Deacon Phillippe is used to being in the press, but it wasn’t until this past summer that he first made his own headlines.
Deacon, the 17-year-old son of Ryan Phillippe and Reese Witherspoon, released his debut track, “Long Run,” in July, and the uplifting electronic love anthem — with a chorus built from expertly chopped vocal samples — quickly accumulated millions of plays, widespread media attention and, of course, big hype via his parents’ Instagrams. “It’s always a good feeling when you’re getting recognition for stuff that you do, especially on a creative level,” says the producer, whose goes by Deacon professionally. “I was glad people were seeing something I took part in. It was really significant.”
On Friday (Oct. 30), Deacon returned with his second single, “Love For the Summer.” Written by Kelsea Ballerini and featuring vocalist (and TikTok star) Loren Gray, on the song pairs oversized and brightly spacious EDM with a country vibe that Deacon says is the product of both his love for country music and the fact that he splits his time between Los Angeles and Nashville.
“Love For the Summer” is out through RCA Records and Kygo’s Palm Tree Records label — which is, itself, a massive accomplishment, given that Deacon has taken great inspiration from the Norwegian producer. Kygo was in fact one of the first electronic artists Deacon got into after being exposed to the electronic genre via a former girlfriend. While he had previously only worked at producing hip-hop, he was soon watching YouTube tutorials on building the perfect drop.
Currently making music from a workstation in his mom’s basement, Deacon’s longterm goals are touring, festival plays and recording an album. Following “Love For the Summer,” he and his team are, he says, “going to get into motion” and release a bunch of tracks, with an LP to follow in 2021.
Here, Deacon talks about his music, his love of Johnny Cash and what Kygo DM’d him after his first song dropped.
You’ve gotten millions of streams on your first track, “Long Run.” Were you surprised by the response?
I mean, I was not expecting that stuff. I try to have low expectations but high goals for myself, and it exceeded all of that stuff. That’s really what made me feel so lucky. I definitely did not expect to get a good media response. I’m really happy with how it turned out.
Was there a particular piece of feedback that had special significance for you?
The fact that Kygo DM’d me about it and that I got to hear his compliments on the song. He’s a huge musical inspiration for me, so it just really came full-circle in a way, because he had helped me put out on the song on his label. To hear him say “congratulations” just made me feel like, “Wow, this is something that’s really going to start to get going for me.” It gave me a lot of motivation.
What exactly did he say?
He said “congratulations” and something along the lines of “it’s just the beginning,” and he put a palm tree emoji. [laughs]
What other producers have you’ve taken inspiration from?
I’m a person who listens to a bunch of different genres of music. I listen to hip-hop, mostly, but I also listen to classic rock, more upbeat rock, soul. I listen to Johnny Cash. I listen to country and pop. What I’ve tried to do in my production and brand is to incorporate the type of music that I listen to and the type of music that inspires me all into one. Two of my favorite artists are Johnny Cash and Kanye West, because Johnny Cash is a storyteller, and Kanye West is also a storyteller obviously, but I’m also really inspired by the way he thinks outside the box.
As far as production, as someone who really likes hip-hop, I want to incorporate that type of production into my songs, and I’d say one producer that really inspires me in that world is Nick Mira, a producer in Internet Money. In dance, I’d say definitely Marshmello and Kygo, who inspire me by producing in a way in which they get across their vision across while trying new things. Especially with Marshmello releasing hip-hop music, that’s really inspiring.
Obviously you’ve been in school as well, but has having downtime during quarantine helped you focus on music?
One hundred percent. I’ve been using this time to perfect my skills and work on mastering a lot of production stuff. I learned to DJ, which is quite a process, and I also started learning the ukulele, just things here and there. I’m also trying to think about where I want to go musically. It’s been a great time to experiment and cross genres, which is something I’m really passionate about. It’s honestly been great, and I’m really excited about how everything’s going to go when things to back to normal.
What festival would you most like to play?
Being someone who grew up in L.A., all the talk is about Coachella, and honestly I think that would be super cool, just because all of my friends love to go. I also really love to travel, and I know that dance music is something that’s really present in many parts of the world, so I can’t wait to play internationally as well.
You co-starred in the video for “Long Run” along with the song’s vocalist, Nina Nesbitt. What was it like to film it?
It was super fun. I really enjoyed it. Conor, the director, is an incredibly talented guy, and it was so much fun to work with him. It was a really small group of people we made the video with, and it was really special experience that I’ll never forget. I want to do more of that and see what I can come up with creatively.
You certainly have the acting chops to do videos.
It would be weird if I didn’t. [laughs]
What do your parents think of what you’re doing?
They’re so supportive, always. I couldn’t have a more supportive family. I’m just really lucky that they also inspire me creatively and help me with whatever they can. When I make songs, the first people I show them to are my mom, my dad, my brother and my sister.
Have they given you creative advice?
Yeah, on every song. It’s funny, because my studio is in my mom’s house, and a lot of the time it can get really loud. I’m sure they can hear it from upstairs, but they bear the sound annoyances, and they’ll still come down and tell me what they think of each song. My mom likes to tell me what her favorite song of mine is, and that’s really helpful, because she has good taste.