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Phil Mac & Paul Danan

11th January 2024

Interview: Amy Bell

In the heart of Bristol's vibrant music scene emerges Phil Mac, an artist whose journey from adversity to triumph encapsulates the spirit of the city's influence on hip hop, trip hop, and drum 'n' bass. Raised amid the creative tapestry of Bristol, Phil found solace in the spoken word, realizing his talent for rhyming.

However, challenges with alcohol and drugs cast a shadow over Phil's aspirations until a fateful encounter with a friend changed everything. Sponsored by a mentor, who happened to be Hollyoaks star Paul Danan, Phil found himself in a dry house, navigating the path to recovery alongside Paul, who was two years sober at the time.

What started as a shared love for rap music evolved into a unique friendship and partnership. Over daily coffee conversations, Paul playfully proposed managing Phil, setting the stage for a transformative collaboration.

Phil's turning point came when he played 'Follow,' a track that left Paul astounded. The offer was laid on the table: Paul would manage Phil, secure a record deal, and even direct a music video. With a handshake and the playful exchange of "Twenty percent," the deal was sealed.

As the duo embarked on their creative journey, an unexpected opportunity arose. Paul, approached by a filmmaker from the Bristol Film Institute, proposed a deal: an interview about his life in exchange for a music video shoot for 'Follow,' directed by Paul himself. The stars aligned, and the deal was struck.

However, just weeks before the shoot, a setback threatened to derail everything. Phil, facing the challenge of maintaining sobriety, found himself in a precarious situation. Paul, demonstrating the strength of true friendship, offered tough love and a lifeline, urging Phil to get sober within a week if he wanted to seize the opportunity.

Phil rose to the occasion, achieving sobriety and fulfilling the promise of 'Follow.' Today, over a year sober, Phil has a record deal and a music video, a testament to the unwavering support of a friend and mentor.

'Follow' is more than a track; it's the chronicle of resilience, friendship, and the triumph of the human spirit. Phil Mac's journey is a testament to the power of music to heal and inspire.

Thank you for speaking to ReVamp, you met due to struggles with alcoholism and drugs, and Paul, you began to mentor Phil, as you were two years sober, what is one piece of advice that you told Phil that Phil still carries to this day?

Paul: I know Phil is like me but the advice I would give anyone is never to give up, no matter how hard things might seem that this shall pass and things do get better and I would never give up even if I had the worst day. Phil is the same! When Phil was having a downtime, I remember telling him this would pass and just don’t give up. Now, we have this amazing song out! 

You came from two different backgrounds, one being acting and the other being music, how do you think this has merged, and what made you Phil get into music and Paul you into acting?

Phil: When I was about thirteen I first discovered rap music and hip hop. I then did a little DJing class at school and I just fell in love with it. So over time I saved up and got my decks, me and my friend were messing about as I wanted to be a DJ at the time but through time I got into writing and fell in love with that. Just enjoyed that creative process where I would wrap to a beat.

Paul: When I was younger I was into joining the school plays and then I went into a Sylvia Knight Class and I also joined a local theatre company and got to put on musicals and that’s when I knew I loved being on the stage. While I was at Sylvia Knight I remember I was about eleven and needing someone to be an extra on EastEnders and they picked me. When I was on Albert Square that was it, that’s when I knew I wanted to act. 

Do you think your path with acting and music helped you get on the right path and guided you to where you are now?

Paul: Absolutely! With the acting and music. When I was directing Phil for Follow - he instantly had this ability how to act in front of the camera when he took the direction. He would take the emotion that came from those lyrics and you can see it come out on the screen. Phil just naturally a good actor from not having any lessons as he was been able to draw that emotion and show it on his face. With performing there is such a mix, if you’re a good musician, you’ll be a good actor. 

Phil and Paul at BBC Radio Bristol studios.

You heard Phil's music ‘Follow’, and you loved it, and wanted to become his manager and direct his music video, how did you two come to that decision and what went into it?

Paul: I promised him the world! [laugh]. It was organic, we were just vibing and it was just loving music together. Phil would see me running around doing lots of different jobs and he would get motivated from that and I would get motivated from his music. I remember telling him to give me a chance and he let me!

Unfortunately Phil, you then had a challenge of sobriety. Still, Paul, demonstrating the strength of true friendship, offered tough love and a lifeline, urging Phil to get sober within a week if he wanted to seize the opportunity. Phil, do you think this got you back on the path of wanting to remain sober, for this big chance and also for Paul? How did you face this challenge of being sober for a week?  

Phil: That was a turning point! Having that phone call! I was a year sober and I started drinking again and I got myself to a dark, depressing place where I couldn’t see a way out. Earlier that year we had this music video set up and it was fast approaching. Paul rang me up because we had a couple of weeks left till we were about to shoot and I suddenly went in to self-destruct as I didn’t feel like I was worth it. Paul gave me a big opportunity and self-love and if I didn’t get myself back on track again, he would have pulled the plug and something inside me helped me turn things around. So, that phone call was a massive turnaround as I thought I needed to do something good with my music and it’s now or never! It saved me!

Paul: For me it was God coming through me. Feeling so much for my friend and not wanting him to be in this place because I know what that place feels like. Regardless of the video or the music it was about you so worth it! You’re an amazing person! You deserve to be alive and happy and not be in this rut! Phil only had a few drinks for a few weeks but it was such a quick turnaround and it scared me! So my way of pursuing him was saying we have this amazing opportunity with his career and what the future holds for him! 

‘Follow’, is a brilliant track all about resilience, how did ‘Follow’ come about and what made you want to release the single?

Phil: I wrote this song a few years ago where it was about the change I went through to make myself better and I think through therapy and self-help groups you gain this acceptance of life and how you cope. I talk about how you see life and it’s almost like how I express how I follow my music and how I trust the universe to become myself. It’s so easy to follow your heart and not your head much and if I follow my head more I get scared and have a lot of fear of life. 

Paul: Phil plays that song to my little boy. My little one believes in following his dreams because of that song. It should be played in schools! Because it’s important to follow your dreams and what you wanna do in life because it’s such a positive message.

Phil: We’re all human beings! Just show each other love and show your support! Follow your dreams!

What is next for you both?

Paul: Shall we tell them, Phil? We have a massive new single coming soon. It’s a follow-up to Follow. It was a single where we couldn’t decide to release first or Follow. We chose Follow but this one has to come out now. Exclusive just for ReVamp we’re going to give you the name of it which is called Shifting.

Check out the music video to 'Follow' by Phil Mac and Directed by Paul Danan.

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