2004 because I had refused to fly.  Unfortunately, the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami happened the day after Christmas.  My nephews wanted to go home.  I wasn’t getting my ass on a plane.  I was going to send them on their own.  My brother said, “No.  You’re bringing my kids back to me.” I said, “No, I’m not,” and he said, “Yes, you are.”  Well…you know he’s my older brother, so you know who won that argument. I wrote my will, had a few drinks, boarded the plane and I brought my nephews back.

While I was here, I ended up singing “Hello” in a karaoke competition as you do when you are on vacation. I made it to the next round. One of the judges was the bass player for a group called Hot Chocolate, who was still touring. He ended up scouting me to front a few shows. I also met one of Ray Lewis’s Drifters, who were also still touring, and they also auditioned me and offered me work so I said, “Yeah, why not?”  Now suddenly, I was faced with some options:  Do I go out and sing with a world famous group, or do I go back to New York? It was a hard choice to leave family and home but…I stayed and look at me now – My FiL the SouL CD was nominated IMA best R&B album of the 2011 (Independent Music Awards)!

Moe: That is crazy.

FiL:  It was the most amazing on the job training and mentorship you could ever possibly imagine.

Moe:  I have been listening to your music and it is so amazing and beautiful.  I just wonder what it’s going to take to get you here.

FiL:  Wow!  Thank you Moe.  I am interested in fulfilling the role I am supposed to fulfill.

Moe: Got you.

FiL:  I understand more and more everyday that my role is to spread joy to the world through my music.  I am working a lot.  I have opened up for Kool & the Gang and the Gypsy Kings.  I’ve worked alongside Alexander O’Neal, Soul II Soul, Imagination, Junior, Beverly Knight, some of the most successful soul singers in the U.K…I mean, some of the best and it’s been amazing.  I have grown with every experience.  So, what would bring me back to America full time?  Work!!! Touring my music would be great.  Independent sponsorships and collaborations would be great. Writing for other people would be great.  I would consider any or all of the above.  I have learned that the world is huge and people love music all over, so travel is a major part of the responsibility of being an artist, taking the music to the people.  At the end of the day I understand quite honestly, that bottom line you have to pay your bills.

Moe:  FiL, you were just talking about some of the incredible experiences you have had with the artists you’ve had the opportunity to work with and I would love to know who some of your inspirations are.

FiL:  Oh…gosh… anyone who sings from the soul.  I would say Luther of course. Luther taught me, just through listening to his music and just through listening to him speak as well. You’re not just delivering a song, you are delivering a message.  The simple fact of the matter is that no one can say it the way that you do, and you can’t say it the way someone else does.  You have to take it and make it your own.  I took, “I Wanna Dance with Somebody,” and I put my own spin on it.  I put my own spin on it, because if you ever listen to the lyrics, it’s not a happy song.  It’s not a happy song at all. It is about a person yearning for someone to dance with, someone to hold them, someone to be there when the sun goes down.  Make sure to check out this link: http://youtu.be/ypA-jo2cMPI.

Moe:  Wow.

FiL:  Exactly.  It’s a wow song.  So, that’s what I learned to do, not just listening to a song for the music, but understanding what the message is and what the message really is behind the lyrics.

Moe:  At what point did you make the decision that you were going to cut your first CD?

FiL:  That’s a good question.  I cut my first CD ever in…I want to say 1997.

Moe:  Would you say that is what really launched you into music as a full time career?  I mean, what kind of experience was that for you?

FiL:   It was a great experience.  Basically, I had a lot to say.  No one would give me a contract or a deal and I said okay, I’ll just do it myself.

Moe:  So now here we are.  You are on your fourth CD now.

FiL:  I am on what I will call my fourth real CD.  CDs that have been published and I-Tuned and the whole bit.

Moe:  Well, let’s begin with your first official CD.  Tell me about that one.

FiL:   FiL Straughan:  My Music Part 1 was the first one.  It was my first U.K. release. It was also my first real ticket to the world.  That was in 2008.

Moe:  What was your inspiration to continue making music?  I know some artists who will record their first CD and there will be a long lag time between CD’s.  You seem to be pretty consistent.

FiL:  I am an organic, growing, living being and I’ve got a lot to say and I’ve got a lot going on.  I’m constantly writing and the point is simply this:  Music is therapeutic, nurturing, rebellious and inspiring all at the same time.  I’ve learned a lot about myself through music and I have had a lot of positive response from others, because they’ve gotten me.  They’ve gotten what I had to say.

Moe:  You do travel extensively and I love that you are getting a chance to travel the world.  Is this something that you ever imagine in your wildest dreams you would have the opportunity to do this?

FiL:  I would say yes.  Let’s put it this way, if we’re going to be real about this music thing and you sit there in that quiet space and say this is really what I want to do with my life, then you must visualize it so that it can become real.  Yeah, I do pinch myself.  Yeah, I do say, “’what the heck, I don’t believe this is going on,” but at the same time, it’s like, okay, this is what I’m supposed to be doing and this is what I wanted.  You know they say be careful what you wish for because you just might get it.

