Sebastian Mikael Talks New EP ‘PHILEO’ And Finding Freedom In Creativity

Sebastian Mikael is no stranger to the music industry. Having first broken into the industry in 2013, his early tracks include ‘Beautiful Life’ and ‘Last Night.’ However, after having a poor experience with overbearing labels, Mikael returned in 2018 with his EP ‘I C U U C ME Pt. I’, with part two dropping the following year. From ‘I C U U C ME Pt. II, Mikael’s song ‘Time’ gained much attention, earning over 8M views on YouTube. It was later remixed to feature well-known rapper Kirby. A more recent release, ‘Exit’ also turned many heads and landed a feature on Issa Rae’s HBO series, Rap Sh!t.

Mikael’s upcoming EP ‘PHILEO’ marks a new sense of freedom that he feels, having taken more control over his music and his career. Mikael also reflects on his personal life, referencing the love felt between close friends in the EP’s title. In naming his EP’ PHILEO’, Mikael outlines the value of a true emotional investment in life and all relationships, even outside the romantic world. He remarks on the important role love plays in the foundation of daily life, a truth too many fail to recognize.

‘PHILEO’ takes advantage of modern techniques in the music production world to achieve a rich depth of sound while reinventing nostalgic elements of past classics. ‘PHILEO’ will leave listeners reminiscing about the early days of R&B yet will surprise with the unique sense of style and groove that Mikael demonstrates on the record. Mikael accessorizes the EP with elements of soul, such as warm, retro guitar riffs that are rounded out with carefully stacked layers of synth and percussion.

The first single from the EP “Overgold” dropped on September 9th. The single grants listeners a taste of what’s to come when listening to the full six-track EP, keeping fans on the edge of their seats for the EP’s release.

We caught up with Sebastian Mikael to learn more about ‘PHILEO’ and his creative journey.

Photography by Tanima Mehrotra.
Photography by Tanima Mehrotra.

You’re an excessively skilled and creative person who takes part in many creative outlets, from music to art to fashion. What first inspired you to pursue music specifically? Thank you. It was always out of curiosity just trying to figure out how to make music because I knew I wanted to be a part of creating it rather than just listening to it. Pharrell was somebody I can remember inspiring me to pursue music. Being into different types of music, art and skateboarding, I just really identified with him. Most black and brown kids I grew up with weren’t into the same things as me. I felt like he spoke to me by just being himself, which gave me a sense of pride in being who I am and made me believe that it was possible for me to also get to that level. 


What musical inspirations have drawn you to creating what has been noted as a “retro” and 90’s-oriented sound in your more recent releases, i.e., “Time” and “Exit”? It’s all inspired by my childhood – everything from Sade, Erykah Badu, Prince, Jodeci, etc. I was also a fan of the 90’s Bad Boy era with artists like Faith Evans. 


If you were to choose a color to represent PHILEO visually, what color would you choose and why? Blue, because it represents freedom to me, or escapism. Blue is the color I chose for this EP as well. I think love represents freedom and perfect love pushes out fear which leads to freedom. 


What did your creative process look like overall from start to finish when working on this album? I knew aesthetically where I wanted to take it. I drew inspiration from my favorite movies, in this case “The 5th Element” and “Blade Runner” and I would have “Empire Strikes Back” (Star Wars) on while creating the vocals. I had all my vocals finished first and we pretty much built the production around the vocals. 


PHILEO is an emotionally charged work, highlighting the importance of love and connection between friends. How has creating PHILEO affected your relationship with your own emotions? It was therapeutic for me to make PHILEO. It was freeing for me to unpack what was on my heart and mind, pour it into this EP and just simply get it off my chest and while sharing my point of view.  


How does this album reflect the shift you have undergone since your first introduction into the music industry back in the early 2010’s? Simply put – it’s just a continuation of what I started w/ ICUUCME back in 2018. 


You have mentioned that you were unhappy with your earlier music that resulted from label interference which restricted your creative freedom as an artist. Would you say that the major change in your sound has resulted more from the change in your label, more from your own personal life experiences as time has passed, or somewhere in the middle? I would say somewhere in the middle. I always knew I had it in me, but I just didn’t know ME yet. Everything I went through shaped and propelled me to make that shift. I couldn’t afford therapy, so my music became that outlet for me, and I was creating the soundtracks to my life. It kept me level-headed, focused and away from toxic surroundings.

You’re also a skilled painter and visual artist. How involved are you in the visual accompaniments to your work, such as the music videos and album artwork? I’m very involved w/ the visuals and art works etc, it’s part of my creative process, it all goes hand and hand to me. I usually see visuals when I’m creating the music or even colors.

Does creating visual art differ in any way from the creative process you undergo when creating music? I approach creating visual art the same way I approach music. It’s a feeling to me there’s no right or wrong or when you’re supposed to be finished, the feeling will let you know.

You are also involved in the world of fashion as well. What about clothes and style speaks to you in a different way than music/painting? It’s all part of the same creative process to me. Style and individuality is another form of self-expression, the same way music is. It was never about fashion to me, it’s about being yourself and celebrating that, it’s about creativity and when you express what’s on the inside that inspires others to express who they are as well. Exactly how music is.

The definition of ‘Contrast’ is to be strikingly different. What makes you strikingly different? I love contrast in art, that’s like everything to me. I think it stems from me being bi-racial and growing up with two different cultures, you’re automatically different. When it comes to my art I think it reflects that, who I am is unorthodox so what I create also feels non-traditional. For example, if something is beautiful like the chords in a song or how something was filmed, I need something dark or hard to contrast that.

Stream ‘PHILEO’ wherever you listen to music, and stay up to date on all things Sebastian Mikael by following his Instagram @TheloniousFXnk.


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