Philip Serino is a musician that wears a lot of different hats, for a lot of different genres. Composition, songwriting, production, dreamer, as well as a musician of pop, electronica, jazz, EDM, acoustic, and so much more. Diversity in his music and skills, as well as a balance in his life, is what makes him a strong musician.
As his YouTube description reads, “He’ll stir up all your campers if you hire him as the music director for your currently unexciting summer camp, or lead your fellow congregation into a most intimate connection with God in seconds empowering hearts to radically love others when you hire him to lasso heaven onto earth with his majestic voice and music, or you can expect him and the rest of the Serino brothers to cause you to dance your face off and help you understand the meaning of LMFAO when you hire them to do music at your wedding, restaurant, bar, marriage proposal, or break-up. You name it.”
Switching Styles has interviewed this creative creator to bring you the questions to all of your answers.
How did you get started in music?
Well, I currently live in Oregon. Before Oregon, I grew up in a big family. I am one of five. The oldest brother. Then we have an older sister, and we’re (Matthew, Thomas, and Phillip) like three younger brothers. My parents were worship leaders in the church. We were always surrounded by music.
But I did not actually pick up an instrument until middle school. The first instrument I played was the saxophone, like oﬃcially in band. That was fun. I really start to be interested in music like the end of middle school. There’s more to that, I mean we started joining in the worship team like our family. From that point, I started to pick up the drum set, the base and just filling in whatever instrument needed to be played, and just figuring it out on my own.
I didn’t realize that it was like harder than normal, but it must have been just my family and my parents that just have that ability in the ear to understand the language. School is where I picked up the piano. Then starting high school is when I started singing. When I oﬃcially did choir, then I realized, “wow! I can sing, cool! Yeah!”
How do you think that your family affected your start with music, specifically like your family life?
They had a big impact! Eventually, I started to take over in leading worship. When I started to take on that role that my dad was doing. In doing worship music for church, a lot of practice in like my dad has this like just tones of sheet music, just getting familiar with cords, charts, progressions, that was a big help in being able to really practice.
Guitar, it was mostly guitar that I was playing at the time. Sometimes I did piano, once I got more comfortable with it, but I was able to. It gave me the practice to be able to play and also sing at the same time. That was a big impact. I think a lot of, that kind of music has had an impact.
What were some of the other impacts on your music?
When I was three or four, my aunt gave the Super Nintendo. Street Fighter was the first game. I was hooked, not just on the game but on the music. A lot of my influences really were Japanese composers and video game music.
You mention that Street Fighter was one of the musical inspirations and loves that you had. What were some of your other musical inspirations when you were growing up?
I should say, aside from Super Nintendo, when their Game Boy came out, I had that. I even remember having the Street Fighter Game Boy version and not playing the game but just to listen to the music. I was just like, ‘Oh my goodness! This is genius!”.
Pokémon; same thing, just brilliant music.
Let’s see, some other influences. I mean a lot of video games. Zelda was huge. Basically, the classic games, I still think is the best. I’m actually really excited to revisit a lot of those video game tracks and redo them into my own style with my brothers. They’re highly interested in redoing some of the music too, and just make them and bring them back to life. Aside from video game music, I’m really into Disney.
I’ve been like throughout diﬀerent genres of interest, I think that in elementary school, I was into Hip Hop. That was cool, but then I switch to hard rock, and then Punk Rock, when that was a thing.
I didn’t really dive too deep into Christian music, I just thought it was always cheese. Nothing special but at the same time, I always came back to it. I was really interested in like James Horner, Hans Zimmer, John Williams; John Williams is one of my favourites. Erick Whitacre, I was really into, his choral pieces, in high school.
Yeah, I am kind of all-around with my inspirations.
You mentioned having played a few instruments, do you have a favourite of it all?
The Voice. If it’s like I have to choose just one instrument because I’m really able to express myself to the best oﬀ my ability. Then I have to choose piano, and then guitar, if they were on a scale. I think I did saxophone; I mean I did all throughout college, I still have the saxophone, its just not as much of an interest of mine because I’m more like a composer and songwriter, yeah.
