Just over two years after releasing Behind the Light, actual recording sessions are happening for Phillip Phillips‘ third album. Phillip has shared the news over several social media posts and has revealed that guitarist Errol Cooney is back doing some recording for the album. Errol has been busy with his own band, Legally Blynd, and playing with Steve Wonder during his Songs in the Key of Life tour last year. Continue Reading →
Quietly hidden between the hopeful “Unpack Your Heart” and the uplifting “Midnight Sun,” is “Face,” our Song of the Week 5. Sneaked in between those two powerful songs, “Face” perfectly exemplifies the diversity of sound and emotion that we find in Behind the Light. As unique as “Thicket” in terms of concept and execution, “Face” is in many ways its opposite, showing a musical and emotional restraint that really contrasts with the rest of the album.
Based on a deep groove and melody reminiscent of gypsy jazz, the song has a cool, sexy feel that serves to hide–perhaps intentionally–the heartbreak we find within the lyrics. Another one of Phillip’s solo writing credits on Behind the Light, “Face” also captures the deep musical connection between the members of Phillip’s acoustic trio, made up of Phillip, guitarist Errol Cooney and cellist Dave Eggar. Although not exactly a trio on “Face” (thanks to the excellent addition of Chuck Palmer on percussion), the song captures the trio sound by highlighting the masterful contribution of each player without adornments or major production. It’s probably no coincidence that both Dave Eggar and Errol Cooney have called “Face” one of the favourite songs they got to do on Behind the Light, Errol pointing to the song’s “minimal live arrangement” and Dave to the chance it gave him to explore “a jazz or gypsy type of use of the cello.”
Both of these elements are indeed key elements of the song, and ones that help bring to the studio the pure sound, joyful creativity and musical camaraderie displayed by the trio during their live performances. Much like these performances, the song’s minimal arragement allows us to clearly hear the inner workings of the musical exchange–the conversation–between the trio without any other instrumentation or production coming between them, with Phillip and Errol laying down the rhythmic and melodic core of the song, the percussion further grounding the groove of the guitars and Dave gliding in and out freely, colouring inside and outside the lines with the cello.
Though the meaning of the song’s lyrics appears to be right on the surface, I don’t think it’s that simple, especially given the mysterious title of the song. They speak of a relationship that has not been equal, where one seems to have been more invested than the other. The lyrics could be directed at the other person but they could also be an internal conversation, a struggle between the mind and heart of somebody who is fighting to forget and move on. We can go back to the music again to give us hints and to illuminate us as we hear the percussion and the guitars maintain that in-the pocket groove but also Errol and Dave expanding over the melody and the theme more freely, romantically, almost seductively.
And later, when Phillip sings the same lyrics repeatedly over the bridge (“When you find your way back in darling, I won’t give my heart again”) it’s almost more like a self-promise than a warning to the other, as if he’s gathering the strength to say those words out loud, to actually “walk out the door.” In the end, maybe “Face” speaks of a heartbreak that has become tinted with coolness and pride, the kind that needs to show a stoic face to hide a broken, trampled-on heart.
Check out Phillip and band playing a cool, full band rendition of “Face” below. And, if you haven’t yet done so, click here to buy Behind the Light!
All photos by Phillip Phillips.
Some dreams do come true. Last Tuesday in Everett, WA, it was my turn to check the “see Phillip Phillips in first row” box next to my list of concert dreams. And it could not have been on better night since I got to share my excitement with an adoring crowd and some very faithful fans, some even coming from all across Washington State.
Fans, including me, started to line up since early in the afternoon for the chance to see Phillip and his band from as close as possible. We were rewarded with a signature Phillip Phillips set that was full of live favourites, rare tracks from Behind The Light and many surprises in between. And after playing hundreds of shows–20 or so already on this tour–Phillip has really mastered the art of set dynamics.
