Idol Chatter

Idol Chatter

American Idol-winning singer-songwriter Phillip Phillips discusses platinum-selling albums, touring and an evolving sound in anticipation of his performance at RIMAC this weekend.

Courtesy of Universal Music
Courtesy of Universal Music

Back in 2012, a Georgia native with the catchy moniker captivated American Idol judges and national audiences with soulful, raspy vocals. Naturally, the impressive amount of success Phillip Phillips attained following his Season 11 victory came as no surprise. Phillips’ 2012 debut album, “The World from the Side of the Moon,” topped the Billboard Rock Album chart with the delivery of an organic rock that his recently released sophomore album, “Behind the Light,” develops even further. Equipped with the rich sound of a full band, Phillips has embarked on a headlining North American tour set to stop at UCSD’s RIMAC Arena on Dec. 5. Between shows, Phillips spoke to the UCSD Guardian about his songwriting process, playing live and time spent on the road. 

Guardian: You’ve set off on quite an extensive tour, playing in some pretty large venues. But before your success following American Idol, you played some very intimate shows with a small band. Are there times you miss playing to smaller audiences or do you prefer the consistent excitement of playing larger shows?

Phillip Phillips: Yeah, I want to do a tour at some point where it’s just me, my friend that plays the cello and the guitar player — as a little trio — and just play smaller venues like that. But it’s also fun playing the big ones as well because it’s clearly different than breaking it down acoustically and playing with a full band. You get to have fun and you get all these different personalities music-wise … I have an incredible band and it’s just an honor to play with them and share my music with them and have them share that with me as well.

G: You’re getting to stop off in a great deal of cities on this tour. Based on all the shows you’ve performed — before this tour and including it — is there any one place that’s stood out to you as a favorite place to play?

PP: My favorite place I think I’ve ever played was definitely in South America. I did a rundown there with John Mayer and it was just incredible, and the passion down there from the fans was awesome. We played two shows in Argentina and we played in Brazil — one in Sao Paulo and one in Rio … I thought I was going to be the opener. But when I started playing the songs, the crowds were singing every word to every song and it was just unbelievable!

G: What can you say has been your greatest accomplishment following your Idol victory?

PP: I had an album that went over platinum and for me, that was just unbelievable. I’m so proud of that. Just this new album — I’m so proud of it as well. It’s so real and organic and it’s not like what a lot of artists put out these days where it’s just a loop and a drum beat with a catchy hook in it. It’s actual musicians playing music, and it’s real and there’s no fakeness about it. It’s real music.

G: You’ve written or at least co-written every track on “Behind the Light.” As a songwriter, is there any particular creative process you go through when writing a song?

PP: When I’m writing a song by myself … it’s completely different than with something I co-write. It’s a little more personal. They’re all personal, but it’s always different. With some people, when you co-write it might be a little tougher for them to understand where you’re coming from or it might be tougher for you to understand where they’re coming from. You’ve got to learn to meet in the middle. It’s kind of like a blind date in a way, but it’s always different and it’s always interesting.

G: You manage to convey an upbeat rock feeling and maintain a personal quality in each song that — like you said — is something lost on a lot of music today. But in spite of such achievements, you’ve managed to maintain a pretty humble and down-to-earth outlook. Do you ever feel like fame is affecting you or that you have to step away from it for a while?

PP: I don’t know — I’ve always just been myself. I’m myself when I go home, and when I’m on the road and onstage and on TV or whatever. You always have to be yourself. What’s the point in living two separate lives? I mean, everybody does live two separate lives in a way. But as a person, just be yourself. If you have to be somebody else just to make people like you, that’s a little strange.

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