Platinum recording artist Phillip Phillips performs for the first time in Albany since being named American Idol in 2012. (Staff photo: Brad McEwen)
In advance of his first show in Albany since being named American Idol in 2012, the performer sat down with The Albany Herald to share his thoughts on a variety of subjects.
Music=Change Photo Gallery
Over 2000 fans and supporters attended Friday night's Music-Change concert and fundraiser to benefit Mission:Change at Albany's Exchange Club Fairgrounds.
ALBANY — More than 2,000 fans flocked to Albany’s Exchange Club Fairgrounds Friday night to show their support for a good cause and to support the homecoming concert of platinum recording artist and “American Idol” winner Phillip Phillips.
Watch Phillip Phillips perform "Gone, Gone, Gone" at Music=Change
Phillips, whose sister LaDonna Urick is the executive director of Mission:Change, lent his star power to the organization’s Music=Change benefit concert to help spread awareness of and raise funds for the local charity’s work with area homeless and needy.
In advance of his first show in Albany since being named American Idol in 2012, the performer sat down with The Albany Herald to share his thoughts on a variety of subjects. Here are some of the highlights:
Q. A lot of stuff has happened to you, professionally and personally, in the last couple of years since American Idol. Can you narrow it down to a couple of highlights?
A. I’ve gotten to, you know, meet a lot of great artists and a lot of great people throughout this journey and I’ve gotten to play at some amazing places. Definitely Rock in Rio is one that I’ll always remember. It was like eighty, ninety thousand people just singing every song with as much air as they could breathe just screaming out of their lungs. That was just unbelievable. Getting to tour with John Mayer was awesome and getting to know him as well. Play for new fans at every city. It’s been a whole bunch of things wrapped up in one.
Q. Speaking about other musicians, I’ve got to figure you’ve had an opportunity to meet some people that might have been influences, that you might have idolized. Have you had any overly “starstruck” moments where you’ve had to pinch yourself and say, “is this for real?”
A. I don’t really ask for pictures from people. The only time I’ve ever asked for a picture from anyone, I actually got to meet Robin Williams at a hotel. But, you know, I’ve gotten to meet John Mayer… He’s definitely an interesting guy and had a lot of cool things to say. Dave Matthews was a really great guy. So many other great people as well.
Q. I was talking with LaDonna when I was doing a preview and she mentioned that you had expressed to her that you had a nerves coming home, playing for the hometown crowd. Where would this rank on your list of nervous moments?
A. I get nervous every time before I play. Coming back home you don’t know what to expect but I get nervous every time before a show, full band, acoustic, whatever it is because it’s always a different show. You never know how the crowd’s going to be. It’s always just terrifying. We just played a show up in Quebec that was like 20,000 people singing every song and then you go somewhere else, a smaller city, and there’s a couple thousand people, whatever it may be and some people just like to sit back and listen. From all that energy and then you go back down. It’s always strange. But I get nervous every time. I think it’s good to get nervous because it keeps your mind somehow straight.
Q. I know growing up you’ve always exhibited a giving spirit; it’s in your family. What does it mean to get to come home and do this event for Mission:Change?
A. You know it’s awesome. I’ve always gotten to help my sister with this organization, even before Idol and everything. I played at other events a couple of times maybe in the past and she does so many great things for so many people. She’s got a great heart. This whole county does as well. There’s so many other organizations too. I got to meet my girlfriend (through helping Mission:Change in the past) and it’s five and a half years strong so I guess that’s another good reason.
Q. For the people that came here, they’re here to see you but they’re here to support Mission:Change. What message do you hope people will take with them when they leave here tonight?
A. Just that you can always help in any kind of form, fashion, whatever it is. It might be music, you might just be giving you know. Or just maybe talking to somebody. Some people just want someone to talk to. There’s so many different ways to give back and you just have to find your connection I guess, how to give back. Mine is music. Hopefully (the audience) will learn a lot more about it and see how they want to give, to this organization or another one, whatever it is.
Q. Let’s talk a little about music.If I grabbed our iPod and popped on a playlist what might I hear?
A. Man, I’ve gotten into Radiohead a lot real deep, such amazing stuff. Peter Gabriel I love. He’s so incredible. Listening to those two bands and artist they had a little bit of inspiration on this new album, which is kind of fun. But Peter Gabriel, like I said, he’s got this swag to his music that’s just so sick. And Radiohead it’s very technical, but in a very strange, heavy rock way and the lyrics are unbelievable. And Fink, Fin Grenall, he’s become one of my good friends. He’s a great musician, great writer as well. I listen to a lot of different things. If you go through my iPod it goes from Charlie Daniels to Tool to whoever else you can think of probably.
Q. I know you’ve had a lot going on, playing shows and of course you dropped the new album not long ago, but what’s sort of on the horizon in terms of more creative output. Are you writing while you’re out playing?
A. Yeah I’m always writing when I’m out on the road, if I’m on the bus or in my room or wherever it is. If I’m at home sometimes I’ll write a little bit. During sound check sometimes me and the band will come up with something new, a new jam, or something and it’s just a lot of fun. I’m really open with my band just cause, like I said, it’s how I grew up playing music. Everybody has input and we’ll try it. Everybody can say, ‘hey let’s try this.” And we’ll try it and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. That’s what makes it fun with music. There’s no tracks, no nothing. It’s real. It’s just six, seven guys up there rocking out.
Q. Did you ever have any opportunity before Idol to get to do anything kind of like this where you got to open up for somebody that had brought a little bit of their own crowd with them?
A. I just played wherever I could. If it was in a parking lot when no one was there, if it was at a bar, a restaurant, a wedding. That’s what I tell people all the time, you play everywhere you can cause you’ve got to know how it feels when nobody wants to listen and to have that kind of feeling in your heart like, ‘dang this kind of sucks.’ I think Dave Grohl said it, ‘you’ve got to know how it feels to suck when nobody wants to listen to you.’ Whenever I heard him say that it always kind of stuck with me cause it’s the truth. That’s what I tell people, ‘play everywhere you can for whoever.’
Just a few hours after the interview Phillips took the stage in front of rabid crowd of his fans and Mission:Change supporters and treated the crowd to an intimate acoustic set backed by guitarist Errol Cooney.
While the highlight of the night was the Phillips performance, those associated with Mission:Change said the event was a great success. Not long after welcoming her brother to the state Urick said she was overwhelmed by the support shown by the community.
“It has been awesome,” she said. “I had not idea what to expect and everything has just been great. There has been so much support. I thank God for this.”