But it’s very diﬀerent, the guitar has its limitations because I don’t really like to limit myself. I like to think that the piano is. I can do just do a lot of diﬀerent things and really explore worlds. Even though I am like Jacob Collier who can just do anything on the piano, He is a big influence for me and my brothers.
I will say the piano, and my voice, and also the guitar. I always come back to guitar.
How would you describe your sound?
My gosh, I would probably ask them which one of my sounds. This is why I’m kind of struggling and why I haven’t really release content recently in the last few years — just been really trying to understand where I fit in, what is my personal Philip Serino’s brand.
I’ve written things for choral, soundtrack, electronic, dance. It’s so much fun, but it’s also very challenging. If it’s my personal brand, I would say pop, jazz, ballad, Christian. I do have a Christian influence, so I’m more recently really digging into those roots again.
It is kind of hard to explain.
You’ve collaborated with a few diﬀerent artists, including family members, What are your thoughts on collaboration?
It’s a good question! It’s changed, I use to think that I could just do it all myself, and I was wrong. I mean I can, and some people do it, but I think just for me personally, it’s just much easier, hand the mop to somebody else. I’m realizing that now.
More recently giving my music away, like two of my songs already. I’ve given it to the Serino Brothers, our little new band. They’re really nice to be, “Oh! We should play this”. And I’m like “awesome let’s do this”.
But I always wonder why I don’t finish songs. Part of it maybe it’s because I’m giving into resistance and procrastinating. Really great book, by the way, is “The Work of Art” that my cousin recommended. It blew my mind and changed How I approach writing. I’m just now really inspired to get back to it but with collaborating.
I realized that ultimately, I am a composer. I’m not a producer. I was thinking that I wanted to be a producer but it is just much easier for me to give my music to a producer and let them do it. Even though I have all the ideas for how I want it to sound. But then again, I don’t.
I’m working on it being more composer for composers, where we just create demos for producers. We’re filled with inspiration and ideas. As for the producers, they don’t necessarily have that, they just want to. It depends on the kind of producer of course. But they’re just wanting to make it happen, make whatever content was made work. They can go to us, and we would make the music from scratch, in the studio even, and map it out, make it sound crazy creative. I heard that John Williams doesn’t even play the piano or pluck around. He just writes what he hears in his head. I get better at doing that, but I know that I don’t have the skills that a producer has.
That’s kinda a big answer to your question. I think that with a lot of songwriters, they feel stuck, probably because they needed to collaborate, probably they needed to send it oﬀ to somebody that they want to work with. Plus, collaborating is the best way to market yourself on YouTube. You share with your audience; they share with their audience.
Do you have a single favourite collaboration you’ve done?
That I’ve done. Hmm me, my cousin, and two of my brothers, and a friend of mine, just did a cover, “Burning House”. We made it happen. It wasn’t even spectacular, it was just, “let’s make music”. It didn’t even get a lot of views, but it was like, “wow, we just came and made something happen”.
I haven’t really done much other than that, but some other collaborations. My cover of “Lava” with Johana, my wife, I didn’t know that it was going to get a lot of views. We just did it in a diﬀerent key to accommodate her voice range. I can do it but is really high, so it ends up being just a diﬀerent key. I think doing a diﬀerent key, plus releasing it, when the movie (Moana) still fresh was what got it a lot of views. Plus, collaboration, duets in general, are very helpful in that way. Ultimately, I’m not into my solos. It is so interesting that the collaborations have a much greater eﬀect.
Why do you think they have much grater eﬀect in general?
I don’t know, it could be diversity, the people that are included. It’s really interesting, but I am willing to explore that. I’ve known that I wanted to collaborate and do more collaborative projects.
Overall, what is one of your fondest memories for your music career?
There are several.
When I was in college, I was with the group called PLUtonic, and we went to America’s Got Talent, with my arrangement of “Low”. That was a fond memory with just a group of dorky dudes and being able to tour in choir in Germany and France. First place, I can’t remember what it was. I wish I could remember stuﬀ like these. My mind was in a diﬀerent state, but I had arrangements that we have song both in the men’s group and in the choir. It’s amazing, for me as a writer it’s one of the most amazing things when your music is being sung or played, or performed.