The show started with a bang with “Get Up Get Down,” followed immediately by “Lead On,” both songs featuring such funky, delirious jams that even the professional photographers in front of us couldn’t help but to start dancing. Next was “Fly,” a massive rocker that was performed with such intensity and skill that it could have been enough to close the show and send us home. I was laughing uncontrollably at this point, I just could not believe what I was hearing and seeing. Because it’s one thing to hear this music live, but another even more incredible to see it being made right in front of your eyes. I was particularly impressed by JJ Smith on bass, maybe because it was the first time I actually could see him play. But everybody was so impressive: Errol Cooney on guitar, Bobby Sparks on keys, Jason Thomas on drums and Joel Behrman on trumpet and trombone, and of course Phillip, who plays effortlessly and leads his band into ever higher levels of playing each time.
After slowing down just a beat with “Raging Fire,” Phillip gave us the first real treat of the night when, in a total change of pace and style, he launched into a cool, super smooth rendition of the jazz influenced “FACE.” This song and its stripped down arrangement allowed Phillip’s beautiful warm voice to shine and the great lyrics of the song to come alive. Also incredible was trombone player Joel Behrman, who infused the song with a loose, New Orleans jazz flavour that was simply delicious. The move from those intense songs to “FACE” was the perfect example of how Phillip is as effective delivering the huge jams as he is in telling us a story with his lyrics.
There is also an energy to Phillip that is both youthful (and very much his age), but also very wise, which may help to explain his wide ranging fan base. At Everett I saw everything from young girls attending their first ever concert, to older fans coming back to live music after many years, to concert veterans coming back for seconds and thirds. The element of surprise may be what keeps bringing them all back. This was evident this time when Phillip, in another stand out moment, started playing an unknown cover (to me) that was chills-inducing from the first note (it turned out to be Alice in Chains’ “Rooster”). This impromptu cover just showed once again his amazing ability to mix and re-arrange songs as he pleases, and to bring a little bit of the unexpected to each one of his shows.
Though I can’t possibly pick any favourite songs from what was played that night, special mention must go to new single “Unpack Your Heart,” a sweet song in the album that simply shines live, my all-time favourite “Man on the Moon” with its epic, head banging outro, “Thicket,” with a wonderful jam lead by Sparks on keys, and the insanely good “Lollipop” mashup that served to close the set and left fans screaming and stomping their feet for more. When Phillip came back after a couple of minutes and quietly started the first notes of “My Boy,” we knew we were one of the lucky crowds. Tears came to my eyes immediately and I can safely say that mine were not the only ones. It was not only incredibly moving and deep, but perfectly delivered musically as well.
Phillip closed his show with “Home,” but not before he had some fun with the now famous ultra-sexy intro. And if Phillip has probably sung “Home” more times that he can count, he sure didn’t show it, making us sing along with him numerous times and getting so emotional in the process that it was truly moving and powerful to see. “I hope you enjoy yourselves with us, and we will enjoy ourselves with you,” Phillip had said earlier in the night, “That way we can make something beautiful.” We did enjoy ourselves Phillip, immensely. And it was, it was all so very beautiful.
Phillip’s fall tour across the US continues until December. Check out all the dates here.
And check out some cool photos and videos, including one featuring the full audio from the show, below!
It may have been one of Phillip Phillips’ most special shows to date, and for more reasons than one. Last Friday Phillip performed as part of Music=Change, a fundraising event for Mission Change, a non-profit organization that promotes deep community change from “your own backyard.” Based in Albany, GA, Mission Change was co-founded by Phillip’s own sister La Donna Urick, so Phillip’s contribution to the event was truly fitting and special. The fundraising concert featured a number of local bands in addition to Phillip, and helped highlight some of the organization’s accomplishments in the community.
The event also marked Phillip’s first home town performance since his Home Town visit during Idol back in 2012, which meant that Phillip played not only for fans and supporters of Mission Change, but also for many of his friends and family. For the special occasion Phillip brought along his acoustic guitar duo partner Errol Cooney, who helped him play a amazingly passionate set for the 2000-plus audience.
Click here to learn more about Mission Change.
And if you haven’t yet done so, check out Phillip and Errol’s incredible acoustic set below.
Videos by Lea P.
