An LA-based, multi-genre songstress: PHASER’s interview with Pontea
Here at PHASER we were lucky enough to catch up with up and coming LA-based singer-songwriter Pontea, who released her debut EP, ‘Unpredictable’ last year.
Firstly, start off by introducing yourself! Who are you, where are you from and how would you describe your music?
Hi! My name is Pontea and I'm from Los Angeles, California, born and raised. Same childhood home all my life, big family, lots of love. My parents immigrated to LA from Iran at the start of the Iranian Revolution in 1979. I speak fluent Farsi (the language of Iran) and am quite good at Spanish too.
My music has pop sensibilities, blending rhythmic beats and ambient synths, while featuring R&B, hip-hop, soul, house, and more recently, Latin and Middle Eastern vibes.
From what age did you decide you wanted to pursue music?
I've been a creator and performer all my life. I started composing music on the piano from second grade, and was I involved in dance, acting, and musical theatre throughout my school years. My dream was always to be an actress or singer. It wasn't until I graduated from UCLA that I took the leap and decided to do music full force.
Growing up, did you feel you had a special connection with music?
Music is a huge part of me and who I am. Growing up, my dad's beautiful voice filled the house with songs from his time in Iran, which included Persian music, American Classic Pop/Rock, Mediterranean music, Blues/R&B and so much more. We would do duets and sing karaoke together in the living room often. Every time we'd get ready to go out, he would either whistle or sing songs that were stuck in his head. That was my "getting ready" music. And it passed on to me.
I was the entertainment at every family gathering, whether it was putting on a dance show, doing a piano recital, singing my originals, or playing some sort of character. This love of the arts fostered my lust for creativity and made me who I am. I'd like to think all that reflects in my original music. Now more than ever, I'm adding bits of my heritage in my new creations, which I'm really excited about.
Who would you say your music inspirations are?
Musical inspirations to name a few: Lauryn Hill, James Blake, Justin Timberlake, Michael Jackson, Bonobo, D'Angelo, Jamie Woon, Ella Fitzgerald, Simon & Garfunkel, Bill Withers, Disney Songs, Tupac, Don Omar, Idan Raichel, Bob Marley and so many more.
So I hear you are based in LA – what is the music scene like there?
The music scene in LA keeps getting smaller and smaller as you get to know more and more people. Soon enough, you keep bumping into artists you meet at the same venues everyone frequents. I love the scene here, there are weekly songwriter showcases and numerous concerts at any given time. I'm constantly amazed at the amount of talent in this city and do my best to support all my fellow artists any time I can. This city is also great for collaboration and joining forces. The possibilities are endless.
I see you have posted a few covers on YouTube, how did you get into that?
I started YouTube covers to showcase a rendition of songs that I love. It's fun adding my take on a popular hit and doing a video for it. It's definitely less intense than releasing an original song, I'll tell you that!
I personally love your single ‘Come Over’ – tell us more about the song.
Thank you! I'm so glad 'Come Over' resonates with you, it's one of my favorites on the EP as well. I wrote it during the throes of a break up from a long relationship. Those words are quite literally the thoughts running my mind throughout those vulnerable moments. He was my comfort zone; I couldn't bear the separation. The words "come over" are so loaded and have so many implications -- loneliness, attachment, seduction, vulnerability, not wanting to let go, and not wanting to feel the pain of it all. After getting off the phone one night asking him to "come over" in a moment of weakness, the hook of the song came to me, and the rest is pretty much a diary entry.
What was it like filming the music video for it?
Shooting the music video was so much fun! It was my first original video and was so cool to see the song come to life. Brad Wong was the director and he did an excellent job of executing everything I wanted. It's a window into my inner turmoil following the breakup and it conveys a flood of emotions. It captures my vibe as an artist and performer, as well as where I was in my musical journey.
Congratulations on releasing your debut EP – we love it! Tell us a bit more about its inspiration and the process of creating it.
The EP captures different sides of me: hurt, intimacy, playfulness, sensuality. It was a great opportunity for me to delve into features of my favorite genres and explore within them for each track. They all embody music deeply embedded in me.
Now that it's out in the world, what excited me the most is recognizing that this is only the beginning of my musical journey. There is so much to be discovered for upcoming projects and I cannot wait to show you new sounds throughout the evolution of me.
We love how the EP showcases a wide range of genres; from sultry R&B in ‘Tied Up’ to electronic/dance in ‘Timeless (feat. Sando)’. What was it like to explore these different sounds?
Thank you! That was exactly the goal, to give a taste of multiple sides of what I love about music. This record is where my love of pop, electronic, R&B, ambiance, and house all got married, which is something I hadn't done before. Back when I first decided to make the EP, I had no idea how it would turn out or what songs would go on it. All I knew was that I am a melting pot of what I listen to. It was a long road of honing sounds and using compositions that hit me the hardest and most represented that stage of my life. It was definitely a labour of love, filled with overcoming self-doubt, staying patient, and following my instincts.
And finally, what advice would you give to someone thinking about taking the leap and pursuing music?
I would say let things take their course, and also realize that you have full power to do anything you set your mind to. Don't expect anyone to do the work for you. It's a grind and you should commit to it for the long haul. Set clear goals and get them done, while also realizing that goals can change as you evolve. Be open to all possibilities of collaborating, and don't compare yourself too much to other artists. That is the death of creativity and freedom; it's "mental slavery" as Bob Marley once sang. Practice self-love and kindness. Constantly try to better your music and craft. When you start to lose hope, keep your faith alive by realizing that if you have the talent and the work ethic, it's the ones who persevere that ultimately reach their goals. Be patient. Be authentic. Be kind. Be open. Get inspired. Be an inspiration. These are just some things I tell myself and would advise to other aspiring artists.
Pontea’s EP, ‘Unpredictable’, is available to stream on Spotify and other music streaming platforms. Check out her YouTube channel too (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdDjBOq74aF1T3EjbNcKzwQ) , where you can watch her music videos and covers!