I would say, it’s not my music, but I did lead the worship in college, and it was just miraculous. There’s this one time at the retreat that we did. I couldn’t handle it. On the stage, I swear there was like angels singing with the group. It was just a beautiful sound that I didn’t expect for them to keep singing the song. I was just humbled by God’s love and grace. They just kept singing, and it moved me to tears. That was a powerful moment.
What appeal do you think covers have compared to the original songs?
Even I didn’t even think about it. So, taking one song that another producer has produced, that another writer had written, it’s very interesting. They changed a lot of things in the process to make it sound mainstream or whatever. It just depends on the project but it’s just one version. The originals always going to be, in my opinion, the best, because without the original it wouldn’t be. But the cover really takes it somewhere that you wouldn’t expect. It gives you a diﬀerent perspective about the same story of the same song.
I had so many cases where I’ll play the same song, diﬀerent, and it’s so fun. You can play a song and turn it to a jazzy sound, or a ballad, or a rock song. The same song and you can explore diﬀerent emotions by changing the core progression, which is something I love to do. But just messing with the core progressions that are diﬀerent from the original, really is what makes it stand out. It’s kind of fascinating.
I did this one version of “Annie’s Song” by John Denver, and it sounds completely diﬀerent from the original. I think it is a really good practice for musicians to be able to cover their song, not to try to imitate the actual original but making their own version, because it’s coming from them, it’s coming from their songwriters. I don’t know if the songwriter or the singer is, but the artist, they are storytellers, even though John Denver. I don’t know if he actually wrote this song, but he sang that song his way, and another artist can sing it with a diﬀerent perspective, and it’s just fascinating.
How do you think that covers songs generally impact the originals that they are covering?
I think it’s a really good impact. It means that the original is good, and ultimately, the original is going to get more plays, more views, more money. Its kind of helping that brand creates more brand awareness by having people cover that music. Like “oh I didn’t know that this song existed, I’m gonna check out the original”.
It’s all like love, all this like positive energy around this song that’s been created.
What are your opinions about the music industry on the internet?
They always said, “content is king, distribution is queen”. I think it is fascinating. I think that’s where the artists, I mean people, and businesses in general, aren’t used to marketing themselves. For a while, I was starting to be really interested in doing social media marketing for people. I might do that, but I think I’m learning it, ultimately, for my business for my brand, and how I go about collaborating with other people, businesses, artists. I know that’s a challenge. It’s a pain to just put yourself out there.
For me, I don’t know if I really like struggled so much with that. I have more so struggled with sitting down and working.
What advice would you give to new musicians, that are also facing these same obstacles?
I would say, challenge and encourage the person to ask himself, what do I want. If you don’t know, it’s ok.
I went to a school of music, I went to college, I have a degree in music composition, which sounds really cool, but I’m not doing much with it. My composition teacher encouraged me to take a year away after I graduated, to figure it out, to take that time away to discover what it is that I wanted to do. At that time, I was actually much more involved in ministry and leading worship for a college group. That was my focus, and that was actually really good. I needed that year. That turned into me working really hard because I’ve always been provided for, I’ve always been in school and really didn’t know the value of work. So, I would say to new musicians, learn how to work really hard.
Where we’re at in this age, and with the amount of creators that are creating, you got to stick out. I would say, read The Work of Art, and not give in to resistance but also love your work but not so much to where you don’t work. Just being able to, what the book says, “be a professional and not an amateur”.
Do I want to write music? Do I want to perform music? Or do I want to produce music? Those three questions when they ask themselves. What do I want to do, if you had to choose? I want to do all of those. Some people might be able to do all those things. If you want to write, learn how to write, surround yourself with people who do write, same thing with producing, same thing with performing. If you wanna just perform music, surround yourself with people who are performing and go to concerts. If you want to get into producing, there are more schools who would teach you how to run the sounds, but if you know anybody, shadow them, reach out to professionals, just learn.
That’s the other thing too, is ask yourself if you want to be doing music full time. Because that could mess with you. I don’t know if I ultimately do, but I think with the variety of all the things I could be doing, I could make it work. I’m not just singing all the time, or just producing all the time.
How have you yourself overcome some of those obstacles in your music career?