Moe:  Right.

FiL:  I’m not taking it for granted at all.  I also understand I have an obligation.

Moe:  What do you mean when you say you have an obligation?  What do you feel that obligation is?

FiL:  Umm…an obligation to share good music.  An obligation to share joy.  An obligation to share real music. Affirmation comes from people’s response.  I’ve heard people say, I played one of your songs at my mom’s funeral, or can you sing your song for me at my wedding?  So, that to me, means I’m doing something correctly.  Or, if I hear my song on a radio station or get an interview on a radio station.  To me, that speaks volumes. We are all given gifts to share Moe, like you with your magazine, the world is better for it!

Moe:  I know that your goal is to reach a global audience.  You are there in the U.K. and you say that people are embracing your music.  How do you feel you are being received as an artist when you do your live shows?  I mean, do you feel there is an equal balance in terms of responses?

FiL:  My objective is to fill that void that has been left for the black, mature, male vocalist.  Right now there aren’t many.  Right now, if you’re over the age of 25 and you’re looking for mature music, baby-making music, you go back to Luther, Teddy or Barry.  If you want real soul singing, you go back to Al Green or George Benson.  So, when I do an event, that is what they are asking for.  They are saying, give me some Barry, give me some Luther, give me some Marvin, you know?  They are not asking me to sing Usher, or Ne-Yo…there is absolutely nothing wrong with their music at all, but it’s different.  The lyrics are different, the vibe is different.  Their lyrics are meaningful in a different way, and I’ll tell you the darn truth, if someone else tells me to put my hands up in a song or it’s all about tonight, I think I’m going to scream (laughs).  It just seems to be what everyone is doing in the last two years.

Moe:  That is phenomenal.  What is your objective within the next five to ten years?  Where do you see yourself?

FiL:  My objective is to fill that void that has been left for the black, mature, male vocalist.  Right now there aren’t many.  Right now, if you’re over the age of 25 and you’re looking for mature music, baby-making music, you go back to Luther, Teddy or Barry.  If you want real soul singing, you go back to Al Green or George Benson.  So, when I do an event, that is what they are asking for.  They are saying, give me some Barry, give me some Luther, give me some Marvin, you know?  They are not asking me to sing Usher, or Ne-Yo…there is absolutely nothing wrong with their music at all, but it’s different.  The lyrics are different, the vibe is different.  Their lyrics are meaningful in a different way, and I’ll tell you the darn truth, if someone else tells me to put my hands up in a song or it’s all about tonight, I think I’m going to scream (laughs).  It just seems to be what everyone is doing in the last two years.

Moe:  Well, I certainly understand that is not what you are aiming for as an artist and I respect that.

FiL:  It’s not my main choice as an artist, I’m older now and I’m not always out in the clubs, so I need some deeper softer groovier music.  I used to be, but I’m not anymore.  I want some feel good music, but it should mean something as well.  I will put my hands up and scream Ayyyy Yoooo all night long, but there has got to be balance (laughs).

Moe:  How has music changed your life? How has it impacted your life?

FiL:   Music IS my life.  Music has saved me when I’m down.  Music has been my expression when I’m happy.  Music has made me money to pay my bills.  Music has been my master and music has been my slave.  It keeps me up at night.  It puts me to bed at night.  Music IS my life and it is as simple as that.

Moe:  That’s deep.  Fil, would you consider working with some other independent artist in the States if it was a tour of some great new artists?

FiL:  I think it would be great to have a tour with say someone like Men of Soul where you pull in an Alexander O’Neal so you have someone from the past and then you have someone like Joe, who is more current or Anthony Hamilton.  Then you pull in someone from the future, like myself.  You can then have a lineage, a passing of the torch, a stirring of the soul in Soul Music. It’s something that is positive and not just about booty shaking  or breast wobbling.  It is look you in the eye music.  Music that is saying that you are beautiful and that I want to hold you music.

Moe:  FiL, you write some beautiful music and I want to ask you about one song in particular.  What was going on in your life when you wrote, “On My Knees?”  The video for the song is so heart-felt and so real…I mean, really, what was going on?

FiL:  There was a lot going on.  I was in England.  I was missing family.  I had deaths in the family.  It was just a whole bunch of things going on, and once again, music is my savior.  Interestingly enough, that one song has been wanted by a few different major artists over here, so that is a testament to it striking a chord with people.

Moe:  You did mention earlier that you also have an interest in writing for other people.  What kind of artist would you want to write for?

FiL:  Anyone. If I were going to write for a person, for example, if I was going to write for you, Moe, I would have to get to know who you are as a person.  I would have to give you music that would mean something to you, because you’re telling story.  I would come up with words and maybe we would come up with a concept together, something that is important to you.  If you are going to tell the story, it’s got to be believable.   You’ve got to make me believe your words.  That can only happen if you sit with a writer and they can get something that means something, it’s more the better for you.  So, yes, I definitely want to write for other people and with other people.  I don’t think I know everything, in fact, I know I don’t know everything, so I want to keep learning and I want to keep growing.  The only way to do that is to be humble.  I know that in five years, I want to be that voice on the radio.  I want to have that song that people sing at their wedding (he starts to sing Luther verses).  I want to have something that will become my legacy.

