Q: Okay, you must introduce yourself because after listening to “Proud,” many people are going to want to know who you are. So, please tell us, who is .Fen?
.FEN: I live in Brussels, Belgium. As a child, I was attracted by the music of Stevie Wonder and The Jacksons. In 2008, I released my first solo album “Pardonner” and in 2011 a second one “On A Besoin.” These two LP’s were mainly written in French. That same year, I was nominated for the “Octaves de la Musique.” The following year I’ve reached the final of the Euro Song Contest national qualification’s with my single “Yes I Know.” And I have recently (May 7,2021) released my new album “Life Is So Beautiful.”
While writing these songs during the first lockdown in 2020, I wanted to mix my favorite styles, funk and Motown. And to make it more “catchy,” I poured a pop sauce over it. I wanted positive texts with a colorful approach, the kind of feeling hard to find during the pandemic. The songs I wrote tell the beautiful things in life. To produce this album, I collaborated with Babl Lemmen, a great Belgian Director. The perfect guy for what I wanted to build with this new album.
Q: You should be proud (no pun intended) of yourself for this track! I know it’s a clichéd thing to say, especially as a music journalist, but “Proud” is timeless. My mind took me to Stevie Wonder and Maze as soon as I heard your song — “Proud” sounds like something I’d hear from them. I would love to know who your influences are because I thought contemporary soul/Funk would never be the same, but you proved me wrong.
.FEN: Firstly, thank you for the compliment! It is true that there are some Stevie Wonder influences in this song. Some drum phrases or the harmonica. But I wanted to add the codes of today from an arrangement point of view. I’ve heard and play all my favorite artists like Earth Wind & Fire. This group innovated in the Soul R&B style to be mixed with jazz influences, beautifully orchestrated brass. And of course, Michael Jackson probably influences me just as much as Stevie Wonder.
Q: The song would make a great addition to Father’s Day playlists because of the lyrics in the chorus, “You will be proud of me, oh my, dad, if you would only see.” Beautiful! What influenced you to write the words in this piece? What significance do they hold to you?
.FEN: When I’ve lost my father seven years ago, I was very affected as you can imagine. He was for me an example of courage and strength. I wanted to pay tribute to him by telling him that he will be proud of me — my father who instilled in me his values, which are very important to me.
Q: Would you say the songwriting process for “Proud” was easy or difficult?
.FEN: Writing for a loved ones and not falling into clichés is very complex. But in this case, it was very easy, a bit like I was guided — that’s what defines the whole album that was written, composed and arranged in just a few months.
Q: What have your learned from writing the song and what are you hoping people would take from it?
.FEN: As you said in another question, “Proud” was written to be a timeless song. But, who says timeless song, says timeless lyrics. I love to hear fans telling me that the lyrics speak to them and that they recognize a part of their life in my songs. A song that becomes a legend like Stevie Wonder’s “Sir Duke” is not an author’s calculation but it falls on the artist when he doesn’t expect it at all.
Q: “Proud” is a part of your “Life Is So Beautiful” album. What would you say is the album’s purpose and how does “Proud” contribute to that purpose?
.FEN: As I said before, while writing these songs during the first lockdown in 2020, I wanted to mix my favorite styles, funk and Motown. During the first lockdown, I’ve experienced something unique that allowed me to write and compose nonstop. Perhaps it was the fact that everything slowed down that caused this, or that it must have happened at this particular moment? My daily life in normal and busy circumstances does not allow me to live a moment as I lived during that period — I took the opportunity to write, write and write again. Inspiration came to me so naturally, even more at night during me dreaming, I woke up with full songs or part of it, and knew immediately what to do during the day with these melodies and lyrics. I could have called this album “lockdown songs” or “dreamed songs.”
“Proud” is in the tradition of the album but still different from the other songs. And to make sure the listener does not bother at any time. I put all my heart into it and it helps to let the listener know the influences that guided me to build this piece. The album is a whole which advocates the well-being and the contemplation of the world which surrounds us.
Interviewed by Taylor Berry