Phillip Phillips, winner of Season 11 of American Idol, captivated the world with his humility, down-home charm and his unique, raspy-voiced reworkings of classic rock and pop hits. Seemingly channeling the spirit of singer/guitarist Dave Matthews, but with a fresh, Americana twist, Phillips then exploded onto the pop scene with the ubiquitous sing-along hits Home and Gone, Gone, Gone.
Now, on the strength of his second album, “Behind the Light”, and its new single Raging Fire, Phillips will hit the Seminole Hard Rock on Saturday night.
He talked to Miami.com about the show, why he prefers the new album to his debut, how he almost quit Idol because of kidney stones, and his advice for aspiring young singers.
It must have been a crazy couple of years for you, huh?
Yeah, it’s been quite a ride, I guess you might say. It’s been interesting — it’s been good.
Does it seem like just yesterday that you won American Idol?
No, it seems like it’s been forever ago [laughs]. Just traveling a lot, but it’s been an awesome few years, man — I’ve been to so many amazing places and met so many great people, and this is just a lot more than I ever thought I could do.
Is this the first time you’ve really been able to see the world?
I’ve traveled, but definitely not like this. I love traveling and I love staying on the road, seeing a different city almost every day, meeting new fans all the time. You gotta love it.
What can we expect from your show — mostly tracks from your two albums?
Yeah, man — sometimes we’ll throw in a jam or something new. I play a different set every night, so it’s always something new and fresh. I keep it new for me and the band, because it keeps us excited, and it also keeps it fun for the fans to keep up with it and whatnot.
Did it surprise you how much success your hits Home and Gone, Gone, Gone gained?
Yeah, definitely — me and everyone else as well. It’s been awesome, and now Raging Fire this year. And this whole new album is definitely not like the first album — it’s gotten a much better reaction live than the first one. There’s just so much more energy, and even if they don’t know the new songs, they still get into it. It’s pretty inspiring to see that.
Were you able to put more of yourself in the second album?
Yeah, definitely. It’s a little more on the rock side and has a live show aspect to it, with a little bit of jam in there.
Has your approach to songwriting changed much since you broke big after Idol?
Yeah, I think so. I mean, you’re always learning something new — even the best in the world, songwriting, guitar players, drummers, whoever it is. There’s always something to learn from somebody, and you can never learn too much. When I write with myself, sometimes it’s easy, and sometimes it’s hard, and when I co-write, sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s hard, you know? You learn in good or bad situations.
What were your expectations going in to American Idol?
I didn’t want to go into it, man — I was terrified. I didn’t want to be judged in front of all these people. And plus, because I felt like I just sucked. My parents and friends were like just try, the worst thing that could happen is they say no, and I was like, “Yeah, but I don’t want to be told ‘no.’” I got lucky, and I never felt like I deserved to be there, but I guess some other people disagreed.
What was your best memory of that whole experience?
When it was all over [laughs]. Just kidding. Making all those friendships throughout that show, because when I’ve gone back to play on the show or whatever, seeing the security guys or producers or runners that would travel us back and forth to the hotel where we were staying. Just seeing those familiar faces — I lived with them for like a half a year, so they were basically my family. It might just be the kind of person I am, but it’s always good to see familiar faces, either on that show or just in life in general. It helps bring you back down to earth a little bit and remember what matters the most.
You just answered my next question about whether you’ve managed to stay humble throughout all this.
Yeah, you got to — you’re not promised anything in life. It’s good while you’ve got something, but you’ve always got to remember where you come from.
How close were you to quitting Idol because of your kidney stones, and how are your kidneys today?
I told them I quit, and they really helped out and made things a little easier for me, let me rest and whatnot. My kidneys are good now, but it’s always something I have to watch, and I’m taking medicine for it. I’ll pass a stone now and then, but at least it’s passing through and not staying in, you know?
Any advice for young singers and songwriters?
Yeah — do what you feel, and enjoy all your creative processes. It’s your music, and you know yourself better than anybody else, so you’ve gotta do what you feel is right, because if you do something that’s not right, that’s something you have to live with. So enjoy music and always love it.
Describe the perfect day in the life of Phillip Phillips.
I have three amazing meals – breakfast, lunch and dinner. I’ll have a nice cigar late at night, maybe a glass of whiskey, and hang around with my family. My papa — he used to smoke cigars all the time when I was a kid, and I never got to have a cigar with him. So hopefully one day I can have a cigar with him.