Moe:  Let’s take away the music for a moment and let me ask who is Fil Straughan?  What would you want to people to know about Fil Straughan.

FiL:  What’s my name?

Moe:  FiL Straughan.

FiL:  Say it again, with a southern accent.

Moe: FiL Straughan ( I stretch it as far as I can).  Am I saying it wrong?

FiL:   No.  FiL Straughan.  Feel Strong.  That’s how I want my music to make people feel.

Moe:  If you had an opportunity to work with any artist, who would you choose?

FiL:  Adele.  Jill Scott. Anita Baker.  Someone like Anthony Hamilton…gosh, there are others.  Someone like Norah Jones.

Moe:  How about movie scores?  Would you like to write movie scores?

FiL:  Movie Scores, commercials for television, collabing with other people and writing for other people.

Moe:  When are you coming to the United States?  Does someone need to book you for something first?

FiL:  I do come home on a regular basis.  When I come home I am usually writing or doing stuff.  It might be the end of May.

Moe:  You mentioned you will be writing, but will you do any shows at any venues, or would you be interested in doing any venues?

FiL:  Yes, I will typically do venues and yes, I would be interested in performing at venues.

Moe:  Where can your music be purchased?

FiL:  Online.  It is available on streaming or on Spotify, I-Tunes, CDbaby or on Amazon or the FiL Straughan website, which is www.filstraughan.com.

Moe:  For booking?

FiL:  Through the website as well.

Moe:  Do you come from a large family?

FiL:  I grew up with two brothers and I’m the baby.  However, I came from a musical family.

Moe:  So, music was a big part of your life while you were growing up?

FiL:   Yeah.  My mom was an operatic soprano in the church choir, my brother played drums in a band and they did a world tour.  My other brother was a DJ for a while

Moe:  You just came from an event from another country?

FiL:  I just came back from doing a wedding in Belfast. I have an event coming up that is for my CD release and Luther birthday celebration at a place called Shaka Zulu in Camden, London.  It is a really cool venue.  As a matter of fact, Joe, just performed there recently.

Moe: Where else have you traveled?  I think it’s so fascinating.

FiL:  I have been to Ireland, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Belfast, Belgium, Monte Carlo, Rome, St Tropez, Scotland, Germany, Latvia, Switzerland, Paris – just to name a few countries and cities.

Moe:  These are all opportunities from music?

FiL:  Yeah.

Moe:  This is phenomenal.  You have just currently wrapped up your fourth CD, correct?

FiL:  That’s right.  FiL the Love.  Basically, I’m doing four CDs within the year.  The first one is FiL the Soul, the second one is FiL the Power, the third one is FiL the Love, and the fourth one is scheduled to be FiL The Vibe.

Moe:  You’re doing all of these within this calendar year?

FiL:  Yes. Within a calendar year.  Eventually, you’ve got music for each season.

Moe:  If a person wants to follow you or communicate with you on any social networking sites, where may they find you?

FiL:  www.facebook.com/filstraughan and www.twitter.com/filstraughan.  I have a page on MySpace at www.myspace.com/filstraughan, but Facebook and Twitter are the main ones.

Moe:  If someone came to you and was down and out, lacking the confidence they needed to push toward success, what advice would you give to them?

FiL:  One.  It’s nobody else’s responsibility to take care of you.  It’s yours.  Two.  You will say something in a way no one else ever will.  Be it information, be it tone of voice, or register of voice. You will say something in a way no one ever will. Three.  Figure out what means the most to you and speak about that.  Because when you speak from the truth, you can not go wrong because you are speaking from a position of authority and power.  Four.  You can not always please everyone.  You are going to always find someone who does not like what you do, but you will always find people who do.  The higher up you go, the more people you will find hating on you.  They are not necessarily hating on you, but are hating on your success or your achievements.  Five. You spend a lot more time dead than you do alive.  You have to make sure you enjoy all the space in between the rain drops.  If you get up in the morning, you have a responsibility to those people who cannot get out of bed.  Whether that person has cancer or some other disability, you have a responsibility.  Both of your feet were able to touch the ground.  You got up.  You make the most of that day and of that opportunity.

Moe: (Speechless)

FiL:  I was born to a mother who loved me.  We did not have much money, but she gave us much love.  Love will carry you through.  Money won’t.

Moe:  FiL, thank you so much for that.  That will inspire so many people.  I am so thankful for this opportunity to speak with you.  I can tell you are a man that lives what he says and that alone, will bless so many people. God bless.

Moe DeNiro

Shares

Posted on 6th August 2015 in News

Share the Story

About the Author

Back to Top
Shares