LOS ANGELES - Phillip Phillips is doing more than just "hanging in there" in his quest to become the "American Idol" winner for 2012.
From a starting pack of 24, the competition has dwindled down to nine contestant. During a recent "Joel Wednesday," where the contestants performed various works by Billy Joel, Phillips received high marks from the judges for his rendition of "Movin' Out." Jennifer Lopez described his performance as "awesome."
Phillips has earned a reputation as being "his own man" with the production company, shunning advice by international image guru Tommy Hilfiger to spice up his mostly gray performance attire, according to the "American Idol" website.
During a telephone interview this week, Phillips shared some of his thoughts and experiences:
AH: So, how do you like it out there? Is it just like Southwest Georgia?
PP: Completely different -- definitely. I call home whenever I get a chance. I mean, I miss my family and all, but I'm happy to be here trying to make my dream come true.
AH: You've come a long way from where you started, Phillip, in your quest to become the American Idol. Are you same person now? Will you be coming back to Leesburg when it's over?
PP: I don't think I've changed a bit. I'm still the same of person, man -- just playin' music and loving it. I love living in Leesburg and I know I'll be back. We'll see what happens.
AH: How much does all this mean to you? How important is winning?
PP: I'd like to win. Maybe I will, I don't know. There's a chance. If I don't, that's all right, too.
AH: The closeness between you and your family is clear. I've spoken with your mom and dad, and they're incredibly proud. Your dad lights up a room. He said it seemed to make a big difference in your performance when he and your mom are in the audience. How important is that?
PP: We all support each other. It's always good to see them, but I'm always nervous no matter what. Family helps, though. I'm just a chill kind of guy -- not a "go out" kind of person.
AH: You know, your dad has said he's left his electrician's job to have more time to be there. What's your response to that?
PP: I don't think he just stood up and left or anything, but I don't really know. I haven't talked with him for a little while. It was my mom I saw when she came out last week.
AH: We've all heard about the kidney stones. Have you had them before? How did you manage to perform so soon after the surgery?
PP: It wasn't really surgery -- just a little proceedure -- something to help me pass the stones. I kind of don't feel comfortable talking about it. They let me rest a lot. I had a couple of days to recover before I had to sing.
AH: You know the mayor of Leesburg has given you the key to the city. How does that feel? Did you ever in your life expect anything like this?
PP: It's pretty crazy for sure. I didn't expect it. I wish I could tell them all thank-you at the same time. It's unreal.
AH: It was interesting you chose "Hard to Handle" by the Black Crowes. It sounded great, by the way. I thought that might have been a difficult piece to execute. Was it?
PP: No, it wasn't hard for me. I just wanted to have fun with it. It felt good, and I like the Black Crowes.
AH: What have you learned musically since your been in competition, if anything?
PP: I've definitely learned a little bit from the other musicians. They've learned some from me, too, I think. I don't like being the center of attention. We just have fun jammin'.