Through the Fire and From the Ashes: The Phenix Story
On many weekends, I drive for UBER.
I have spent countless hours navigating the traffic on Broadway between 1st and 6th avenue, or the “belly of the beast” as I like to call it. You know those bachelorette parties, right? The ones who are turned up to eleven and setting the pedal taverns ablaze all night with their Shania Twain belting shenanigans?
Well, eventually those parties need a ride back to their Airbnb, to recharge their batteries before they strengthen our tourist economy with their continued revelry and rituals on the next day. When they plug their iPhone into my car so they can hear their jam, what anthem are they belting out at 1am? I don’t know the exact title of the song, but it sounds like Phenix.
But more on that later.
Born in Madison, Wisconsin, the state capital, Paige Dahlen knew at a young age that she was destined to be up on that stage, singing her heart out. Her earliest memory is when she was watching “Star Search” with her family, back when she was 6 or 7. They were watching a preteen girl sing for the judges, which seemed to fill young Paige with as much anxiety as the girl singing on the show at that point.
Sitting on her mom’s lap, she looked up at her and told her she was, like that young girl, going to be on the television someday. She did what any child would do at such an impressionable age after seeing something she liked on the television - much like my daughter asking for a toy she just saw on a commercial, she begged her mother to go to auditions to be on Star Search.
Then her mom did what any parent would do while trying to unwind from a long day watching television with their children - much like when I tell my daughter that she doesn’t need another toy, she told her that they would try to get her an audition. Even at a young age, kids quickly learn that the word “try” is parent code for “no”, the type of dishonest no that is intended to avoid tantrums that follow the word “no” by giving kids hope instead of shutting them down right away.
Well, the tantrum wasn’t avoided, Paige simply ran into her room, turned on the radio, and sang at the top of her lungs for an audience of one, her dog, at the only venue she knew at the time, her house. The song? The Bellamy Brothers’ “Redneck Girl”, which she misinterpreted as “Redhead Girl.” We’ve all had songs we misheard the lyrics too, I used to sing “there’s a bathroom on the right” instead of “there’s a bad moon on the rise”, but I digress…
At this point in her life, young Paige Dahlen was aware of her powers, but she had yet to make the full transformation to the “Roxul Pop” artist now known as Phenix, much like a young Jean Grey who had just been accepted to the Charles Xavier school for the Gifted as one of the first members of the X-Men. C’mon, this article is about a red-haired singer who goes by Phenix, how can you NOT expect me to compare her to one of my favorite comic books I read while growing up in the fair city of Nashville? I am a diehard fan of the Chris Claremont/John Byrne Dark Phoenix saga, so I might just stop talking about Paige and dedicate the rest of my piece to Jean Grey’s cosmic transformation and the following epic stories involving the Shi’ar Empire, the Hellfire Club, and so forth…
I’m also pretty sure that Phenix herself might actually be okay with that.
When asked about Marvel’s merry mutants she confessed that she was a huge X-fan, especially of the movies. She loves the idea of fictitious characters having powers, seeing them as a metaphor for the creative powers wielded by artists and creators, or as she put it, “we each have our own unique magnification of “SELF” throughout our music and that is powerful.”
Jean Grey and Paige Dahlen were always powerful and strong in their own right before their transformation, but their abilities exploded when they each became an incarnation of a mythical creature representing reincarnation. Ms. Grey made the transformation in a moment of heroism during a crisis, when she saved her friends from dying in a shuttle crash from space to Earth, rising from the ashes strewn across the ocean bed to forever be known as the cosmic entity Phoenix.
When asked about her “Road to Damascus” moment, Paige mentioned that “there was a big changing point in my story where I truly had the ultimate feeling of being ‘reborn’ and with being reborn was given direction and I haven’t looked back since.” Moments such as these usually only come after grappling with demons, monsters, or whatever cute little name individuals like to call their personal struggles.
She was struggling with feelings of alienation, perhaps like she wouldn’t fit into the Nashville music scene, being overly critical of herself, her body image, even hating the sound of her own laughter. At a point where she was about to sink under the boulder of negative self-talk on her shoulder, she decided to push it off her back, where it sank into the ocean while she rose into the sky with wings formed of flame as the “Roxul Pop” entity known as PHENIX.
