Our Digital Content Executive, Abbie, recently spoke with MFY's new CEO, Phil Castang about his experience in the music industry and what Music for Youth means to him. Here's what Phil had to say!
To start off with could you tell me a bit about you and your background in the music industry?
I’m a Londoner, I grew up in Camden Town and I have always loved music from as early as I can remember. I left school at 16, afraid I just walked out, I don’t advise it to anyone, but that’s what I did. I picked up a copy of the yellow pages, which was essentially a book with the telephone number of all the businesses in London. I found a recording studio, called it and got the job on the same day as I left school, a job as tape op/ a junior sound engineer. I then trained as a sound engineer at Gateway school of engineering, and I did that for a number of years and worked with some really exciting artists. Then I formed a band, but we didn’t quite have the luck, so I retrained as a guitar teacher, teaching in Reading, Berkshire, and London. I went on to start the International Guitar Foundation, and we staged festivals and educational events around the UK and I did that for about 12 years. I became a Chief Executive of a music education hub after that, and then a Director of Creative Learning and Engagement at a major concert venue, which is Bristol Beacon and now I am chief executive of Music for Youth, which is really exciting.
So that means that music has been your entire career. So, what does music mean to you?
Music is food for the mind - I don’t know who said that but I’m pretty sure that’s a quote by somebody. For me, I can’t really function without music and I’m pretty sure that there is a tune going on in my head, all the time, looping about something. So, every day is filled with music and I’m pretty much putting on music all the time, or thinking about music, or thinking about an album I want to buy or what have you.
Who is your favourite artist or band, and why?
It would probably be the Beatles or Kate Bush, I’m not quite sure who would win at the end of the day. Possibly the Beatles just because of the sheer volume of albums and I’ve met three of the Beatles over the course of my life, and there is a song at almost every critical life moment or milestone. So, I really connect to the music of the Beatles, I feel that it crosses every kind of genre, it has incredible classical arrangements. It can be soulful, jazzy, pop, it can be rock and roll, blues, it’s at times anarchic, spiritual. So, it just ticks a lot of boxes.
So now we’re going to move onto a quick game of 5 quick fire questions where you’ve basically got to answer the first thing that comes into your head. Ok, so number one, what is your favourite song at the moment?
My answer would have to be Anna Calvi featuring Julia Holter, the song swimming pool. I’m doing a lot of swimming at the moment and that song is definitely in my mind.
I bet you can’t say no to a bit of swimming in this lovely hot weather that we’re having. Ok, moving onto question two, what’s your favourite song album of all time?
Probably Hounds of Love by Kate Bush.
So, question three, If you had to pick one genre of music to listen to for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Very difficult, I’m going to go with jazz.
Next question, who would be your favourite artist or group that you’ve seen live?
That would be Paul McCartney.
Final question, what is your favourite instrument?
I’m going to say guitar because I’m a guitarist, but I also love drums. It’s a difficult one as my sons a drummer but I’m going to go guitar.
Ok so let’s move on to talking about Music for Youth as obviously you are the new CEO. So let’s start by discussing what Music For Youth means to you?
It means young people playing live music. I’ve spent most of my life watching young people play live music and for me there is nothing like the passion, energy and emotion that comes with young musicians. So I think it’s very much about young people and live music.
You did just touch on this, but what do you think MFY means to young musicians?
It means community, self-expression, being part of something bigger, amazing memories and great music.
As you have been in the music industry for basically your entire career, do you have any advice or words of wisdom to anyone, any young musician out there who’s about to pick up an instrument for the first time, or looking to sign to a record label, what would your advice be?
My advice would be that you don’t have to be the best, you just need to say something through your playing, and others will connect with it. I would also say never give up, because everyone I’ve ever met that’s given up playing regrets it. So just keep playing, say something through your music and that’s the most important thing.
How important are all of these young musicians to MFY?
Well I think MFY is obviously about providing opportunities to perform live and engaging in a music industry career. So young people are really important to that. I think maybe it’s better to think about how important are young people to music generally. Young people are the life blood of music and many of the best musicians that I’ve ever or we’ve ever had have been very young, they’ve started very young and they’ve written some of their best work at a very young age. Artists like Ed Sheeran, and Stevie Wonder, and the Beatles and Beyonce, they were active really really young, in their teens. So brilliant music comes from young people.
And finally, can you tell us one interesting fact about you or your career?
Yes, I was recently on the advisory panel for the Government's 2022 revised plan for national education.
Wow, thanks for joining us Phil!
We hope you've enjoyed getting to know Phil!