Note: This blog post appeared on-line Dec 4th in advance of Phillip Phillips appearance at UC San Diego the next night. Later this week we will offer you a review of that concert and what you might expect Friday (Dec. 12th) night at the Wells Fargo Center… For the article by Dan Taylor that will run in the Press Democrat on Dec. 12, click here.
By Bill Pinella
Six weeks ago Phillip Phillips stood on the baseball field at Kaufman Stadium in Kansas City to belt out the national anthem prior to Game 2 of the World Series. Was he nervous?
After all it was his second World Series performance. “I thought the second time would be a little easier, but it was harder,” Phillips said recently in a phone interview from Savannah, Ga. where he is in the middle of his second nationwide tour.
“Some people who sing the anthem write the lyrics on their hand to settle them down so they don’t mess it up. But I always tell them, ‘Hey, you get up there is front of 60,000 people and millions of people watching on TV. It is terrifying. Makes you want to puke.’”
Center stage and Phillips, who will bring his touring band to UCSD’s RIMAC Center on Dec. 5, are still an oil-and-vinegar mix. “Recording and playing live are completely different,” Phillips said. “Recording is fun when you aren’t pressured. But playin’ live – I’m so scared to death when I’m up on stage. But it’s also the only place I can feel free as well. You just never know. The crowd might not be into it as much as I want them to be or they are just so into it. It’s insane. Either way, when I get the band to start jamming into something new that’s what’s so fun about playin’ live. Yeah, it’s a different show every time so you never know how it’s gonna be.”
Just like he never knew what was going to happen on May 23, 2012 when he took the American Idol stage for the final time with Chula Vista’s Jessica Sanchez. At that moment Idol Host Ryan Seacrest announced Phillips, whose musical style is described simply as rock or folk-rock, as the next Idol winner, and …
“It was all a weird moment for me,” Phillips said, “cause I don’t like being the center of attention. I started cryin’. I wanted to go back stage and get out of there. I was just thinkin’, ‘What the heck is goin’ on right now? “It was very strange for me. I don’t have confidence like that man.”
And the show itself. Had he watched it before he auditioned in Savannah, Ga. in 2011?
“No, never did see it.”
Has he communicated with Sanchez or any of the other Top 10 finalists, six of whom received recording deals, since that day? “Not really, man,” he admitted. “They send out mass texts to me once in awhile and I just say, ‘Hey.’ We are all so busy man.”
And has he become a fan of the show since then? Has he watched it in the ensuing seasons? “No, no I don’t watch it,” he said. “Never really watched it. The whole thing was all very weird to me.”
Did he deem winning Idol a necessity to his musical success? “Well, it helped build my career. I just wanted to get out of it because I was sick. (he had a kidney ailment and came close to abandoning the show). But I’m glad I stuck it out. You have to prove to people that you really are a good artist and I’ve been working hard to do that with the first album (The World From The Side of The Moon) and now this one (Behind the Light, released in May this year).
That initial album was anchored by his Idol coronation song – “Home” – which became the best-selling Idol finale song ever with sales reaching 5 million and helped to earn him, according to Forbes magazine, $5 million in 2013 which tied Phillips and San Diego’s Adam Lambert for third place in earnings among former Idol winners behind Carrie Underwood ($31 million) and Kelly Clarkson ($7 million).
“Home was released right after Idol,” Phillips, 24, explained. ‘That song was written (by Drew Pearson and Greg Holden) a year before the show and win or lose it was going to be released right after Idol. Either way I don’t think I had much of a choice. I don’t think anybody knew that that song was going to blow up like it did, everyone was surprised. It was strange that it went to No. 1. Will I top that one? I am hoping for the best. All I can do is write and sing from my heart that’s what makes it real.”
Now it’s on to record No. 2 and nationwide tour No. 2 with 2 million albums and 9 million singles sold for the 24-year old.
“The new record – It was a lot of fun. Special recording process. Has that live feel to it. It is so much better than the first record. You have to work hard to show people who you are as an artist. Even if they don’t know the songs that well, you can see people getting into it. You know it might be like an old man sittin’ down and all of a sudden he’ll stand up and start boppin’ his head or a woman with her boyfriend and all of sudden he’ll start getting it. It just has a live feel and I’m really proud of it.”
When told that Paul McCartney and Tom Petty had played in San Diego recently, Phillips could only said, “Well, I’m on the the bottom of that totem pole but I’ll do my best.”