Back when American Idol’s Season 11 premiered in January, there was one audition that stood out from all the rest in Savannah, Georgia. The last audition of the day was a young man in flip-flops named Phillip Phillips, Jr., and he belted “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder and then took to his guitar to sing a unique cover of “Thriller” by Michael Jackson, playing so passionately he even busted a string. Randy, Jennifer and Steven all sang his praises as Phillips sang his way to Hollywood Week.
Fast-forward four months later, and Phillip Phillips is Season 11’s American Idol. His individual, uncommon sound and his refusal to ever be anything but himself onstage won over the hearts of America as they voted him into the Top 13 and eventually as the 2012 American Idol. Below, Phillips talks about his musical influences and when we can expect his first album.
AG: Hi, how are you?
PP: I’m doin’ good, how ‘bout you?
AG: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me today, I know you must be really busy. You are officially Season 11’s American Idol! How are you feeling today?
PP: Oh, still insane. Still really can’t believe it, thank you.
AG: So how long have you watched the show and been a fan of the show, and how long had you been wanting to audition before this?
PP: Honestly, I didn’t really watch the show too much until last year. Casey was an amazing, amazing musician, still is. He really kind of made me even think about trying out, but then he brought something different to the table. I really respect the guy. I didn’t really want to audition, but my family just kind of said, “Just do it. The worst they can do is say no,” so I did it, and I can’t believe I even made it this far.
AG: When I spoke to Jimmy Iovine on Monday, he said that for a singer/songwriter like you to make it as far as the Top Two says a lot about the future of American Idol, so were you nervous about that going in seeing as how the last several winners have kind of had this sort of sound that’s just completely different from what you bring to the table?
PP: Um yeah, a little nervous, you know. There’s been a lot of sayin’ about that the past contestants have been, you know, guys who play guitars and stuff, but I don’t really play guitar like they do, you know? I don’t really strum chords too much. I like to do something different with a guitar, or try to anyway. I’m just different from them, and, you know, hopefully I may have, like, helped somebody else who wants to audition for the show like myself, you know?
AG: Yeah, for sure. Speaking of bringing something different to the table, your first single “Home” was great. It has this sort of Mumford & Sons/Arcade Fire sound to it, so is that what we can expect from your first album? And for all of your fans that are probably dying to know, when can we expect that album do you think?
PP: No, my album’s not going to be anything really like that. It’s a very good song, and the writer did a good job. I’m also ready to get, you know, something that’s really coming from my heart to share with the world. My album is going to be little of rock and jazz, and it’s going to be really fun. Hopefully people will enjoy it. It’s going to be some acoustic stuff as well, so I’m excited for it. I don’t know when it’s going to come out. Hopefully maybe by the end of the year or something.
AG: Perfect. That jazz sound, I couldn’t help but notice a lot of your covers or your takes on songs included that saxophone player. What inspired you to bring that into it?
PP: I just, I’ve always loved sax. I have a really good friend, his name’s Fred, who’s an amazing sax player, and I definitely want him to come with me on the road and really share his talent with the world as well, just making good music, just have fun. He plays beautifully.
AG: Who are your favorite singers or bands, and which ones have influenced your vibe and your sound most?
PP: Eric Clapton, Johnny Lang, Dave Matthews, Damien Rice, so many people. Tool, so many artists out there that have inspired me. Rob Thomas, he’s one of my favorites as well. They’re just real artists, you know? They’re not afraid to be themselves, and they don’t care if you like them or not. They’re just going to make their music no matter what.
AG: Speaking of being yourself, that reminds me of Tommy Hilfiger being on the show, trying to style everybody up. He even went so far as to say that grey is the worst color to wear onstage…and you ended up wearing grey that night. So what do you have to say about that, how Randy said, “Float, sink or swim, Phil Phillips will be Phil Phllips?”
PP: Yeah, you know, that’s the thing. I’m glad, hopefully I’ve helped some people out throughout the show, that you can be yourself. You can make it in this industry while not giving in to what people want you to be or want you to do, you know? You gotta give a little to get a little sometimes, but you can still be yourself and people will respect you for it.
AG: So what preconceptions did you have of the show before making it to Hollywood Week, and obviously all the way to the end, that have completely been discredited after your time on the show?
PP: You know, I just never thought I would even make it in front of the judges. When it got to Hollywood Week, there are so many talented people, and I honestly didn’t think I would make it as far as I did. Like I said, I’m still trying to wake up, realize what’s happening or what’s happened, because it’s still just unreal to me.
AG: Throughout the season, you’ve had some really incredible mentors, not to mention you had Randy, Steven, Jennifer and Jimmy Iovine giving you advice every week. That being said, which mentor or judge gave you the best advice, and what advice was that?
PP: Stevie Nicks, she was probably my favorite mentor. She was such a sweet woman, and she just told me she loved how I was being myself no matter what. She was glad to see I know what I want out of my music, and that she’s glad I know who I am as an artist.
AG: Going back to Hollywood Week, you made really good friends with Heejun Han. Now that you’re going to be going on tour with him, how excited are you about that?
PP: I’m really excited, you know, it’s going to be a lot of fun. We’re going to do a lot of pranks. It’s going to be fun.
AG: Besides getting to hang out with Heejun, what are you most looking forward to about the tour?
PP: Seeing the whole country, you know, it’s going to be so amazing. I’ve never really gotten the chance to do that before. This is the farthest I’ve ever been away from home. I’ve been to Tennessee, Alabama, Florida, and North and South Carolina, but travelling around the whole United States is going to be awesome.
AG: Speaking of home, when do you get to go back to Georgia to visit, or when do you get to go back?
PP: I don’t know! I’m hoping maybe soon, but we’ll see.
AG: What are you looking forward to most about going home?
PP: The southern food. I’m very excited to get some good, home-cooked food. There’s some good food here in California, but it’s very different from back home.
AG: What is the next big move for Phillip Phillips? What can we expect in the coming weeks?
PP: Just going to get ready for the tour and everything. Tour’s going to be fun, going to be a lot of jamming out. Just having fun up there onstage, because like I said, I don’t like being the center of attention up onstage. All the musicians and everybody deserves some limelight, you know, I just love having fun.
AG: What plans do you have for the tour as far as performances go? What are you wanting to perform?
PP: You know, just got to do a few covers and everything. I don’t know, I don’t know what I’m going to be performing yet. Either way, it’s going to be a lot of fun, and just a lot of instruments and a lot of jamming.
AG: Perfect. Is there anything else you’d like to share with the readers about yourself or about the music?
PP: Just that I’m excited to get my own work out there, and hopefully ya’ll are as excited as I am. Hopefully you like it.
AG: Well thank you so much for your time, like I said, I know you must be really busy. I’ve got to say, I’m a huge fan of yours, I voted for you every week, so congratulations!
PP: Aw, thank you, thank you so much. You have a good one.
AG: You, too!
Here are a couple of memorable videos of Phillip Phillips. From his audition in Savannah, Georgia to taking the title home in Los Angeles, California, Phillips has had one crazy ride!