What is “Roxul Pop”?
Say it slower, and you start to see it as Rock Soul Pop. Phenix describes it as “A BLEND OF SOULFUL WARRIOR INFUSIONS, CATCHY POP MELODIES, AND GUTTY ROCK EDGES.” The “Phenix Sound” of “Roxul Pop” is a unique audio phenomenon that is created by Phenix and her producer Mike Ewing. The duo gets together on a weekly basis, catching up at the beginning of the day over coffee and tea.
After tea time, Phenix states that “he’ll start on the bare bones of a melody or rhythmic pattern and I’ll just start writing down what comes to my head first and then we build off of that together.” They will end up cutting a rough draft or even the final draft of the song that day, then they return to the hustle the next day, either polishing up the rough draft or moving on to the next hit.
Ewing seems to be her own personal Charles Xavier, a musical partner who helps her take her “mutant powers”, aka her feelings that she needs to express and turn them into songs ready to perform at the Exit/In, her favorite venue in Nashville due to its “powerful respectable vibe” and “the way the room fills up” with its unique aura and wonderful sound system.
One of these songs is the 2016 single “Classick,” a song that seems to be telling short anecdotes about the men in clubs who hit or miss while trying to become the Scott Summers to Phenix’s Jean Grey. They try, but they end up being a “washed up Rico Suave with a weak flow.” The stories are accompanied by a slippery electric piano melody, warbly bass line and solid drum beat, creating a musical experience that might be tragic for the men in the story but not the listener.
Every Phoenix needs a Cyclops, though, right?
Someone to love and help them stay grounded when things get rough, someone to help turn them back to good when they’ve been manipulated to transform into the evil Dark Phoenix by Mastermind, aka Jason Wyngarde of the Hellfire Club. For as the mythical being is capable of creation, she can also be capable of causing untold destruction.
Thin line between love and hate, right?
One of Phenix’s suitors with the potential to be a Cyclops in this extended metaphor, though not in real life probably because I don’t know these people, would be well known rapper Maserati Rome. Phenix and Rome collaborated on “Ride” last year, which was declared to be one of the songs of the summer.
After listening to it multiple times I can concur, because the hook is stuck in my head during all random times of the day, including 3 am when I wake up. I tried to trip up Phenix with something weird I noticed in the video, though, the fact that Phenix shows up to the video’s first scene in a car and Maserati arrives in a plane. Why is the rapper named after a car on a vehicle with wings and an artist branded with fiery wings trapped on planet earth in a set of wheels?
“You know what - because all my Winged Beast friends were on vacation somewhere tropical at the time AND the Maserati wasn’t available for the shoot day… so let’s just be honest, it would have been unethical and against ALL MORAL CODES to make Romeo sit in that Ferrari.”
She also admitted that “I really wanted to drive it like full throttle, so I took a couple laps around the runway.” Kudos to Phenix and her quick witted response to my critiques, she definitely is dedicated to her craft as a “Theatrical Artist” with that “winged beast” comment. Rather Harry Potter of her, which would explain the “muggle” reference in her recent 2018 hit “Dinosaur,” one of Phenix’s most impressive hits to date, musically and lyrically.
On a side note, I am tremendously happy that there is an artist out there named Maserati Rome. It makes me wish that he would start a rap super group themed after cars and famous locations, an “International Justice League of Cars” of sorts. Maserati Rome would be the leader, other members would be called Bugatti Paris, Cadillac London, Larry Lexus, BM DubZ, Molly Mercedes, and Rolls Royce Da 5’9”. Wouldn’t that be dope? I’d listen to their debut album, to be called “Sittin on Chrome, Spittin Fire and Foam.”
On another side note, while I’m typing this at Starbucks like a dedicated hipster, I have been joined by a wedding shower planning party at my table. They are all really dedicated friends, this woman is really going to enjoy everything! Fun fact: if Phenix was getting married today, the song that would play during their first dance as a couple would be the 1979 Bette Midler tune “The Rose.” Her mom is also a fan of the song.
