Mayer opening act Phillip Phillips will offer mix of folk, rock

11/29/2013 12:00 AM

11/28/2013 2:11 PM

Many fans have gotten to know Phillip Phillips through his hit singles, “Home” and “Gone, Gone, Gone.” Those two folk-flavored anthems have propelled the 2012 “American Idol” to major stardom, but also have been criticized by some as attempts to mimic the arena-sized folk of the hit-making bands Mumford & Sons and the Lumineers.

Those who own Phillips’ debut album, “The World From The Side Of The Moon,” though, saw that there was another side to his sound. Phillips will showcase songs from much of the album Sunday when he opens for John Mayer at the Intrust Bank Arena.

While the CD included a few other folky tunes, such as “Hold On” and “So Easy,” it was equally defined by tracks like “Wanted Is Love,” “Get Up Get Down” and “Drive Me,” punchy rockers with a bit of funk and jazz that sound more like the Dave Matthews Band than any sort of new school folk.

It turns out the rockers are closer to Phillips’ musical heart than the songs that have put him on mainstream radio – and a better indication of where Phillips would like to go musically on future albums.

“ ‘Home’ came out and it was really folky,” Phillips said in a recent phone interview. “I didn’t want to step too far out of bounds from that (on the album) and kind of weird people out, like ‘Drive Me’ is nothing like ‘Home.’ My passion is more into the rock and jazz or whatever, so I kind of just put a mixture of them in the album and kind of got people to be a little prepared, (hinting at) steps into the future.”

So perhaps it’s not surprising that “Home” and “Gone, Gone, Gone” didn’t originate with Phillips. They were brought to Phillips – albeit in a roundabout way with the latter song – by his record company, 19 Entertainment/Interscope.

“The label came to me and said let us give you two songs and you can have the rest of the album, so I was like ‘yeah,’ ” Phillips said. “And they had a different song. It wasn’t ‘Gone.’ I just didn’t like the song. I was trying to figure out, man I’ve got to get a different song.”

That’s when a pair of songwriters who happened to be working in the same studio – Derek Furhmann and Todd Clark – came to Phillips and his producer, Gregg Wattenberg, with “Gone, Gone, Gone.” They liked the song, took it to the label and got the OK to put the tune on the album.

“I’m glad that happened, because that song’s a lot better than the other song,” Phillips said. “It’s funny how that worked out.”

“Home” was an obvious choice for a first single. Phillips performed it on the final performance night of “American Idol” and again as his coronation song after being voted the Season 11 winner.

The song debuted at No. 10 on Billboard magazine’s Hot 100 singles chart and went on to top Billboard’s Adult Pop Songs and Adult Contemporary charts. It also crossed over to country, peaking at No. 6 on that chart.

“Gone, Gone, Gone” then had similar success, topping the Adult Contemporary chart and going top five at Adult Pop. “The World From The Side Of The Moon,” meanwhile, debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard album chart, and has gone on to top 1 million copies sold.

This success, obviously, has gotten Phillips’ post-“Idol” career off to a strong start. But just winning “Idol” was a major test for him.

As he was going through auditions, Phillips developed kidney stones, but decided to push forward. He eventually went through eight separate surgical procedures to get through his “Idol” journey, never revealing that once his run on the show was over, he’d need surgery to remove the stones and repair his non-functioning kidney. Phillips didn’t want to get support from the judges or the public because of his condition.

He was still recovering from his surgery when he joined the American Idols Live tour in July 2012. After the tour, he went into the studio to record “The World From The Side Of The Moon,” meeting a three-week schedule so the album would be ready for its November release, in time for the holiday shopping season.

Then it was on to promoting the album, and with the start of 2013, touring behind “The World From The Side Of The Moon.” First came an opening slot on Matchbox Twenty’s winter tour. Then came a headlining run of college venues. Then came a crash.

He had to cut short the college tour because of ongoing kidney issues, exhaustion and dehydration – a product of the tour schedule that often featured six shows a week.

Phillips said he has recovered now and is back on the road this fall with John Mayer. With a 45-minute set, Phillips will be able to showcase much of “The World From The Side Of The Moon.” That’s not all that he likes about the tour.

“I’m just excited to go play a lot of the venues where I’ve always wanted to play ... a few places I’ve been to before and just gone to and seen shows years before,” he said. “Playing on those stages now is going to be special.”

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