TikTok superstar Powfu dives deep into insecurity, instant fame, and inspiration
“My dad was in a band,” Powfu says, fondly. “He’s helped me a lot here.” The Canadian 24-year-old has racked up an unfathomable 1.5billion Spotify streams on his song Death Bed (coffee for your head) after exploding to fame via social media platform, TikTok. He’s now gearing up to release his second album, Gathered by the Lantern, as well as jet off on his first ever European tour. But in order to get to these lofty heights, it turns out Powfu, real name Isaiah Faber, learned a lot from his father’s punk-rock band as a child.
“He was in the music industry for many years,” he explains, “So I feel like he learned a lot through his experiences that he’s able to pass down to me.” Powfu seems hugely grateful for his dad’s wisdom and experience as he speaks to me from his Los Angeles hotel room. “He was always in the studio that he built just writing songs with everybody and practicing with his band all the time,” Powfu continues. “That was quite inspiring for me, and it’s why I’m always writing as much as I can,” he explains.
It’s not just Powfu’s father that inspired his music career though, as he explains that there are several collaborations on Gathered by the Lantern that include old friends, and musical inspirations from his very early career. Powfu was only 21 when Death Bed shot to success, but he’s never forgotten his roots. “The same guy that showed me what SoundCloud was in high school, his name’s Cody Lawless, he’s actually on the second song on the album” Powfu smiles. “It’s really exciting because we made that song like two years ago, and we’ve been trying to release it ever since, but things weren’t lining up. It’s awesome that it’s finally coming – I’m super excited,” he gushes.
Another guest appearance on the album comes in the form of Skinny Atlas, who produces lofi beats. “I met him six years ago, he was one of the first guys I met in music,” Powfu explains. “He’s just cool!” Despite being just 24, Powfu has been involved in music for most of his life. “I grew up making music and in grade 12 [age 17] I found out about SoundCloud,” he tells me. “I just started fiddling around on GarageBand and trying to make my own songs, and I ended up having a lot of fun,” he says. It’s clear Powfu never took this as anything other than a hobby he enjoyed, but that soon changed.
“I was working part-time jobs at the same time and then slowly but surely I started getting fans and stuff online.” He’s modest, but what he says next surprises me. “I was really embarrassed. I didn’t want anybody in my real life to know about it,” he says, “I was pretty insecure.” When I ask Powfu where this insecurity comes from, he hesitates. “I wasn’t sure if my music was good,” he clarifies, “I enjoyed what I was making but it was quite different at the time – it was sad boy stuff.” It’s true that Powfu’s material has a mellow undertone, with deep lyrical themes and a heavy lofi influence. “Lofi hip-hop beats weren’t popular back then, so I just thought people would make fun of me,” he continues, “I just kept it to myself.”
When his SoundCloud started ramping up though, he thrived on the engagement from new fans and watching the numbers soar. “It encouraged me to do it even more, and then slowly but surely it got bigger and bigger,” he explains. Powfu didn’t quite believe it would last to begin with though, but that changed when he spotted his own music had been uploaded to a promotion channel on YouTube. “I remember that was the first time I saw the views were getting thousands more by the day,” he recalls, “I think a couple of days later I heard about TikTok and I hit the audio on there and just saw thousands of videos made with it.” He’s referring to Death Bed, which has almost four million videos using it as audio on the social media platform. “I was like, ‘Woah, this is crazy’ and that’s when I realised this could be really big”.
When Powfu first began rising to success, by his own admission he didn’t have much life experience to draw from. “I was watching a lot of romantic movies,” he explains, “I didn’t have any experience with it myself then, so I was watching a lot, and drawing from that”. That’s all changed now though, as the happily married Canadian has been spending a lot of time with his wife, experiencing life. “We just moved into our first home together, and travelled to Mexico together,” he tells us. “I’ve been inspired by a lot of different things [on Gathered by the Lantern], yeah,” he takes a brief pause before concluding, “Like life.”
Despite signing to a label almost immediately after his music began taking off, Powfu is now going independent. “I’ve been trying for a while now,” he says, “I’m able to do whatever I want now, which is very cool.” When we ask what he might do, now that he can do anything he wants, he excitedly tells us, “I’ve had this crazy idea. I want to release a song every week for a whole year. 52 singles back to back.” It’s certainly a gargantuan goal to aspire to, but as he explained, he’s clearly inherited his dad’s love of hard work. “It’ll be a cool experiment,” he continues, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody do it.”
This goal isn’t the only thing Powfu is excited about in his career’s future though. “I’m super excited because I’ve never been to Europe before,” he grins, talking about his upcoming tour which features a sold-out show in London. “It’ll be super cool to be able to drive through it all and see the sights and try the food and speak to the people,” he elaborates, “I’m excited for every single part of it”. And from the looks of his streaming statistics, Europe is just as excited to welcome him.
Gathered by the Lantern is out October 6, 2023
The supporting tour has a handful of tickets remaining, available here.