Livin’ La Vida Lovi
On the heels of her success starring in Hindi Tayo Pwede (Once Before) – Netflix Philippines most-watched film of 2020, singer-cum-actress-cum-singer Lovi Poe is not only co-starring in the recently released films Malaya (streaming on Amazon Prime), Woke Up Like This, and the hotly anticipated rom-com The Annulment for Netflix PH; the Filipina starlet is simultaneously preparing for the release of her debut EP.
Such a tandem of triumphs might overwhelm many of her contemporaries, but Poe is gracefully poised for success, leveling the stoutness of her ambition with heart-on-her-sleeve humility. And while she is among the Philippines ’ most in demand on-screen talent, she darts through her marathon-like shooting schedule with irrepressible enthusiasm.
Poe hails from a legendary lineage; her father is Fernando Poe Jr., AKA “King of the Philippine Movies”. Notwithstanding, Lovi has trail-blazed a formidable trajectory of her own, having recently won Best Actress at the 10th International Film Festival Manhattan for her performance in 2019 film Latay, and is presently taping her new romantic-comedy series Owe My Love from GMA Public Affairs.
While 2020 may have felt like a whirlwind warping of space and time with each day resembling a global-scale wild card, Lovi harnessed such precarious moments to manifest her dreams of recording her first pop album. Within this impressive feat, she collaborated with Grammy award-winning producers Bob Robinson and Ømen (Drake, Beyonce, Action Bronson), alongside Kris KeyZ to create back-to-back head bobbing tracks that’ll have you humming the riffs long after the songs are over. Under, the album’s lead single – and the official launch of her career in the U.S. – is a slow tempo blend of slick synths and smooth vocals destined to ascend itself to the top of the pop charts. Already a household name in her native homeland, Lovi has her mind set on global expansion and shared these aspirations with 1883.
Congratulations on this EP endeavor! I listened to Under yesterday, and this morning I was already humming the hook. How involved were you with the song’s production?
It wasn’t really something that we talked about…When I first heard it, I was just like, “Wow, this sounds really good”. And of course, I would’ve loved to have the opportunity to sing this song. And the thing just started to flow – I was in L.A. at that time, and then we flew to New York…I guess I was just pretty much involved in the recording, and how I wanted it to sound. I worked with amazing producers, where I didn’t really have to make certain changes because they really had the perfect sound for it right from the beginning. There were just little changes in terms of the chorus, but it was just instant.
So your voice was really the singular touch that you gave to the production process. So how did you team up with the producers that you worked with – Bob Robinson and Omen? This is a Grammy award-winning team that has worked with Beyonce.
I guess I just got lucky— I was at the right place, at the right time…It all happened when I was spending half a year in L.A. just to take a break from work here in the Philippines. And then all of a sudden I met up with VIM Entertainment one evening, and then suddenly things started to flow, and then I met up with Bob… I mean, these things rarely happen, so I’m just glad that I was at the right place at the right time.
So was it just a chance meeting?
It was a chance meeting because I was just in L.A. for a very long vacation, taking a break from work here in the Philippines, and then I found myself finding work, doing something that I love to do – music…I started as a singer, and then eventually did more acting here in Manilla. And then suddenly, I found my way back to my first love in America…which was very unexpected, but definitely a dream come true.
Did all of this happen in 2020 during the pandemic, or was this prior to 2020?
It was before 2020. I’m just really glad that I was able to record before the pandemic, and really enjoy New York— probably one of my favorite cities…During the pandemic as well, I flew into L.A. to put some finishing touches for the album.
So you recorded everything in L.A.?
We recorded in New York, and eventually recorded a few songs in L.A., too.
So who are some of your musical influences whose sound inspired you to sing, or who inspire you when you’re singing?
I have a lot of favorite artists, but at the moment I’m just obsessed with Dua Lipa, Billie Eilish…I love Sabrina Claudio, Tom Misch…I’d love to collaborate with Tom Misch; his music is amazing. Carmody as well, who collaborates a lot with Tom Misch. There are too many to mention, it really depends on my mood. I do have different types of playlists.
What was the last song you downloaded?
Oh! Let me check… Jon McClaughlin, So Close. It’s from the movie Enchanted. I’ve always loved that song, but for some reason hadn’t downloaded it…until a few days ago.
I’m curious when it comes to your own music, do you find yourself singing the hooks when you’re walking around the house, or doing something not music-related?
Yes, and I think that that makes a lot of difference when it comes to choosing what song to release. In terms of Under, that’s probably one of the reasons why we decided it would be the perfect first song to release. When I first heard it, I couldn’t stop singing “Bop bop bop bah de yap” [riff to the song]…It has this good recall, so I felt like people could actually sing to it. We also have another song that we recorded when I was there [L.A.], less than a month ago…the song Candy, which is also something that I just couldn’t stop singing.
Is Candy uptempo, mid tempo?
Oooh. I’m excited to hear that…Well tell me this, in making the transition from acting to singing, was there any trepidation, or apprehension of switching over?
Well, I started as a singer here in the Philippines, but that was when I was a teenager. I always wanted to be a singer, more than I wanted to be an actress, but eventually, I got into acting and fell in love with it. And now it just goes hand in hand [singer and acting]…but I did spend more time acting…It’s kind of weird that I flew to L.A. to take a break from acting for a bit.
