The star who made us feel at “Home” opens up about date nights and why he doesn’t watch Idol.
It changed everything,” says Phillip Phillips of the whirlwind year he had in 2012, when he was catapulted from working in his parents’ pawnshop to winning the 11th season of American Idol. His first single, “Home,” sold almost 5 million copies and became the theme song for the U.S. Olympic women’s gymnastics team. Now the Georgia native, 23, is touring with John Mayer; his album, The World From the Side of the Moon, will be rereleased Nov. 19 with three new live tracks. Phillips spoke to Jessica Wozinsky before going onstage for a show in Raleigh, N.C.
How does it feel when people sing along to your songs?
Weird! It happens all the time now, but I’m still not confident stepping away from the microphone and letting the fans sing. They always come through, but I get nervous that it’s just going to be silence. [laughs]
You wrote or cowrote most of the songs on your album. Why was that important to you?
If I don’t have any say in the music, then I don’t have any connection with it. The label respected that. They said, “Let us give you three songs, and you can have the rest of the album.” My next record will all be from me, with some cowrites. My imprint will be on every song.
How is fame different from what you expected?
When people write things on the Internet about me that aren’t true, it’s tough to deal with. Even if you’re the most mellow person in the world, stuff like that bothers you eventually.
Did you watch American Idol last season?
No, I’m done. That was a time I’ll always remember, and it’s helped me get to where I am today, but I don’t watch it. More power to the next ones.
Of the stars you met on the show, who was your favorite?
Stevie Nicks. She’s a sweetheart, and she actually did her homework. Unlike some of the other mentors, she was up at six that morning listening to everyone’s songs. She really cared and gave us great advice.
After you won, we learned that you had suffered from kidney stones during the competition.
Sometimes [the pain] was too much to bear and I thought about quitting. I had a six-hour procedure [after the show ended], but now I’m doing great and just enjoying myself.
Does your girlfriend, nursing student Hannah Blackwell, come on the road with you?
Yeah. It’s good to have her around. She helps me with business decisions—she’s the brains, I’m the guitar player. [laughs] We try to have date nights on the road; we’ll go bowling or to a restaurant so we can remember who we are as a couple.
What’s your favorite way to spend Sundays?
Sleeping, watching movies, and eating Chinese food. I’m into zombie movies likeWorld War Z and the shows Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead. And whenever I have General Tso’s chicken, I’m a happy guy.
How do you like touring with John Mayer?
It’s amazing. He treats the crew like we’re one big family. I get scared playing before him because I’m opening for someone who’s won seven Grammys, is an amazing guitar player, and is known for his live shows. I’m working my way up to that.
What scares you?
I don’t want to let the fans down. I’m nervous about the second album because that’s the one everyone looks at and says, “All right, let’s see what he’s got.” I want it to be my best and to grab people’s attention.
Where would you like to be in 10 years?
Hopefully, I’ll still be making music people want to listen to.