Phillip Phillips interview with The Hollywood Reporter

Lots of artists let themselves go while recording an album. It might mean growing out a beard, wearing your favorite jeans several days in a row or shaking off all your inhibitions as you put pen to paper and voice to track. In Phillip Phillips’ case, it’s all of the above.

“I kind of got lazy,” Phillip Phillips tells The Hollywood Reporter of his increasingly fuzzy facial hair.

“I’m probably going to shave it soon. I actually need a haircut, too, but I want to keep my hair as long as possible, because I’ll probably be bald soon.”

Hardly, but the 22-year-old Leesburg, Georgia native may bear more of himself in other ways. Namely, the songs on his debut album, The World From the Side of the Moon, nearly all of which he wrote or co-wrote. Among Phillips’ collaborators: producer Gregg Wattenberg, who’s worked extensively with Chris Daughtry and Train, “Home” songwriters Greg Holden and Drew Pearson, who teamed up for the rollicking “Can’t Go Wrong” and his girlfriend, Hannah Blackwell.

“She helped me with a song called ‘Take Me Away,’” says Phillips. “It’s not on the core album but a bonus for the Target album.” Phillips says the pining track — which includes the lines “You’re all I wanna see / All I wanna touch and feel in every way” — came from a poem Blackwell wrote about him.

As for the lyric he’s most proud of, that comes from a song called “Tell Me a Story,” which Phillips wrote with David Ryan Harris. “I had all the music written,” he says of the melodic track accentuated by a scratchy vocal, strings and a Mumford-meets-Dave Matthews vibe. “The first verse and the chorus were written, I just didn’t have a second verse. So David Ryan, who plays with John Mayer a lot, came in there, we got to know each other a bit, and I showed him what I had. He started pushing me to write more and after a couple of days, this came to me one night: ‘Hope is just a ray of what everyone should see / Alone is the street where you found me / Scared of what’s behind you / Scared of what’s in front / Live with what you have now / Make the best of what’s to come.’ “

Phillips says it’s just one of the songs he hopes “people connect with,” but there’s plenty more material to tug on the heartstrings, including “Wanted is Love,” “A Fool’s Dance” and “Man on the Moon,” all accentuated by the sounds of strings — violins, cellos, banjos and many acoustic guitars — sometimes horns (saxophone, trumpet) and Phillips’ distinctive breathy vocal style. The singer sat down with THR to talk about the forthcoming release (due out Nov. 19) and where he sees his future.

The Hollywood Reporter: First, where did the album title, The World From the Side of the Moon, come from?

Phillip Phillips: It’s a lyric from the first song on the album, “Man on the Moon.” I was going through all the lyrics because I had to make decisions at a quick pace, and it kind of stuck out to me. I asked a few friends and they liked it. People might compare it to Dark Side of the Moon, but as long as I have a different album cover of the sun with my face looking down at the Earth, it’ll be okay.

THR: What does it mean?

I was starting to think about all I had been through, and someone gave me some DVDs of the whole [Idol] season, so I was kind of watching myself from a whole different world that no one else really knows. It’s interesting to see how it happened and so fast. That’s how I picked the title: I felt like I watched myself grow and this whole album is representing where I am.

THR: Did I hear right, you recorded the whole album in three weeks?

Yes. We just finished it. From first cutting acoustic guitars to last week, it was exactly three weeks. Like I said, I was pressured on time, but it kind of helped the sound. We didn’t overanalyze things or overproduce anything, we kept it raw.

THR: And you went with one producer, Gregg Wattenberg…

Great guy — just down-to-earth, and he made me feel home. We had a really good connection, he would listen and we’d figure out. It was a great learning experience.

THR: You recorded in the heart of Manhattan, which is surprising for a Georgia boy. Did the city seep into the songs?

I loved it! Honestly, I like New York a lot better than L.A., but I had the songs already written so it was a matter of getting in there and doing it. Now when I write I might feed off that, but I haven’t written since we got done.

THR: What did you expect the recording studio experience to be like and what was it really like?

I honestly didn’t know. I would record with my brother-in-law a bit at home, but nothing professional. It was interesting. Something I didn’t expect was this guy Dave Edgar played cello on almost every song on the album so I think I’ve got to get a cello player now.

THR: What was the most challenging part?

We would get tired because we were working like 15 hours a day, or even more. Me and Greg, we’d just look at each other all worn out and sometimes he would tell me, “We’re gonna do this, it’s gonna be alright.” That was probably the toughest part. Just getting as much done as we could because we had a time limit.

THR: Greg Holden and Drew Pearson wrote “Home,” which became a huge hit for you. What was it like to work with them directly this time?

We all got in a room and I showed them an idea of the guitar part, started singing the verses and we just wrote the lyrics together. It’s called “Can’t Go Wrong,” and I really like that song. It’s similar to “Home.” We all had a good time getting to know each other. This is all new for all three of us. … They understood where I was in my situation, and I understood where they were.

THR: But just the fact that the song is as big as it is, they must be so stoked.

They are. They were telling me it’s done great things for them. But they wrote it, like, a year ago. They didn’t expect any of this to ever happen so it’s just amazing.

THR: It’s been five months since you won American Idol, is it everything you thought it would be?

It’s a great experience, but it’s tough. Watching it on television on season ten, I was like, “Yeah, I could probably do that,” once it’s the real deal and you’re actually doing it, it’s not easy. You’re working 12 to 13 hour days, recording, waiting, a lot of hurry-up-and-wait. But it really helps you with the media and perfecting your performances. The worst part is you’re on live TV, because I messed up so many times on the show. I tried to pull it off and you can sneak it by people … hopefully.

