As a third generation musician, 21-year-old Phil Dudley’s inclination toward music was a calling rather than a choice. Now he’s planning an EP release and playing his celtic rock inspired folk songs weekly in the Birmingham metro area.
Dudley began taking piano lessons at age 10 and learned quickly, though not as his piano teacher expected. “I kind of cheated because I’d ask my teacher to play a sample of the music, then I’d practice based on the sound instead of really reading the music,” says Dudley. He spent the next eight years in classical piano training, where he did learn to read the notes. But after high school, Dudley realized classical music wasn’t his passion. That was when he picked up the guitar and started writing songs.
After some soul searching via a road trip and a couple of creativity-stifling jobs, Dudley emerged ready to share his music. “I decided to play a song for my dad,” says Dudley. “Being from a musical family, we had a home studio, so I recorded a piano and vocal track. It was then he realized I could sing. He encouraged me, so a started sharing my music with some small groups. People kept encouraging me, so I kept doing it.”
In addition to playing instruments and singing back up in his songs, Dudley’s family also influenced him via the music they introduced him to as a child. “When I was a kid, my family listened to IONA, a Celtic rock band from the 90’s, and that was some of the first music I ever heard,” says Dudley. “I got my first CD on my 13th birthday; it was Kansas. They’re very classical in playing and pioneers of rock.”
Now, Dudley has seven songs available for download, including the “Pretty Lady,” which is so whimsical you can hardly stop yourself from dancing, much less smiling. Likewise, the storytelling “The Girl and the Sailor” transports listeners on an otherworldly adventure. All of Dudley’s songs are fresh and organic, the sort of songs you imagine playing as you’re traveling on a dirt road with fields on both sides. His songs have the kind of narrative that give listeners a few minutes of a coveted sunny Saturday afternoon in a hammock on the busiest of office Mondays.
“Life inspires my lyrics. I romanticize a lot and I’ve always been fascinated with dramatic stories like those written by Mark Twain and John Steinbeck. My goal is to write a story with substance into my music,” explains Dudley. “Some musicians play for fun, and some play because it’s a part of them. I want my music to come from the heart.”
Dudley’s listeners are clearly picking up on his passion for his music. Recently, Dudley won 4th place in a singer/songwriter competition at WorkPlay with over 30 entrants. The competition was judged based on audience reaction, which means that Dudley gained a number of new fans that night since he earned many more votes than the number of fans he brought with him.
Dudley continues to grow and evolve as a musician. In future shows, you’ll see him accompanied by his band. “I’d been trying to get a band together for a few months,” explains Dudley. “And it finally happened. We played our first gig together recently. I’m really excited about working with them.”
But no matter where Dudley’s music takes him, he intends to stay true to himself and honor his music. “My music isn’t meant to be #1 hits. My music is something you have to search to find,” says Dudley. “There’s a certain satisfaction in searching for and finding good music. I believe there’s an element of discovery in good music. I know what it feels like when I discover a new melody I like, and that’s how I want people to feel when they hear my songs. I want my listeners to feel the joy in new music.”
Those looking for Dudley won’t have to search for long. He plays weekly shows in the Birmingham metro area. Some of his favorite venues include Dale’s Southern Grill, Todd English P.U.B., and City Vineyard.
Stay tuned: Dudley will be releasing his first official EP featuring six new songs that fans haven’t heard before.
You can find Dudley on Facebook.
Photo by James Dudley