BWW Interview: AMERICAN IDOL Winner Phillip Phillips Chats About his IDOL Experiences and More
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by Kathy Strain
You worked at your father's pawn shop before Idol. How does everyone there feel about you winning American Idol?
I think they're all proud. My dad and his Friends told me that they couldn't really believe it. I played guitar in the shop sometimes whenever I wasn't busy and people would just come listen sometimes. I think they're all proud of me. That's where I got a lot of practicing in.
Tell us about your brother-in-law Ben. He was quite an influence in your life.
He started dating my Sister when I was about 12 or 13. I didn't really start paying attention to him until I was around 14. I would see him like once a month or once every couple of months. He'd play guitar when he'd come over and I was like, "Wow, you know, that's really amazing." And I wanted to start playing. I got a guitar and he taught me a few of the chords and kinda went from there. I taught myself using this karaoke Machine and I had CD's or cassette tapes and I would play it back. I would show him and he would tell me, "Oh, you got this right but this is wrong." He would tell me right from wrong. He's the biggest inspiration playing the music.
And your sisters too.
Both my sisters sing. My whole family sings and plays some kind of instrument. Both of my sisters started playing way earlier then I started singing. I didn't start singing until I was about 18. They started singing a lot younger. They have a lot better voices than I do. They will always tell me whenever I sound bad or not. It's good to have them there.
American Idol, what an achievement. Tell us a little about that journey.
Idol was definitely a tough journey. It's not as easy as it looks on TV. You have to definitely work for it. If you want it bad enough, you just have to put all your heart into it. You gotta make the right decisions and have fun. That's my biggest thing and my family would tell me that as well. Just have fun. I never was a competitive person when I played baseball or anything. I was a little competitive. In music, it's very free. You are you doing something from a different musician all the time. I was never competitive throughout the show and I just wanted to have a good time. It's really nerve-wracking. You're putting yourself out there on such a big platform and people are going to judge you for it. It's going to be good and it's going to be bad. It's obviously a scary thing to do but it's a great experience. I'm thankful for that.
When you went into American Idol, did you have the attitude that you would win the whole thing or did you go in thinking, "What a great experience?"
I went in thinking I was going to get really bad feedback. It was kind of surprising to me. The only reason I really tried out was because Casey Abrams from Season 10, he's a very good jazz player, played stand-up base on the show. He brought something different so that gave me the idea to try-out. My friend at the time said, "You should just do it because the worst that could happen is that they'd say no." So, I just kinda did it.
What do you categorize your music as?
I don't know. I let people decide that for themselves now. I had this woman who has media training asking what my music was. I said, "I don't know." She looked at me like I was being a smart alec. I let her listen to it and she said it had a little bit of everything. There's folk, Americana, jazz, rock. So I don't know. I just let people choose for themselves.
Who are some of your musical influences?
A little bit of everybody. There's some country. I listen to some Hank Williams, Hank Williams, Jr. and Charlie Daniels. I got into AC/DC, a lot of 70's, you know, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn and then some Tool, Dave Matthews, John Butler, Damien Rice. The list just goes on and on.
Tell us about your new album. I love how the new album is very much you and your guitar. Tell us about that project.
We had to do it in such a short amount of time in like 3 weeks. Luckily I had all the songs written either before Idol or I wrote some during Idol. Some I did during the Idol tour. It was just a matter of time getting into the studio and getting it done. That's what we did and I'm very proud of the album, how it turned out. It all comes from my heart. I wrote everything but 2 songs. I'm proud of that and people seem to enjoy what I had to offer. It was a lot of fun making the album and it was very, very fast.
I read that you weren't really crazy about your single, "Home" when you first recorded it. You've changed your mind now?
It just felt like a cover. I didn't have any kind of relationship with the song, any connection. They just kinda threw it at me. It took me awhile to grow that connection with it. I always knew it was a really good song but I wanted to have that connection. It was something that could do something big. I always knew it was a really good song and I wanted to have that connection. Finally after playing it out loud so many times, I've made it more of my own and I've grown that connection with it.
Now all the touring and with Matchbox Twenty, how is that going?
It's going great. They are some really great guys. Rob Thomas, he's one of my heroes. He's one of my favorite singers. It's just an honor to be with them. It's kinda unreal for me to be opening up for them because I know a lot of their music. It's going really well. The crowds have been great. It's a really great experience.
What advice do you have for the current Idol contestants?
Be yourself, have a good time. Be humble about everything. That's what I would say.
Do you think the competition is getting tougher every year for American idol contestants?
I don't know. I never really watched the show. For me, my year was tough. I'm sure every year has been just as tough. The person in that position is getting judged and going out and doing the song right for live television. I think it's tough for each person. It just depends on what people are looking for.
Do you plan to tune in this year?
I don't know. If I have time, I'll try. Last season was such a long experience and I don't know if I can watch it right now.
What's your future look like?
I'm hoping to keep touring and have more music out. Just to keep touring and creating a fan base.
What do you miss most about home when you are on the road all the time?
I miss the home cooked meals and seeing Friends and family. Sometimes it can get a little lonely. You build those friendships (on the road) and it's really amazing but you miss some of the people back home where you grew up and built so many memories. I miss those people at times.