In the middle of a crowd of 30,000 people listening to Mac Miller perform “Watching Movies” at SoundSet Music Festival in St. Paul, then-18-year-old Phil Faucett lost himself in the music and had a realization.
“Every single person in the crowd knew the words and all their hands were up in sync,” Faucett, of Eau Claire, said. “One man just brought 30,000 people together all for the same thing; that was beautiful. And I thought ‘I want to do that and I think I’m good enough to do that.’ ”
Four years later, he has proof to back that up.
On Oct. 24, Faucett, known by his musician name Miles Blvd, dropped his debut rap album “Moonlight Drive” on his 22nd birthday.
He has yet to play for a crowd quite as big as the one in St. Paul, but taking one listen to the album, he definitely has potential to get there one day.
From the opening track, “Sunset,” to the final words of “Late Nights,” Miles Blvd has the strong, distinct voice of a rap musician who has a clear vision of the artist he wants to be.
He said the album is the product of years of learning who he was as a musician and networking with Eau Claire’s musicians and producers.
He thought he could be a good musician, but didn’t want to test the waters too early.
“I knew there was something there but didn’t know how to craft it and I didn’t really want to do that in the public eye,” Faucett said. “I worked on my skill, got to know my voice and what kind of instruments I sound good with, what kind of patterns I rap well.”
He told Justin Andersen, an audio engineer based in Eau Claire who produced “Moonlight Drive,” he wanted to make the “best rap record that’s ever come out of Eau Claire,” Faucett said.
After spending years working on his music, he wasn’t going to settle for less than perfection.
“I wanted everyone to know this kid can rap,” Faucett said. “I’m not going to say if we succeeded with that or not, but I’m pretty confident coming out of it.”
As he breaks into the chorus of “Sunset,” listeners can hear that confidence: “I won’t stop cuz I can’t stop/ ground floor to my rooftop/ palm trees are my backdrop/ and it’s game time when my track drop.”
He’s confident with good reason, but his lyrics extend deeper than that.
Andersen, who was referred to Faucett by Pine Hollow Studio’s owner Evan Middlesworth, said that is what stood out with his music right away.
Andersen had worked with a few hip-hop artists in the past, but he said Faucett’s lyrics grabbed his attention.
“Some of the hip-hop I had worked on previously ... was a little too abrasive for me, which is great if that’s what your artist wants it to be, but I didn’t really connect with it on a deeper level,” Andersen said. “Phil (Faucett) on the other hand, his lyrical content at times ventured into stuff like that, but I felt like his lyrics were a lot more mature, had a lot more meaning with relevancy to people other than just himself.”
The project is a result of collaboration with other local artists, which Andersen said is one of the great features of the album.
Local musician Caitlin McGarvey is featured on three of the songs. Her indie-pop style complemented Faucett’s music.
Andersen said he suggested McGarvey not knowing how the two would mesh, but “something about her voice” seemed to fit with the album. The result, he said, was “amazing.”
For McGarvey it was a chance to explore a musical scene she didn’t know much about, and Faucett gave her space to do so.
“Sometimes he’ll have a lyrical idea he wants me to play with ... but there have been times where he let me listen to the song and almost create my own hook based off of the feel of the track,” McGarvey said. “Working with him is very inspiring. He definitely has a vision and passion for his art that’s very authentic.”
The tracks on “Moonlight Drive” vary from upbeat songs about having fun with friends to the current political scene and then venture into darker places about feeling alone.
Though this is his first album, Faucett said he’s been working on the project for more than two years and has recorded around 30 songs (the album has nine).
He scrapped nearly a whole album he recorded a year ago with Middlesworth at Pine Hollow Studios.
Faucett grew up in Fall Creek listening to hip-hop and rap artists such as Eminem, Ludacris and Kanye West. Many times he used the music as an escape.
Now, he’s using it to make a name for himself. He recognizes Eau Claire’s music scene doesn’t have too many rap and hip-hop musicians, and he’s hoping to stand out with “Moonlight Drive.”
He’s already started recording his next project.
He said it will be more vulnerable than this one, which was meant to grab attention, as he alludes to in the second verse of “Late Nights,” his last song on the album: “First round so you hear this, second round so you listen real close.”
“This album is a lot more surface emotions, intense and unapologetic,” Faucett said. “The next record is going to be slower, more emotional and personal.”
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