Photo credit: Albany Herald
One of the best things about being a music fan is making discoveries, the way listening to one band leads you to discover another one, and admiring one musician leads you to love another one. So is the case with Phillip Phillips fans, who in the last couple of years have been lucky to be introduced to Errol Cooney, a guitarist and music scene veteran who has quickly become synonymous with Phillips’ wildly diverse sound. From rock, to soul, to jazz and funk, Cooney has done it all, having played small and big stages with artists such as Lalah Hathaway, Christina Aguilera and music giant Stevie Wonder.
As Phillips’ lead guitarist and acoustic guitar duo partner, Cooney brings an incredible range of influences that help him create soulful melodic landscapes around Phillips’ intricate playing and writing. Phillips and Cooney’s collaboration was captured last year in the iTunes Session (a beautiful and raw acoustic album) and more recently on Phillips’ second album, Behind The Light.
Errol Cooney took a few minutes out of his busy touring schedule recently to answer some questions exclusively for PhillPhillcom. Read on to learn about his wide-ranging musical influences, his collaboration with Phillips on Behind The Light, and the one word that may help explain his very cool and chill vibe.
PhillPhillcom: How old were you when you started playing?
Errol Cooney: 12.
PhillPhillcom: Did you always know you wanted to play the guitar? Were your parents supportive of your musical ambitions?
EC: I got interested when I was around 8 or 9 when I saw both of my older brothers, Michael and Brian playing and singing. My parents were very supportive. They are both very creative in their careers; my father is an actor and singer, my mother an actress, singer, pianist and writer.
PhillPhillcom: Who were you major influences or inspiration when you were starting out?
EC: At first classic rock; The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, James Taylor, Stevie Ray Vaughn, The Eagles and Jimi Hendrix. I’ve gotten into all sorts of things since-heavier stuff like Ministry and Sepultura, then Parliament-Funkadelic, Steely Dan, James Brown, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk and a million others as I got older. This list could go on forever!
PhillPhillcom: You have performed with some big names in music, including the legendary Stevie Wonder. What was your first big, “I made it” show and was it what you expected it to be?
EC: I don’t think you ever necessarily “make it” but getting to do the Stevie Wonder gig has been pretty special to me. I’ve idolized him since I was very young. The first major tour I did was opening for R. Kelly with a singer named Sunshine Anderson. That was a lot of fun. I don’t believe you can ever stop growing as a musician and become complacent. If you do, it’s time to do something else.
PhillPhillcom: You have also recorded with many other musicians in the studio. Do you consider yourself to be more of a live guitar player or a studio musician? Do you prefer one more than the other?
EC: I’ve been lucky enough to do a lot of both and I love doing both. They are amazingly different, especially as recording technology has changed so much over the years. There’s nothing like the rush and energy of playing live with a group of musicians for people that are there sharing that energy with you. And there’s nothing like creating music in the studio with artists, producers and musicians that you hope will stand the test of time. You get to dig through it with a fine-toothed comb and be spontaneous at the same time.
PhillPhillcom: In the last couple of years you have become well known to Phillip Phillips fans as his guitar duo partner and lead guitar player on his band. How did you come to work with Phillip?
EC: I have worked with American Idol as a hired musician for many years. Particularly in the house band for the tour Phillip was on. We started doing radio shows together as a duo at the time and hit it off. We have a good time playing along with the rest of the group. He’s a special talent.
PhillPhillcom: How is it going from a very large band setting (such as when you perform with Stevie Wonder), to essentially a rock band setting as you have in Phillip’s band?
EC: It’s a lot of fun. I love the rawness of Phillip’s project.
PhillPhillcom: The iTunes Session, which you recorded with Phillip last year, is a fans’ favourite; it captures your collaboration with Phillip really well. How was it recording that?
EC: A lot of fun. Very spontaneous. We went in there for a very short amount of time and came out with something I think we are both proud of.
PhillPhillcom: You also got to play on Phillip’s new album Behind The Light. There are so many beautiful guitar moments on this album. Do you have any particular songs from Behind The Light that you loved working on?
EC: “Face” was really cool. I love the writing he did and it’s very minimal live arrangement. There were lots of others I enjoyed a lot- “Fly,” “Trigger,” “Raging Fire” to name a few.
PhillPhillcom: You are setting up to go on tour with Phillip very soon. What are some of your favourite cities or venues to play in?
