Phora is tired of overthinking. Three months after releasing With Love II — the long-anticipated follow-up to 2016’s With Love — the Anaheim artist dropped heartbreak hotel just in time for Valentine’s Day. The 7-song album consists of emotional ballads “where I embrace my pain, hurt, and experiences without any restrictions or holding back,” he wrote on Instagram. The 26-year-old is in tune with his emotions and being vulnerable has become a staple in his music as a result.
After a stint with Warner Bros. Records, Phora is back to being independent and releases under his Yours Truly imprint, which shares the same name as his widely successful clothing brand. He prefers it this way, saying it allows him to move and create on his own terms. heartbreak hotel is his proof.
We caught up with the artist to discuss heartbreak hotel, his return to independence and his tips for overcoming a heartbreak.
First off, happy drop day! How’re you feeling?
Thank you. I’m feeling great, I’m feeling accomplished. It’s #1 on iTunes so far, I know we still got a lot more work to do, the day is not over yet, but I’m feeling accomplished. I woke up and for the first time in a while I felt super proud of myself and stress-free so yeah, I’m happy.
Tell me about how the concept and title for heartbreak hotel came together.
In a nutshell, it’s just an album about being stuck in your thoughts. I ended up painting this picture of a hotel being a place in your mind where we all check into. Sometimes we go to that place for days or weeks, sometimes we’re stuck there for the month. But it’s like being trapped in that certain mindset when you’re going through something like a heartbreak. It’s really like a metaphorical album concept, but it’s really not that deep. It’s just a real down-tempo album.
You dropped With Love 2 back in November. Did you always have this idea to drop something for Valentine’s Day?
Nah, not really. I was working on this and I felt like the day fit so I made it so it came out [near] Valentine’s, but it wasn’t necessarily planned for that up until the project was almost finished.
On your Instagram you said that heartbreak hotel is an “album where I embrace my pain, hurt, and experiences without any restrictions or holding back.” It seems like your other music is sort of the same in that it’s very vulnerable and you being open. Tell me about how you think this project differs from your other projects in that sense.
I can tell you exactly how this project is different. With my other albums, I overthink for months and months and months. This project probably took me two weeks maybe, to put together. I make so many songs, I overthink: ‘this one’s too personal, this one’s too this, this one’s too that, this one’s not good enough.’
The difference with [heartbreak hotel] is, I just put the songs together. I kind of didn’t care so much about how long a song was or if the mix sounds right. I didn’t really ask for anyone’s opinion. This one I just kind of said ‘fuck it.’ I’m going to see what the reaction is of me putting out a project where I don’t overthink, where I don’t doubt myself or where I don’t sit on it for too long. I’m just going to create something and put it out there in its raw form. Apparently, everybody loves it.
I love it too, it’s great. Why did you choose “Loaded Gun” as your single?
I chose “Loaded Gun” as my single because I just felt like it was a different approach. It’s real acoustic-y, and I like it! I just wanted to do something different, especially with me dropping With Love 2 three, four months ago. I wanted the single to be something really out of the norm from what I’ve been doing, that’s all.
What’s your favorite song on this project and why?
My favorite song is probably “colorblind,” just ‘cause the hook’s so catchy. The verses are smooth, simple, the beat, just everything about it. That’s why I put it as the first track on the project too because it’s my favorite. It’s really the hook though!
You went back to being independent in 2019. What are some things you have been able to tap back into now that you have more control over your art?
First and foremost, if I was on a label, I would never have been able to release heartbreak hotel. Mark my words, I’m telling you that right now. There’s artists that wanna do shit to free their soul and free their spirit. This album, most importantly, was spiritually enlightening for me, and I just kinda needed to do it for myself and wanted to do it for myself. If I was on a label, they would not have let me do this shit! I know they would’ve said: ‘You’re gonna make an album with only sad songs?! You’re fucking crazy!’ I been on a label before, I know how it works.
Being independent, I can move the way I want, I can do whatever I want. If I want to drop another album in a month, I can do it if I want to. I still have my team and we move strategically, we don’t make stupid decisions, but I think it’s really just having that freedom. And to answer your question, this is one of the things I’m able to do, and I love it. I encourage all artists out there to seek independence and try to figure it out on their own ‘cause there’s millions of ways to do it on your own.
Let’s talk about love and some advice gems you may have for fans. What are your tips for those who are in long-distance relationships?
Look, the guy gotta buy a plane ticket. They gotta see each other [laughs]. And if it’s already like that, just keep it going. Figure something out, I don’t know. FaceTime! I’ve never been in one, but in my opinion, there has to be a physical connection. You can’t be in a relationship with someone and you only see them once every six months like, that has to change. Just being in physical form is such a different energy.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve done for a woman?
Oh, man. Give my time to her. That’s crazy! [laughs] I value my time over anything so I think just giving my time. I think everyone should feel that way.
Because it’s in the title of your album: what’s your advice for overcoming a heartbreak?
I’m gonna give you bullet points. A little bit of alcohol, not too much. When you drink, you gotta make sure you’re drinking around the right friends. You gotta play good music; not only sad music, not only happy music. Go through the motions. Go through the lit music and then go through the sad music. You can’t drown in your sadness, but you can’t run away from what’s going on. You gotta embrace it but still try to have a little bit of fun at the same time. It’s a balance, you know? Most importantly, embrace it. Know that there’s better things coming in the future and don’t run from it. Embrace that shit and get over it.
When it comes to self-love, what is your self-love or self-care routine?
I really don’t have a routine because I’m not perfect at it either. I still have a lot of flaws and doubts about myself and a lot of shit that I go through inside. I’m still trying to figure that out. It’s really all in the mind: the things you tell yourself, the energy you give yourself, the way you feel about yourself and the people you surround yourself with. I don’t know. If I had a routine, I think it’s just trying to tell myself positive things, even though that doesn’t work out all the time. You can train your mind to be negative or you can train your mind to be positive. Self-love starts with positively thinking about yourself.