Entertainment

Phillips branches out from folk sound on new album

Phillip Phillips performs Aug. 22, 2017, in Baltimore.
Phillip Phillips performs Aug. 22, 2017, in Baltimore. Invision/AP

After spending three years in record label limbo, Phillip Phillips is finally getting to where he’s wanted to be — he’s released a new album, “Collateral,” and is on a headlining tour to promote it.

“I’m excited. I love being on the road,” Phillips said in a phone interview. “We’ve got new songs to play, all this new music. It’s been a long time coming, so it will be fun.”

Phillips’ career had gone into neutral after he decided to get out of his recording, management and merchandising contract with 19 Entertainment. He filed suit to try to win his freedom and start anew with a different record company.

While the two sides did the legal dance, Phillips was prevented from releasing new music. The case eventually was settled out of court, and the Georgia native gained his release, but not until three years after the release of his second album, 2014’s “Behind The Light.”

This cleared the way for Phillips, who plays the Knitting Factory in Boise March 14, to sign a new label deal with Interscope Records and release “Collateral,” an album he had started work on more than two years ago.

“Everything came out great,” Phillips said of the settlement. “I’m just so glad I can move forward in making music and just tour the world again and get to do what I love. It was tough because you’re stuck in this little middle ground that you’re not really going anywhere. You just write music that (you wonder) is it ever going to see the light of day?”

The halt to Phillips’ career came after he had enjoyed a quick ascension into the spotlight and promising start to his solo career.

He gained the national spotlight in 2012 when he won season 11 of “American Idol.”

Like other “American Idol” finalists, Phillips signed deals covering management, publishing, recording and merchandising with 19 Entertainment (a company founded by former “Idol” judge Simon Cowell) in order to compete on the show. The terms of the deal are considered more favorable to 19 Entertainment than most standard recording contracts.

But Phillips grew frustrated, contending 19 Entertainment “manipulated” him into doing certain shows and television appearances that were not in his best interest.

One song that Phillips balked at doing was “Home,” his coronation song on “American Idol” and breakthrough single from his 2012 debut album, “The World from the Side of the Moon.” It topped three “Billboard” magazine charts and went top 10 on three other charts.

Phillips said he didn’t feel a connection at the time to “Home.” Because of its acoustic flavor and the debut album’s second hit single, “Gone Gone Gone,” Phillips came to be viewed as a folk-centric artist. But other songs on “The World from the Side of the Moon” — nine of which were written or co-written by Phillips — suggested he had more diverse musical influences. His eclecticism was even more apparent on “Behind The Light.”

Phillips said “Collateral” provides the best representation yet of the kind of music he wants to make.

“I’ve always felt like I’ve tried to hit in different genres, but I think this album does it the best,” he said.

There are a few stripped back acoustic tunes on “Collateral” that connect back to “Home” and “Gone Gone Gone,” including “Dance One More With Me” and “What Will Become of Us.” And “Don’t Tell Me” and “Into The Wild” recall a Dave Matthews style sound that was part of the musical mix on the first two albums.

But “Collateral” also has the hardest rocking songs Phillips has recorded in “My Name” and “Love Junkie.” “I Dare You” brings some horn-spice soul into the mix, while “Miles” is a spacious ballad that could work on pop radio.

The new songs figure to bring more musical variety to Phillips’ live show. But the exact flow and feel of his shows could vary from night to night.

“I definitely want to play all of the new stuff, not every show, and I’ll mix it up with some older songs,” Phillips said. “But I play a different show every night...That’s what I loved about a lot of bands growing up, all those jam bands that played a different show every night and had that kind of following. My fans, I feel like they really enjoy that. I have people that come out to six, seven shows in a row, if not more, and we always like to keep it different. Me and the band, we’re trying to make something new and exciting, for not just us, but for the fans as well. So it’s going to be fun.”

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After spending three years in record label limbo, Phillip Phillips is finally getting to where he’s wanted to be with his career during this time – he’s released a new album, “Collateral,” and is starting a headlining tour to promote the album.

“I’m excited. I love being on the road,” Phillips said in an early January phone interview. “We’ve got new songs to play, all this new music. It’s been a long time coming, so it will be fun.

Phillips’ career had gone into neutral after he decided he needed to get out of his recording, management and merchandising contract with 19 Entertainment and filed suit to try to win his freedom and start anew with a different record company.

While the two sides did the legal dance, Phillips was prevented from releasing new music. The case eventually was settled out of court, and the Georgia native gained his release from 19 Entertainment, but not until three years had passed since the release of his second album, 2014’s “Behind The Light.”

