Tampa songwriter Shevonne Philidor on loving yourself, ‘American Idol’ and more

She opens for Ike Reilly in Ybor City on March 28.

Shevonne Philidor has had a lot of screentime in her life, and the Tampa Bay songwriter’s most recent brush with television found the 28-year-old impressing Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan enough to earn a golden ticket to Hollywood on the current season of American Idol. The appearance was Philidor’s second turn on Idol (she was on the show in 2016) and followed past appearances on other competitions like America’s Got Talent. Philidor — who is opening for Ike Reilly on March 28 in Ybor City — is also a much different person than she was when she first landed on the tube, and she’s better for it, too.

“I was young at the time, and all I was ever wanting to do was impress them. I was wanting to do what would put me to the next step,” Philidor told CL as she and her band prepped for a set at Suwannee Spring Reunion. In L.A., she wondered what judges wanted. She wondered what America wanted. And she wrung her hands over song choices. She ended up taking the advice of others instead of listening to her gut. But all the judges, or anyone for that matter, ever really wanted was for Philidor to be herself.

“I feel like you start learning those things as you grow older and keep getting involved. You learn to love yourself more and say, ‘This is what I really want, so I need to learn how to be the best me I can be,’” she said. “At this point I am feeling more like myself than ever… following your gut feeling and being you is where the magic is at.”

It wasn’t always that way, though.

Philidor was born into a military family in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1990 and started singing five years later. She’s lived in Maine, North Carolina and even spent two years in Italy before her family moved in Tampa in 1999. That’s when she joined the Entertainment Revue arts organization before landing at Progress Village Middle Magnet School and then Blake High School, where she won a NFAA National Scholarship in musical theatre. Philidor’s mother — a businesswoman with a strong marketing background — has been a constant presence in her life; she’s almost never missed a show and sells merch at her daughter’s concerts while also providing support on the business side of being an artist.

“We clash a little because I don’t like thinking about music as business,” Philidor explained, “but you have to.”

What you don’t necessarily have to do is spill your innermost insecurities into your lyrics, but Philidor does that, too. The best example of it is on “If You Dare (Come Along)” from her self-titled, self-produced debut LP, Shevizzle. The record is sprinkled with self-doubt. A defiant streak also shows through on the song in which Philidor challenges detractors to partake in the perilous journey she seems to be preparing herself for.

“It sounds like I’m talking to everyone around me, but really I’m talking about myself,” Philidor said. She explained that her father was never in her life and that she’s never really liked rejection. At times, she’s had to fight off the urge to compare herself, and the arc of her career, to others.

“It’s so easy to do when you feel like, ‘Man, I would like this opportunity, or that one,’” she said. “You have to take a step back and realize that it’s not about what they’re doing. It’s about what you have to do to be the best you.”

And as Tampa Bay approaches a run of Pride-related events, that sentiment comes off as something that Philidor would have benefited from knowing when she was a kid. Sexuality isn’t something she harps about, and it’s not a theme that explicitly drives her music, but Philidor admits that it’s played a role in some of the subject matter in her songs. Growing up and realizing that she wasn’t like the other kids was tough, especially in the ‘90s when attitudes were different.

“I’m a kid, and I don’t want to tell anyone, like, ‘I’m weird,’ you know? That whole thing,” she said. Coming out to her mom was hard and played right into Philidor’s fear of rejection. “I never wanted to let her down. I never wanted anyone to not like me. Growing up, with always moving around, parents separated — there’s a lot going on there when you’re a child.”

But mom embraced her, and so has a Bay area community that includes bands like jazz collective Garden Club, DJ Betty Dawl and poet Novacane. Philidor has called the Flow Sisters (aka Alexa and Bella Toro) her best friends.

“It’s amazing to be able to surround myself with other people out here making what they want to make and having people love them for it” Philidor said. “It’s beautiful that we are able to have that opportunity in the city.”

Philidor has a new EP in the works, and its lead single, “I Love Myself” is an extension of those good vibes.

“It’s not about making yourself look cool on the internet,” she said, adding that there’s a lot that we don’t know about each others’ daily struggles. “You gotta love yourself first, and that’s most important. I still don’t fully love myself all the way — it’s hard — but giving yourself love each and every day is important.”

Golden advice, and you don’t have to punch a ticket to take it.

Ike Reilly w/Shevonne Philidor. Thurs., March 28, 8 p.m. $20. The Attic at Rock Brothers Brewing, 1510 E. 8th Ave., Ybor City. wmnf.org.

Follow @CL_music on Twitter to get the most up-to-date music news. Subscribe to our newsletter, too. Read a full Q&A with Philildor here.

About The Author

Ray Roa

Read his 2016 intro letter and disclosures from 2022 and 2021. Ray Roa started freelancing for Creative Loafing Tampa in January 2011 and was hired as music editor in August 2016. He became Editor-In-Chief in August 2019. Past work can be seen at Suburban Apologist, Tampa Bay Times, Consequence of Sound and The...
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