When you watch her videos, you can see a small phrase tattooed on her inner arm. She showed me the ink up close, and it says:
“In this sweet madness
Oh in this glorious sadness
Is where we truly find ourselves
And the possibilities become endless”
I can’t think of a better way to explain the mission statement behind her songs than that brief phrase. The Phoenix is a legendary bird of creation through fire, of death and the rebirth that follows from that transitory phase in one’s life.
Her music is about empowerment through vulnerability, about finding that inner strength while embracing your weaknesses. Hers is a story of changing your self perception, about digging deep and changing your narrative about yourself from a tragedy into a heroic epic overcoming of the forces of darkness that threaten you inside and out.
Phenix is a mental movement, about taking lemons and turning them into birds with fiery wings who create songs about triumph over sadness. Describing herself as a writer foremost, her songs encourage her fans that she calls “Flames” to take the pen of creation and write their story as well, to become “Warriors” who don’t give up and take the easy route but fight to achieve their dreams and live their best life possible.
She has taken this beyond working the entertainment industry, having been recently chosen to be a PSA Ambassador to the Teens of America. She has teamed up with Sean Mulroney in The Obesity Revolution, to aid “in the fight against bullying, suicide, and teen obesity.” She is helping teenagers awaken their mind, body and spirit, touring and speaking across the country to students who need to hear her message of positivity and self-improvement.
Just one small spark can set a fire ablaze and bring great change to their environment, and Phenix sees her art as that spark, her aforementioned “Flame” fan base spreading the fire of positive change across the globe, encouraging us all to never be intimidated by our struggles but to see them as opportunities to become our own Phoenix. Her dedication to this mental battle is so deep that she wears war paint to fully focus her energies onstage as she wages full blown war against the oppressive forces of negativity.
When I asked her what life advice she would give my daughter who wants to be a singer in the industry she said “never let anyone overpower or control your artistic vision and integrity. Trust yourself first and foremost and ALWAYS pay attention to your gut. Surround yourself with people that can screen and protect you from the people out there that will try and take advantage of you, your career and your talent. It’s in your gut. Listen, listen, listen.”
Conversely, the worst piece of advice she’s ever heard or been told would be that you need to “play the game to win the game.” She sees that phrase as a piece of lure that is constantly tempting her to give in to the industry’s ideas and let them determine who she is and what her art is about. To essentially make the right moves and become the next prefabricated pop star designed to make money for men who could care less about artistic expression just isn’t who Phenix is as a human being.
Of course, this is Live Laugh Love Nashville, so I had to ask Phenix what her thoughts were about the “three magic words.”
Live/Laugh/Love: “They are the three things that will create a fulfilling life. You must at the core LOVE deeply and allow yourself to feel love and to be loved and feel the loss there of. That is where true sacrifice, euphoria, and heartbreak lie. There is the core to our being and that is where the lessons lie. You must LAUGH and CRY to release all the FEELINGS that fill you up, all the energy you need to filtrate out. And Ultimately you need to do life WITHOUT bounds or restrictions. Love wildly, laugh till your stomach hurts, cry until the shower runs out of hot water, and embrace life. Embrace the experience to its fullest.”
At the end of the day, our heroine wants her music to let you know “that it is okay to feel like you’re crazy, it is okay that you are going through it right now, it is okay that you feel naked, vulnerable, and a little afraid at times. It’s not going to be like this forever and YOU can and will overcome whatever you are facing. This whole physical experience that we are having is an intense roller coaster full of lessons and opportunities. Make that CHOICE to be a Warrior each and every day and fight for what you want and what you believe in and do not let anything succeed in tearing you down. YOU GOT THIS. Be You. Be Authentic. Be Outspoken.”
Be yourself and be happy.
You can learn more about Phenix, listen to her music and watch her videos at www.phenixred.com.
If you want to book Phenix for an event, email email@example.com
Social media, isn’t it great!
Written by Charles Bridgers IV for Live Laugh Love Nashville
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