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The Suburbanite
  • 10 minutes with Phillip Phillips

  • Phillip Phillips is on tour with Matchbox Twenty, and will open the band’s Sunday show at the Akron Civic Theatre. Phoning Monday afternoon, he was as casual and easygoing as you’d expect.

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  • Phillip Phillips came out of Leesburg, Ga., population 2,896, to become one of the unlikelier winners in “American Idol” history.
     Instead of histrionic singing, flashy costumes and pop-star poses, Phillips brought a modest, earthy quality to season 11 of “Idol” that cut through the contest’s show-biz trappings and connected with voters.
     After his “Idol” coronation in May 2012, Phillips, 22, played basketball arenas around the country with the “American Idol Live” tour. His debut single, “Home,” gained major exposure during the 2012 Summer Olympics, and has sold more than 3 million downloads. His debut album, “The World From the Side of the Moon,” was released in November and is certified gold for sales topping 500,000 copies.
     These days, Phillips is on tour with Matchbox Twenty, and will open the band’s Sunday show at the Akron Civic Theatre. Phoning Monday afternoon, he was as casual and easygoing as you’d expect.
    Q. Do you have any free time for yourself these days?
    A. “I get a little time to myself. Just a few seconds ago I was writing some new music. I mean, alone is good, but I also like being around friends and what-not.”
    Q. What’s it been like touring with Matchbox Twenty?
    A. “It’s been going really well. They’re all great guys, just super nice. And Rob Thomas is one of my heroes, so to share the stage with him is an honor.”
    Q. Have you had a chance to hang out with Rob?
    A. “We had dinner a couple of nights ago and it went really good. He’s a cool guy, very supportive.”
    Q. And the Matchbox fans are digging you?
    A. “Their fans have been very, very good to me. To have people that don’t know me and to be able to grab their attention so quickly, it’s neat to see that.”
    Q. Are you touring with a band of your own?
    A. “I am. It’s an acoustic band — me on guitar, a lead guitarist, a cellist and a percussionist. They’re great musicians and we all have a blast. Sometimes we write together.”
    Q. Are you playing mostly songs from your album?
    A. “Yeah, but I’m doing covers here and there, and every now and then a new song I’ve been working on.”
    Q. Do you feel like your album represents you well?
    A. “I think it does. I got to write everything but two songs. (Producer) Gregg Wattenberg made sure I was in on everything, producing and what-not, and it went exactly how I wanted it to. It was a lot of fun.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Q. Did you have to record it quickly?
    A. “Three weeks, from cutting guitars to mastering. I wish we’d had maybe another week or two, but maybe it was for the best. There wasn’t time for overproducing. It kept things close to my heart.”
    Q. How do you feel when people compare you to Mumford & Sons and Dave Matthews?
    A. “I take it as a compliment, but if they really listen to the album, they’ll hear the difference. People rush to quick decisions.”
    Q. What do you like best about being on the road?
    A. Seeing the different cities, meeting new people, being able to play music. It’s what I do.”
    Q. And your least favorite part about touring?
    A. “I guess staying on the bus for too long. At times that gets a little old.”
    Q. If I have the radio on for more than 20 minutes I hear “Home.” Was that song chosen for you to record?
    A. “It was. It was between ‘Home’ and a few other songs, and we had a day and a half to record it. It took me time to really grow a connection to it. Since I didn’t write it, it felt like a cover. But now I have a lot of fun with it, playing it live. I’ve made it my own.”
    Q. Was it surreal playing basketball arenas with the “American Idol Live” tour?
    A. “It was fun for the first week or so, but playing the exact same show every night for a whole tour is a challenge, and playing to a (tempo-keeping) click track. I don’t like that at all. But the tour was a great experience overall, and now I’m excited to do my own thing.”
    Q. What’s on your agenda after the Matchbox Twenty tour?
    A. “I have two or three months of college dates with a full band. Then, we’ll see what else happens.”
    Q. Did you get a chance to watch any of the Grammy Awards last night?
    A. “The TV signal on the bus was going in and out, plus I had to watch ‘The Walking Dead.’ I’m really addicted to that show.”
    Q. What do you love about it?
    A. “It’s just different. It’s graphic in a way you don’t see on television shows so much, and it’s got a cool story to it, and it’s filmed in Georgia. It’s just very interesting.”