Phillip Phillips Talks ‘Home,’ the ‘Moon,’ Southern Food + More
There’s no set formula for post-‘American Idol‘ success, but there are winners who go on to superstardom, and then there are those who fade into obscurity. It’s safe to say that Season 11 winner Phillip Phillips is on the right side of that equation, having achieved double platinum status with his coronation single ‘Home,’ which also struck a chord during the 2012 Summer Olympics.
His debut album, ‘The World From the Side of the Moon,’ had a strong chart showing, and the Georgia singer with the slow and sleepy Southern drawl is well on his way.
PopCrush spoke to Phillips, who is truly as nice as he seemed to be on TV, a week after the album’s release, and he opened up his songwriting, his health (kidney problems) and his future. The singer-songwriter has absolutely no airs about him, and his rocket ride to fame has not made him into something he’s not.
2012 was a banner year for Phillip Phillips. You won ‘American Idol’ amidst challenging circumstances with your health. Your first single went platinum…twice. You released an album where you wrote your own songs. Is your mind totally blown? Are you pinching yourself?
It’s been a crazy year, that’s for sure. But I made it through. I didn’t expect any of this to happen, from the Olympics using the song to commercials. Now that the album came out, people seem to like it. It’s just crazy how fast this year has been. I try to take it all in when I can, but it’s tough. I am thankful, though.
Back when ‘Idol’ was wrapping up, you had said in an interview that you were not sure you’d choose ‘Home’ as your first single. Has your mind changed about that, given the success it has achieved?
I always knew the song was great. I just wanted some kind of input musically, you know? But now that I have played it out more, I feel like I have made it my own. It’s been great. I am so thankful for what it’s done, not just for me, but for other people, too. That song has helped people, with those who are dealing with the effects of Hurricane Sandy and those who were competing in the Olympics.
Let’s talk about the Olympics! Did that make you feel any sort of pressure?
I actually thought it was really cool and amazing. I felt like it was an honor for them to choose the song. It caught me off guard, the fact that they wanted to use it. That is an honor. I remember getting on Twitter, at first, when people were saying they heard the song. Everything that has happened after that has just been a “wow” to me. The song was on all the time. I am so thankful for that.
Watch the Phillip Phillips ‘Home’ Video
Your health issues were well documented this year. How are you health-wise?
I am doing great. I am taking it easy, whenever that’s possible. Everything is good.
You really soldiered through it, often performing through pain.
It was tough, but I pushed through it. I have to say that I had great doctors.
You were also a bit of a heartthrob on the show. We still remember when Ryan Seacrest reacted “aggressively” to his girlfriend Julianne Hough saying “yummy” when you walked by! How do you deal with that aspect of fame?
I don’t pay attention to it. I am more about the music than anything else and I want people to connect with that. It’s music that helps me out therapeutically, and I believe that it will help other people. I don’t pay attention to that kind of stuff.
So, let’s talk about the album. When did you find the time to write songs?
Some of my songs were written before ‘Idol’ and some were written during, and then I wrote a few new ones after ‘Idol.’ The album represents me musically, since I wrote everything but two songs.
I had a great producer, who taught me a lot of things about the process of recording an album. He taught me about taking something out and putting something back in when creating a song, and I appreciate that. We did the record in three weeks from start to finish, and I will tell you that it was a crazy three weeks.
Three weeks? How did you manage to get it done in such a short span of time?
From cutting the guitars to mastering, we did it all in three weeks. It was unbelievable for all of us.
Did you hook up an IV of caffeine or coffee?
I drank a little bit. [laughs] I admit that it was tough at times, but we did it. We still can’t believe that we did it. When we listen to the album now, we have told each other that we don’t remember doing anything.
Some ‘Idols’ are huge — Carrie, Kelly, Scotty — and some peter out. You seem to be the former, not the latter. Why do you think the fans latched on to you?
I think they can sense that what I am doing has meaning. The songs were not thrown together to try and make an album. It all comes from my heart. Maybe people see that, that it’s real and they will find some way to connect to it.
In my opinion, it seems like music is taking a bit of a turn. Look at Mumford and Sons, and the Lumineers. It’s seems like people and music fans are enjoying the more artistic side of music, and that popular music is taking a turn and accepting that, so I appreciate that. People will enjoy my album if they feel like that.
What’s on the Phillip Phillips agenda for 2013?
Hopefully a lot of touring and playing out. I am a live guy, anyway. I’m looking forward to it.
Pick one song from the album and share a writing or recording story.
I can tell you a story about ‘Tell Me a Story.’ I wrote it after ‘Idol’ had ended. I had the music written during the show, but I had not written not any words.
I was in a hotel room one night and started writing lyrics. I wrote the first verse, and then the ending. Later on, I wrote the chorus. But for the life of me, I couldn’t write a second verse. A good friend helped out with second verse, and after that, I didn’t like the chorus anymore.
You’re a Southern gentlemen. What is your absolute favorite thing about the South?
The food. It might not be the best thing for you, but it’s one thing I enjoy.
Which is your favorite cuisine?
Oh, that’s hard. There are just too many. Chicken and dumplings, and chicken pot pie. I love chicken and anything to do with chicken. I love anything that’s homemade. Oh, and BBQ. And I love green beans. There is so much good food. I can go on and on and on.
You’re making us hungry. But we notice you did not mention any sweets or baked goods.
How did I forget something sweet?! I gotta go with pecan pie. That’s great, and so is the fresh apple pie.
When we first saw you on the show, and you said you’re name was Phillip Phillips, our first reaction was, ‘Come on! That’s not his real name.’ You get that a lot, right?
Oh my God, yes. I get it all the time. Sometimes I have to show my driver’s license to prove that it’s my name and the person asking will believe it then. Even when I am at the airport, people ask, ‘Is this your name?’ And I am like, ‘Yeah, dude. It’s a weird name, but oh well. It’s mine.’ I’ll tell you the one good thing. It was easy to write when I was learning how to write my name.
You went through the whole ‘American Idol’ rigmarole. Do you have any advice for Season 12 hopefuls?
Be yourself, and don’t be scared to do that. Don’t be scared to speak what’s on your mind, but be respectful. Don’t be afraid to show America who you are and the fact that you don’t have to change. If people, like you, then they like you. If they don’t, they don’t. Don’t be mad at people who don’t like you. Just be who are you. Be the artist that you want to be.
Listen to Phillip Phillips, ‘The World From the Side of the Moon’ Album Sampler