Being patient that things are going to turn out for you, and that you’re not alone. Something that I personally struggled with and learned, more recently, is to really enjoy the process. What I mean is, me and my wife hit a rough patch, because I’ve been so focused on trying to make this work, that I haven’t given her the time. I didn’t really give my child the time. All because, ultimately, I’m not happy or satisfied. She thinks that I would be happy if I made it with music, I mean money. But to really look at yourself, your life, and be thankful for everything you have, and realize that, this is for me, that, what I have with music, is all bonus.
If that’s something that you really love when it comes to music, or whatever your passion is you don’t want to squander it. You don’t want to make it something that is not enjoyable for you, I had to let go of my past, of my obsession with music. If it’s creating a problem in your relationship, and it’s creating a problem, then is a problem.
How do you balance work, passion, music, personal, and family in your life?
It’s a challenge. Thankfully, me and my wife have counselling. I’ve been so hung on making this music work, and my desperate want to get out of a nine to five job. It really works in your favour if you just stop and paused and be thankful, because you’re not only getting money for yourself, for your family, and supporting, but you’re helping that business, whatever it is, and you’re giving even though is a nine to five job. Is what it is. A lot of that is just being thankful for what you have.
For me, it has been a challenge still trying to figure out what my routine is.
I think that I learned to talk to my, the spirits, you know, weird, cause artists and writers, they’re not the ones that are doing all the work themselves, they are getting inspiration.
I will have a team, down the road, you know, once my business gets going, and starts to grow, I am excited for that, but just really learning to really enjoying present and really enjoying what I have. When I’m there, I won’t be here, and I want to be happy now.
Do you have an idea of how you want to go forward?
I’m starting to get an idea about it, actually, more recently. I said that like three times, but is true, a lot of things have happened in the last year. Me and my brothers decided to finally become a band, super new, and we are really excited about that. It is just still in the very beginning stages: what do we want to sound like? Who are influences, and that sort of thing,
I did a lot of collaborations with my family, like cousins and brothers and some friends, that I really, really, really like. The music is just not ready. I’m so excited about it but I’m just not ready for it. I think I have to first know what it is that I want to do for myself.
I have a lot of music, that I’m just hoarding, so I’m wanting to put it out there and give it to the world. Ultimately, I do music for myself but I’m realizing that its to give and share with the world. I guess that’s sort of my plan, to map out what’s my first album. I made spreadsheets. I can’t believe it’s that much music, and at diﬀerent times. Eventually, we get into redoing video game music. I’m really excited about that, my brothers and cousin are down to do that sort of thing. It’s really just how am I going to be productive, while being married, and have an amazing child, with a whole bunch of this music. It’s just, gathering it all and I guess putting it in the right place.
Then, I don’t know. I probably need some help, externally, from somebody who can just help me. But, if I were to just do alone — I think that it’s what I’m doing right now — is just being able to put it all. I feel much better about it now. It was just scattered everywhere. The first thing I need to do is focus on my sound and my music and get that out there and just keep going, Artist wise.
What are some of your future plans?
I want to establish my business to help composers, and also producers, and also artists. I want to start that project and keep with it, where we create demos from scratch and send them off. We’re just a music laboratory, as a beat factory, then I want to rearrange just a bunch of video game music (Teenager Ninja Turtles, Power Rangers, Kirby, Zelda) and just get my music out there. Once I get my music out there, — which means I want to make my own first actual album, that I haven’t done — go on tour with my brothers. I’m excited for that because each of us has our own diﬀerent unique sounds that we do. When we come together, we have our own sound. We do a tour that is just a bunch of music, that you get from Philip, or you get from Andrew, or Mathew, or from Tom.
Eventually, this is a bigger dream of mine, but I know will happen someday. We will have our own music café. Maybe that starts as a food cart, and we’re playing music. But I really like the idea,
I have a lot of ideas. I think down the road, I want to be a film composer, whoever that looks. I want to create music video ads, like trailer music but for products, for diﬀerent companies. Trailer music is another passion of mine. I want to create music video TV shows, like musicals, but they are more TV shows, but done in a diﬀerent way, so it’s more like artistic music video style, but in episodes. I want to help people share their stories in a creative way. I don’t know how that goes, but I know that TV, film is a passion of mine, that’s why I went to school for music composition. That’s the big dream.