Phillip Phillips said he plans to pursue a career in music regardless of the outcome of the “American Idol” competition.
LEESBURG, Ga. -- Phillip Phillips has become an overnight star of sorts, with a winning performance at the recent American Idol audition in Savannah.
Phillips' renditions, first of Stevie Wonder's "Superstition," which he sang without accompaniment, then "Thriller," from a milestone album by the late Michael Jackson. Both musical numbers were stylized according to Phllips' vision.
Even now, Phillips and his family are restrained by contract with the Fox Network American Idol production company, FreeMantle Media, from discussing even the broadest aspects the competition.
This interview by telephone took place through special arrangement with the production company.
Q. So why did you decide to audition for "American Idol"?
A. It was partly my idea, and my parents encouraged me, too. I've always tried to be a singer. For the last couple of years it just didn't seem to fit, you know, but my friends and family thought I should do it. We figured all they could do was say no. I wasn't sure I was the kind of performer they were looking for. I'm kind of slower -- not a real "poppy" kind of guy.
Q. You looked a little like you were in the coliseum in Savannah, with three Roman Emperors ready to turn their thumbs. Were you nervous?
A. Just a bit, I'd say. No, I was really nervous. A lot of things go through your head and you get a case of the nerves. I handled it OK though I think.
Q. Did you play well as you expected, or did the pressure impact you?
A. Honestly, I did better than I thought I would. The beginning of the first number was the worst part. Once I got it started it went pretty well.
Q. You can sing and play guitar. What other instruments do you play? Do you have formal training?
A. I mess around with the piano some, and I play bass. I've heard people say I play drums, but I don't really. Really I play guitar and bass. About the only training I've had is from my brother-in-law, Ben Neil. I'd see him once a month or so and he'd show me how to make different cords. That was in the beginning. Then I started teaching myself strum patterns and switching to the main cords. It was all just grooving from there.
Q. You've come a long way already. What do think of your chances for being the next American Idol? Have you got a shot?
A. I don't know. There are some amazing competitors out there, especially from some of the other shows. You just never know.
Q. You know I have to ask about the name. Isn't one Phillip enough? Are you Phillip junior? How many more are out there?
A. I'm a junior. One of my aunts named my dad, or maybe it was his grandmother. He told me he hated the name, but I don't mind it. When I was in school and learning to write, at least I didn't have to learn two names.
Q. You played your first number, Superstition, without your guitar or any accompaniment. Is that a show requirement? If so, why were you allowed to play it for the second tune?
A. Yeah, they don't let you have anything except your voice. Then Randy Jackson handed me my guitar and I played. I'm not going to give it back. A string broke in the middle but I knew where to put my hands.
Q. Your choice of tunes struck me as an odd blend -- Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson, with a heavy dose of Dave Matthews. What can you say about your song selection and your personal style?
A. I love Dave's (Matthews) guitar skills and how he can sing off-rhythm. "Superstition" is one of my main tunes and I felt I had a good feel for it. I felt right in my head. I've never heard anyone do "Thriller" like I do and I thought the judges might like it.
A. Jennifer Lopez thought you sounded like James Brown. Any comment?
Q. (Laughing) No problem. I never thought about it, but OK.
Q. Do you play in a band or do you see yourself as mostly a solo artist?
I play with other people, but I don't know if you'd call it a band. I get together with Ben Neil a lot and my sister Lacy. Fred Williams plays sax for us and he's just awesome. I get together with the G&S Experience, too. When it comes down to it, I'm not a solo kind of guy who wants all the attention. Everybody in the group should have a little of the limelight.
Q. Does your family support your plans?
A. If "American Idol" doesn't work, I still want to do the music thing. Sure, I'd love to get a recording contract, and all my family is with me on that. Music is my first love. If we separate it's because music left me; I'll never leave music.