Phillip Phillips appearing in Park City amid ‘Idol’ comeback
Phillip Phillips is in the midst of a massive do-over.
The throaty-voiced singer-songwriter — who will perform at the Deer Valley Concert Series on Thursday — got his big break back in 2012 after winning the 11th season of Fox’s “American Idol” television series. His ensuing first album, “The World From the Side of the Moon,” produced the solid hits “Home” (which holds the record for all-time best-selling song from an “American Idol” winner) and “Gone, Gone, Gone,” catapulting Phillips’ career toward household-name status.
But a messy legal dispute with his record label following the May 2014 release of his sophomore album, “Behind the Light,” derailed much of whatever progress Phillips had made. He subsequently sued that company, 19 Entertainment, alleging he was “manipulated” by an “oppressive” contract.
Until it was settled, the legal battle prevented Phillips from releasing any new music between 2014 and 2017, and the once-promising musician more or less faded from public view.
“I couldn’t release music for three years, and when that happens people kind of lose interest a little bit,” Phillips told the Standard-Examiner in a telephone interview earlier this week. “So this is kind of like rebuilding my music career — doing it all over again.”
But so far, the do-over is going quite well, according to Phillips. In January, he released his third album, “Collateral”; the first single from that new work is “Miles.”
Phillips has been touring solo in support of the new album this summer, but Thursday’s Park City performance kicks off a series of co-headlining concerts with “I Don’t Want to Be” singer-songwriter Gavin DeGraw.
“I think it’ll be good — hopefully, people will like it,” the Georgia native said. “Me and Gavin met in 2012 or 2013, when we were doing radio stuff together.”
And Phillips says he absolutely loves these summer shows, which are all about kicking back and enjoying oneself.
Phillips insists it’s his wife, whom he describes as his best friend, who keeps the pop/folk/rock star humble. They’ve been together nine years, and married almost three.
“A lot of the songs on this new album are about her,” he said.
She’ll usually join Phillips on the road, particularly for the shorter tours. Other times, she’ll travel with him for stints of a week or two.
“Then she’ll go home, check on the pup and the house, and come back out,” he said.
Musical stardom has been everything Phillips thought it would be. And more.
“For sure, there’s a lot of amazing things I get to do, places I get to see,” he said. “And I get to play music for a living, and not many people get to do that.”
Of course, Phillips is quick to add that it’s a lot like any other job — being a musician is not just the glamour of writing a song, recording it, and getting it out to the fans. There are, he says, plenty of other obstacles in the way.
“If it was just playing music, everybody would be doing it,” he said.
One of the biggest obstacles, according to Phillips, is that musical tastes are constantly changing, “every day, every year.”
“So you’ve got to build your own base camp, in a way, with your own fans,” he said. “You’ve got to be interactive with them and give them what they want while you’re giving yourself what you want as an artist. Because if you’re writing a song that’s not honest, it won’t resonate with fans.”
It sounds like the 27-year old — who was just 21 when he won “American Idol” — is getting older and wiser.
“I’m definitely getting older,” Phillips insists. “Although I don’t know about the wise-ing part.”
So then, now speaking as a veteran singer-songwriter who’s on his second climb toward the top, is it harder to “make it” in the music business or stay on top?
“It’s both, man. There are so many amazing artists — musicians who don’t get a chance to make it and show the world what they have to offer,” he said. “But then, if you do make it, it’s hard to keep it going.”
Phillips thinks that’s especially true stateside, where “we’re so spoiled with music in the U.S. because there’s always something new.”
It’s hard to stay musically relevant in this country, according to Phillips.
“And as far as radio goes, it’s something new every day,” he said. “Other countries don’t get that as much.”
As a result, an artist like Phillips can go to, say, South America for a concert, and even a couple years after his last album came out “they’re singing every word to every song.”
As if being blessed with a distinctive singing voice and a knack for catchy tunes wasn’t enough, Phillips dipped his toes in the acting world earlier this year when he played a diamond smuggler on an episode of “Hawaii Five-O.” Phillips says he just sort of fell into the part.
“I was originally just going to play a private show for the cast and crew — it was something like their 175th or 200th episode,” he said. “It was just a chance to vacation in Hawaii and play a little music, and they said, ‘Hey, do you want a part in the show?’ “
Phillips said the experience was a fun one, and he might like to try it again, but he admits his acting chops are going to need a little work.
“I’m not a very good bad guy, so I’ve got to take some acting classes if I want to play bad guys in the future,” he said.
In real life, Phillips describes himself as an “honest, easygoing guy.” However, the struggles of the last few years have forced him to be a bit more wary about the “business” part of the music business.
Meaning, he’s changed things up in this do-over?
“There’s definitely areas that I think I’ve learned this time around,” Phillips said. “Ultimately, it’s my career — no one else’s — so I have to look out for myself and how I want to represent myself.”
And after three years of being unable to release new music, Phillips says this summer’s concert tour has been particularly rewarding.
“Everyone is singing the old songs, and we’re easing into the new songs,” he said. “We play a different show every night, so we toss the new stuff in here and there.
“It’s cool. It’s the best tour I’ve been on in several years.”
What: Phillip Phillips and Gavin DeGraw in concert
When: Thursday at 6:30 p.m. (Gates open 5:30 p.m.)
Where: Snow Park Outdoor Amphitheater, 2250 Deer Valley Drive South, Park City
Tickets: $42-$82, through www.ticketfly.com