EC: Vancouver tonight! Austin, Rio, Quebec City, Red Rocks in Colorado, Bay Area, Paris, Amsterdam, I love everywhere I go!!
PhillPhillcom: You have played hundreds of shows through your career, both with Phillip and many other musicians. Do you have any really memorable or favourite performance from past tours?
EC: River Plate stadium in Buenos Aires, Paris with Stevie Wonder, Glastonbury Festival, Bonnaroo, Red Rocks with Phillip, the White House, A Capitol Fourth.
PhillPhillcom: What band or musicians are you into right now that you can’t stop listening to on your iPod?
EC: Radiohead right now as I write this.
PhillPhillcom: The world is ending, you have to save three albums that, if you survive, you will have to live with for the rest of your life. Which ones do you take with you?
EC: Axis: Bold as Love-Jimi Hendrix, Songs in the Key of Life-Stevie Wonder, Abbey Road-The Beatles.
PhillPhillcom: Finally, Errol Cooney in one word:
There is a reason why Phillip Phillips fans are travelling far and wide to see his shows: they just keep getting better and one is never enough. But this time Vancouver fans didn’t have to go very far as Phillip came back for the second time in just a few months to play the opening show of the PNE’s Summer Night Concerts series.
Casual fair goers and fans started to gather at the PNE’s West Jet Amphitheatre early in the evening to wait for Phillip, who made his way to the stage just after 8:00 pm. There was no opening band, so the fans quickly got what they came to hear, a full 1 hour 40 minutes set that included songs from both his albums and some of his most famous covers.
“Let’s dance and have a good time!” Phillip told the crowd as he unassumingly took the stage, the sun still shining behind him. He then launched into “Searchlight,” the opening track from his new album Behind The Light and then into the energetic “Get Up Get Down,” two of his most upbeats songs. But as the evening turned into night, Phillip took us to a few darker and deeper places as well, and we were just as happy to follow him there too.
It’s a well known fact by now that Phillip has assembled an insanely talented band, and that his shows are as much about beautiful storytelling as they are about pure and simple jamming. That was on full display at the PNE show. To single out any instrument would be almost unfair, but last night both Bobby Sparks on keys and organ and Errol Cooney on guitar really elevated songs to special new places. Particular mention goes to “Trigger,” which was incredibly moving with delicate touches from Cooney and lush dramatic effects from Sparks. The best part was perhaps a new cool and intense jam at the end of the song; this is after all what some fans are coming back for, show after show. The incredible Jason Thomas on drums, JJ Smith on bass and Joel Behrman on trumpet and trombone completed the band, each shining at many different times during the show. Through it all was Phillip with his boundless energy and electricity, which never detracts from his impeccable delivery and authentic emotion. He is a true captivating and magical performer.
Phillip played the hits (“Raging Fire,” “Gone Gone Gone”) as well as his new “official” single “Unpack Your Heart” (“whatever that means” he told us with a laugh), the incendiary “Fly,” and my all-time favourite “Man On The Moon.” In between songs, new quiet and atmospheric intros or outros kept us guessing and falling deeper into the night’s spell. And in a repeat of last time’s most magical moment, the Vancouver crowd once again lit up with hundreds of lights to accompany the beautiful lyrics of “Tell Me A Story,” which Phillip made even more special by adding some lines from “Somewhere Over The Rainbow.”
As if all of this wasn’t enough, Phillip closed his set with his “Lollipop” mash up, a virtuoso blending of covers by Lil’ Wayne, Led Zeppelin, Eminem and DJ Khaled that drove fans into a true frenzy of pure musical bliss. By the time he came back for his encore with the haunting “A Fool’s Dance,” there is no doubt that Phillip had the crowd on the palm of his hand. Of course, he closed the show with “Home” and led us to sing along with him for one last time. We wished we could have kept singing all night long.
Check out some photos and videos from the show, as well as some pics of Phillip’s cool Meet & Greet earlier that day.
Get Up Get Down
Man On The Moon
Gone Gone Gone
Unpack Your Heart
Tell Me A Story
Where We Came From
A Fool’s Dance
Thank you Claudia, Janet, Melissa and Linda.
Featured photo by Joanne.