Leeds Beckett University - City Campus,
I achieved my dream of performing on stage at Live at Leeds
Born and raised in Leeds, Phenicia Williams always dreamt of having a career in music. Now, having studied BA (Hons) Music Performance and Production, they are a dynamic singer-songwriter, rapper, and vocalist creating original music and supporting other artists to achieve their dreams.
Tell us about yourself and what you've been doing since you graduated
I am a singer-songwriter, rapper and vocalist performing under my name “PHENICIA”. Born and bred in Leeds, I create music across many different genres and scenes, from the sound system dub reggae, Drum and Bass, Hip-hop and live acoustic sessions. I release original music independently, often within the genres of 90’s Hip hop and neo soul.
I also often work as a session vocalist for producers in the UK, with occasional global clients in Argentina, Spain and Mexico.
Why did you choose to study at Leeds Beckett?
At the time, it was the best course for me. I had taken interviews all over the country for different courses relating to music, including Musical Theatre, but nothing ever really clicked. Even though I was adamant that I wanted to move out of Leeds, Beckett was my final interview. All the modules on the performance and production course were exactly what I was looking for. I felt like it just fit.
What's been your proudest career milestone so far?
I find it hard to pick just one. But my top 3 would be:
- Being selected as one of Launchpad’s Supported artists of 2022. They have been so good at advising me on how to move forward within my music career.
- Having the opportunity to play Live at Leeds in the City 2022.
- Being asked to feature on a mixtape from an Argentinian producer which also featured the dancehall legend, Yellowman.
What skills did you learn on your course that have helped you become successful in music?
The most important skill for me was learning how to record my own vocals. Before coming to University, I had no idea what a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) even was, no idea how to set up a mic or track a recording in a studio.
Now, I spend most of my time recording my own vocals at home, with the ability to work with so many different producers and artists remotely.
I would also have to say, I learnt about stage presence and how to be my authentic self on stage. We had a few lessons on stage persona and it really stuck with me. Now it’s one of my greatest assets when performing live. It's one of the things people say to me the most when seeing me perform, is how I engage with the audience and how they can relate so much to what I'm saying and how I'm saying it.
What was a defining moment for you on your course?
We had a performance lesson where we were showcasing either original or reworked covers of songs.
When it was my turn, I did what I always do before performing and just took a moment to close my eyes, relax myself, and then sing. I really didn't think anything of it, but after, when my tutor pointed out “that moment before you started to play, really drew us all in and we were there for the whole performance”. That to me was a defining moment. Something I do innately has now shaped the way I perform. I bring people into my space, into my world and they stay with me. I’ve found that when I start to sing people are fully drawn in, this has stuck with me over the years and is now the goal when I perform. I want people to be in it with me for every moment. If I can do that, then to me, it's been a success regardless of how many people are in the room. It comes back to that aspect of authenticity and allows the audience to feel as though they can relate either to the words or to the feeling.
What support and guidance did you receive while studying at Leeds Beckett?
The tutors were more than supportive of the music I wanted to perform, and they pushed me to be the artist I wanted to be. They saw potential in me, even when I didn't see it myself.
I really struggled with my mental health whilst going through university. It was such a big change and there were so many big life events that occurred throughout my studies. At one point, I actually thought about calling it quits. But my tutors were so supportive and allowed me to take time for myself, giving me the space and encouragement I needed to keep me going.
“It's hard when you don't believe in yourself but having these people that have only known you for a few months or a year, talking about how much potential they see in the work you do really changed my life.”
I will always be grateful for the patience, kindness and space that was created for me at Beckett.
What advice would you give someone looking to study Music?
If the course fits, do it! If it feels right, go for it! And if you’re a bit scared but you want it, do it anyway!
I wasn't always encouraged by my family to pursue music as a career. But it was the only thing I wanted to do, so I stuck to my guns and did it. It's nice to prove yourself right, and it's more than okay to live your dreams.
“It's a mission of mine to normalise dream-chasing. The opportunities I have now and the aspirations I have for my career, places I know I can go with my music, none of that would be possible if I didn't try in the first place.”
What's next for you?
I have plans to release my debut EP in 2023. Whilst that's happening, I will be recording a live band EP to be released later in the year. Until then, I'll be writing and performing as much as I can. I am applying to play at a number of music festivals across the country for the summer of 2023. I will continue to do my session work because I really enjoy that, it gives me a break from my own original pieces. The next big dream for me is getting that first MOBO award!!