Ahead of his performance with B:Music’s Musical Meet Ups, rising Birmingham star Felix Shepherd talks X Factor, his journey of discovery and his plans for 2022.
We first spotted you on The X Factor in 2018 and when you wowed the judges and the crowd. What was that experience like?
The experience for me was something that honestly, I don’t regret doing. It was amazing, I met some awesome people, some of them I’m still friends with, and I really learned a lot about myself. It definitely helped with my self-confidence having to put myself out there in front of such a large audience. In terms of my career, it opened the door to networking, new people and opportunities; but for the most part it did was open my mind to pushing myself.
As a transgender performer, how do you bring your experiences to your music?
I think the best thing that I can do to bring my experience into my music is to just be honest. As cliched as it sounds, I think almost portraying that my life in many ways is not any different to a cis person’s life is super important. Aside from that, I also speak openly about things on my social media channels and don’t just focus solely on releasing music I feel that I have a voice and I want to use it for changing for good things.
Can you tell us more about that journey and finding the confidence to be yourself?
So, the journey was not a linear one as it’s not for most people, but it was a process of working out where I fit in and who I wanted to be. It all started around the age of 13 when I went to high school and I was at an all-girls school and that was a really difficult thing for me. At the time I couldn’t really work out why. I confided in a good friend and kind of expressed some feelings of being unsure about my identity in general. I ended up coming out as a lesbian until I got to college and developed an eating disorder. I actually missed the last year of college and that meant I had a lot of time to think and a lot of counselling that brought a lot to the surface, and it turned out that my eating disorder was a manifestation of me being trans. I didn’t know what transgender meant until I did some research. I didn’t know it was possible. I guess that’s brought me to where I am today, but I feel that my confidence came with time and the more honest you are with yourself, the more confident you can grow to be.
What will you be performing at Symphony Hall?
I’m definitely going to perform some of my own songs and possibly a couple of new ones that should be coming out next year. I’ll be doing some cheeky Christmas covers too and some things that everyone will know. I love to play things that people recognise as well because music is about spreading joy. We can all come together over common ground.
What does being a part of the B:Music’s Musical Meet Ups series mean to you?
I think just the fact that B:Music exists means a lot to me. I remember growing up and it was a lot harder for artists that were up-and-coming to have a space, voice or platform. The continued support of everything that I do, the opportunities that come my way, and B:Music believing in me and liking what I do means the world to me.
How does it feel to be performing in front of a live audience again?
Obviously it feels amazing. It’s a huge part of why I do what I do. I also really, really love connecting with people after you get off stage.
How has the pandemic affected your music making? Have you managed to continue writing and recording throughout?
I think I am probably slightly more fortunate in that the pandemic never really affected me because I carried on writing, recording and releasing music from home. I know others haven’t been so fortunate and there has been a lot of other things that have affected people through the pandemic like mental health and financial concerns, so I would consider myself to be very fortunate.
What are your plans for 2022?
My plans for 2022 are super simple. First off, I am currently recovering from surgery but after that, I have a load of music ready for release, shows to play and people to meet!
Felix Shepherd will be performing at the Symphony Hall’s Jennifer Blackwell Performance Space on Wednesday December 22 as part of Symphony Hall’s Musical Meet Ups series. This free music event is an initiative launched by B:Music and Midland Mencap to offer monthly performances for Birmingham’s unpaid family carers.