Wow – of all places, you went to the film capital of the world to take a break from acting?
What are the chances? I did take acting classes in L.A. while on a break, but it’s just like I wanted to take a break, but I want to learn at the same time so that when I came back to the Philippines, I did my homework somehow…And then things just suddenly happened; I met Erika [music production] who I knew for years already…and everything started connecting with VEM entertainment, and I started recording a song…It was weird because I took a break from work, and then found my way back to music…And yes, I did have my apprehensions; when I was recording in New York…sitting there in the studio recording with Omen, I felt the weirdest thing— I hadn’t been singing in a long time, and yes, this has always been my dream, and Omen is outside producing our song, and I was just like “Do I deserve this?”. And there were a lot of people who deserve this [opportunity] more than I do. And weirdly, that’s what was running through my head. And then the pandemic happened. And I asked myself, “Why are you thinking that you don’t deserve it? Why are you wasting opportunities?”. You’re here for a reason…It’s funny how this happened, and then it suddenly hits you in the head like, “You gotta wake up, girl!”.
“You gotta wake up, girl!” I like that. [Laughter].
Yeah…it’s a realization, like “Why are you thinking of all of these things when you’re sitting there and given the opportunity?”. The pandemic had to happen for me to just snap out of it, and not be afraid. Just be your fearless self, and now, here I am releasing a song…I’ve been acting for the longest time, and I did veer away from music, which is my first love. And now I’m back here again, doing it. It took the pandemic.
In December 2019, I read a post on Instagram that said “If you focus wholeheartedly for three solid months on what it is that you’d like to achieve, this focus will set you three years ahead into this trajectory“. It sounds like you did the focus work, and it yielded a great manifestation. It’s especially inspiring for creatives to hear.
Yeah…There’s moments where people believe in you, more than you believe in yourself. Of course, you have to be your own biggest fan, but sometimes…some days that’s not how it works. So you know, thank God for those people…I recorded music in L.A., and did my Under video music shoot. I took it one step at a time, and now here I am having an interview with you, which I’m so grateful for—
Which I’m so grateful for! I really dig your sound— it’s going to take off. The last time I felt this upon meeting an artist was when I met Chris Brown, months before his first single was released. When I heard Under, I had the same feeling again.
Thank you! Wow.
Speaking of Under, what’s the concept behind the song and the video?
It’s basically…a lot of us go through heartbreak and we find ways to divert our attention or make sure that we don’t go through the pain somehow; but going through the pain is a process that you can’t escape…There are different stages that you have to go through. It’s like ending a routine, or a habit that you’re used to, so you divert your attention and do something else…it’s about a diversion of getting over someone…The music video was shot in L.A. during the pandemic. The story is about I landed, back in L.A. and spent a lot of time mourning the relationship out of the country, and then coming back to L.A. and finding a way to spend more time with that person that I ended the relationship with, but realizing that that’s the end of it. That’s the story: even if you took a break from it and try to collect yourself…the fact that you left the country, the moment that you step foot again in the same place where he is…suddenly you’re sometimes back where you started, and you just have to go through the whole situation again.
Was this biographical at the time? Something you were experiencing while shooting the video or recording the song?
Not really in terms of love… when I recorded the song I was going through another situation of just trying to replenish my soul in terms of acting and my career. Actors pour a lot of their souls in their portrayals, and I felt that I had given so much of myself that I needed to take a break and so when I recorded the song, that’s how I related to it…and I was able to replenish my soul and get back to it, and get into the groove of it.
What do you see as your near future with acting projects? You’re about to release this album, and it’s going to take off. So where does acting fit into the trajectory for you…or is the focus on music?
I’ve always believed that you can do two things— when people say, “you can’t have it all”, I’ve always had this mindset that “yes, you can”. Things go hand in hand if you work really hard because you make life how you want it to be, not how it’s perceived to be. That’s always been my mindset…And I feel that you just have to work hard to attain what it is that you want to do…Acting and singing, you can always put them together…And the fact that I am able to represent my country and to be an inspiration to do whatever it is that you want to do and pursue your dreams…
What you’ve just said about things going hand in hand certainly was inspiring. We can have it all, if we design it the way. I like that approach.
How would you like people to walk away feeling when they hear your music?
There’s nothing like a song that you can relate to. There are certain songs when you hear them it’s like, “I’m going through the exact same thing. I cannot believe I did not write this song.”
That was me, when I hear Under.
And that’s exactly what I want people to feel…There are certain situations where that’s probably why we listen to music. Music pushes [amplifies] those feelings.
How are you feeling in this moment? You have a tremendous acting career – from the number one show on Netflix Philippines – and are about to release an album produced by Grammy award-winning writers and producers. What are you feeling right now?
Blessed. I feel really blessed and grateful. I’ve been really busy, and busy is always good. Even during the pandemic, I felt like I was productive, as well. There are so many things that I’m grateful for, and even the fact that I’m filming right now and I barely get enough sleep, I feel blessed that my problem is not getting enough sleep because I have so much to do. I feel motivated, more than ever. And inspired, more than ever. I’m grateful.
Check out the video for ‘Under’ below. Follow Lovi via @lovipoe
Interview Constance Victory
Photographer Lester Villarama
Stylist Nikko Panti @misterbaks
Hair and Make-up Artist Bong Buan
Top image credit