When one thinks of skills necessary to win American Idol, guitar playing is not one of them. That was until the 2012 season when Georgia native Phillip Phillips took first prize in part with his renditions of Dave Matthews and Bob Seger songs. Phillips' coronation song, "Home" which you would quickly recognize, became the biggest selling tune of any American Idol alumnus. But before he found success or fame Phillips was just a kid with a guitar.
"When I was 14 I started playing," Phillips told New Times with his Southern drawl. "My brother-in-law inspired me. I played for hours a day. Took it in the bathroom, in bed, to family functions. I started singing when I was 18. People said, 'You sound OK'."
The judges and audiences of the show would consider that an understatement.
Judges Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez, and Steven Tyler drooled over him, and during the finals, Phillips and his opponent drew a record number of votes. A younger Phillips would have been psyched about the adulation.
"You wanted to be a rock star as a teenager. I wasn't the coolest kid around, so you want people to notice you. You want girls to notice you. But by American Idol I had a great girlfriend, which I still have today."
Phillips went through great pains to stress how he prefers now to be low key with his favorite downtime activities being "hanging out on the river, going 4x4ing, going to the movies and eating popcorn." But his success post Idol prevented him from living an anonymous existence. His first album The World from the Side of the Moon went platinum and his follow up, this year's Behind the Light debuted at number 7 on the Billboard charts. "It was inspired by life experiences and imagination." He said about the newest record. "I wanted it to have a live feel. Then even if people don't know the songs, they can appreciate the energy.
His current tour takes him to Hard Rock Live on November 15. Joining Phillips on stage is his band featuring a second guitarist, drums, bass, a trombonist/trumpeter, and a cello player. And entertaining the crowd is something Phillips says he takes seriously though at a cost to his state of mind. "I get real nervous before each show. People can tell if you're not having a good time or being real."
Though he grew up admiring rock stars like AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, and Jimi Hendrix, it was watching another classic rock staple people in front of 90,000 people in Brazil that blew Phillips' mind. "I opened up for Springsteen. He was amazing. He crowdsurfed twice and chugged a fan's beer."
Is crowdsurfing something he might consider adding to his show?
"No way. I'm scared people might drop me."
Phillip Phillips, 8 p.m., November 15, at Hard Rock Live, One Seminole Way, Hollywood. Tickets cost $29 to $59 plus fees. Visit hardrocklivehollywoodfl.com.