THR: Where do you see yourself in five or 10 years?

On a stage somewhere. I’m a live guy, I like playing out so hopefully I’ll just be touring out a lot. If people will want to come see me, that would be awesome.

Source: The Hollywood Reporter

‘I’m just a normal guy who wants to make it in the world’

PHOTOS/Jill Lejano

Phillip Phillips may have won “American Idol” Season 11, but he claims that he’s “just a normal guy.”

Want proof? At the “American Idol Live!” Tour press con, while his fellow Idols had colored and heavily styled hair or were flaunting trendy accessories, P-squared wore a T-shirt, a pair of shorts—and flip-flops. He even showed us one of his weird habits—rubbing his feet together—to further prove his regular-ness.

But while his actions, such as laughing the loudest whenever Heejun Han would crack a joke, showed us how normal he is, Phillip’s honest and candid answers to our questions showed even more just how regular and authentic he is.

For example, while he said that he doesn’t regret how he “played the game” in AI, he wasn’t too happy about one performance.

“I’m proud of all the performances I did,” he said. “The only performance I wasn’t proud of was ‘Time of the Season’ because the sound messed up in my ears. That was a really bad performance. I don’t even mind saying that, at all.”

Phillip also knows how to credit other people. He mentioned how grateful he is for the great band in “Idol,” and that, when the “Idol” tour is through, he will miss not just his fellow Idols, but members of the production staff and security, too. And when we brought up the comparisons with Dave Matthews, he was quick to say that he takes those as a compliment.

“I love Dave! He’s one of my heroes,” he professed. “He’s an amazing writer and his band is amazing so I take it as a compliment. Our original stuff is different from one another. I’m not as complex; he’s got some pretty complex, crazy things going on. He’s an amazing guy, such a nice guy.”

The reluctant star

PHOTOS/Jill Lejano

One amazing thing about Phillips is how he doesn’t want to change—how he doesn’t really want to be a celebrity. We all saw this on the show, like when he defied designer Tommy Hilfiger’s fashion advice. During our interview, he proved that he hasn’t changed his perspective. While not really being specific, he said,

“There were times when they wanted to change me. They tried to change me a lot of times, and I told them, ‘This is me. I’m going to go out and I’m going to go out as something I’m proud of.’”

Phillip is actually big on highlighting how he likes doing his own thing, and being different from others, proudly mentioning how he did all the arrangements for his numbers because he wanted people to see the kind of artist he is and hear the kind of music that represents him. He also explained that while a lot of people see him as just another “white guy with a guitar,” just like a lot of the past Idol contestants and winners, he feels they’re different from one another.

“[Especially with] the way I play the guitar. I really connect with my guitar. If I didn’t play the guitar, I wouldn’t be singing.”

Phillip almost didn’t become the season’s winner. Everyone knows how he suffered from kidney stones and had to get around seven procedures done during the show.

“It affected me a lot because I didn’t have a lot of energy,” he said about being sick while competing. “I was always just so tired and I would be hurting and I always had to take some pain medicine, which I hated to take because it always made me feel even more tired.”

“It hurt,” he added. “I couldn’t get comfortable sleep. I would just try to get comfortable, and it would just hurt on my side. If I bent down, it would hurt. As the show went on, I kind of got used to the pain. I was always hurting everyday and I would cry all the time.”

It was so bad he wanted to quit the show. “One day it was hurting and I felt like it was getting worse so I went up to all the producers and talked to them [and said], ‘I think I need to get out, it’s hurting too bad.’ I’d rather be healthy than die trying to do it. I was ready to give it up. I’m not a competitive person. I wasn’t trying to win. The reason I tried out, I just wanted to see how well I would do.”

Good thing the producers gave him some extra time for rest or they’d make him come in a bit later than everyone else. Phillip didn’t talk much about it, however, because he didn’t want it to be an issue; he didn’t want the others to think he was getting special treatment.

But he was, in a way, and he’s grateful for that.

“It was very, very tough, and I’m thankful for the people around me. And my girlfriend helped me out a lot.”

Proud to be taken

Phillip’s girlfriend, Hannah, is actually with him for the Philippine leg of the “American Idol” tour—and he’s not keeping that a secret, unlike other celebrities who’d rather make it seem like they’re single. He said that they’ll be together for three and a half years by the end of the year, and that his “Idol” experience has changed both their lives.

“Both of us aren’t used to it, there’s always something different,”he said.

PHOTOS/Jill Lejano

So how do they make it work, considering they’re not together all the time, and a lot of women throw themselves at his feet? “We always talk about how it’s going to be whenever I’m on tour,” said Phillip. “We need to make way for dates and see one another, keep it fresh because it’s going to be very tough.”

“For the romantic part… she’s really the romantic one. When I do something romantic, it’s pretty big, and I probably won’t do it for a while—not that I don’t want to! I guess some guys are like that,” said Phillip, who is undeniably in love with his girlfriend. “She always does little romantic things. She’s a lot smarter than I am with a lot of things. She kind of keeps me in the right place.”

This “American Idol: champ seems to be in the right place right now, considering all the prizes he won from the contest, plus all the fame. However, he looks at things a little differently, of course.

“I don’t really feel that I’m famous. I guess I am, but I’m just a normal guy who wants to make it in the world. I’m not trying to be huge or anything but I just want to at least make a living doing something I love, have some extra money if I want to have a family later on and do a vacation—you know what I mean?”

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