This cleared the way for Phillips to sign a new label deal with Interscope Records and release “Collateral,” an album he had started work on two-plus years ago.

“Everything came out great,” Phillips said of the settlement. “I’m just so glad I can move forward in making music and just tour the world again and get to do what I love. It was tough because you’re stuck in this little middle ground that you’re not really going anywhere. You just write music that (you wonder) is it ever going to see the light of day?”

The halt to Phillips’ career came after he had enjoyed a quick ascension into the spotlight and promising start to his solo career.

He gained the national spotlight in 2012 when he won season 11 of “American Idol,” despite battling serious kidney problems that over the course of the competition required eight surgeries. But Phillips kept performing and won that season’s title.

Phillips kept his health issues to himself during his “Idol” run, wanting to compete and win on the strength of his musical abilities and not because of sympathy votes from viewers over his health struggles.

Like other “American Idol” finalists, Phillips signed deals covering management, publishing, recording and merchandising with 19 Entertainment (a company founded by former “Idol” judge Simon Cowell) in order to compete on the show. The terms of the deal are considered more favorable to 19 Entertainment than most standard recording contracts.

But Phillips grew frustrated with his contract and sued, claiming in part that he wasn’t allowed to control his musical direction or his career and that 19 Entertainment “manipulated” him into doing certain shows and television appearances that were not in his best interest.

One song that Phillips balked at doing was “Home,” his coronation song on “American Idol” and breakthrough single from his 2012 debut album, “The World from the Side of the Moon.” It topped three “Billboard” magazine charts (Adult Alternative Songs, Adult Contemporary and Adult Top 40) and went top 10 on three other charts (including the all-genre Hot 100 singles chart).

Phillips said he didn’t want to do “Home,” which was written by Todd Clark, Derek Fuhrmann and Gregg Wattenburg, because didn’t relate to the song at that point (although he now feels he has developed more of a connection to the song). Because of the acoustic flavor of “Home” and the debut album’s second single, “Gone Gone Gone” – which topped the Adult Alternative Songs and Adult Contemporary charts -- Phillips came to be viewed as a folk-centric artist in the vein of Mumford & Sons.

That’s part of musical picture, but other songs on “The World from the Side of the Moon” – nine of which were written or co-written by Phillips -- suggested he had more diverse musical influences. His eclecticism was even more apparent on “Behind The Light.”

Despite some creative compromises and conflict, Phillips said he remains proud of his first two albums, but feels “Collateral” provides the best representation yet of the kind of music he wants to make.

“There are so many songs on that first record that I do love, that were early songs that I’d written in my life and just kind of by myself that I still love today,” he said, though he noted the album had to be rushed to capitalize on the momentum from the “American Idol” win. “We recorded that in three weeks, and that was, I go back and listen to it now and go ‘I wish I could have done this or done that.’ But that’s what makes it special, too, that you didn’t have a lot of time and the songs did do so well.

“Then the second album, I love all of those songs as well, but there were also people, there were things happening internally around other people that didn’t go so well and that might have reflected with that album as well.” This album (“Collateral”), I did have time and this one hits different genres. I’ve always felt like I’ve tried to hit in different genres, but I think this album does it the best.”

Some Phillips fans will probably be surprised by some of the songs and styles on “Collateral.” There are a few stripped back acoustic tunes that connect back to “Home” and “Gone Gone Gone,” including “Dance One More With Me” and “What Will Become of Us.” “Don’t Tell Me” and “Into The Wild” recall the Dave Matthews-ish sound that was part of the musical mix on the first two albums.

But “Collateral” also has the hardest rocking songs Phillips has recorded in “My Name” and “Love Junkie,” while “Magnetic” mixes a good bit of rock in with soul and modern pop. “I Dare You” brings some horn-spice soul into the mix, while “Miles” is a spacious ballad that could work on pop radio.

The stylistic range of “Collateral” makes sense when Phillips talks about his musical background.

“Growing up, at first I was into rock, a lot of classic rock, Led Zeppelin and all those bands and Hendrix, that just changed my life,” he said. “Then I got into blues and got into funk, you know, James Brown, a little R&B with Isaac Hayes and all of that stuff. So I’ve always felt like I’ve done that with writing music. I’ve kind of incorporated a little bit of everything in each song.”

The new songs figure to bring more musical variety to Phillips’ live show. But the exact flow and feel of his shows could vary from night to night.

“I definitely want to play all of the new stuff, not every show, and I’ll mix it up with some older songs,” Phillips said. “But I play a different show every night...That’s what I loved about a lot of bands growing up, all those jam bands that played a different show every night and had that kind of following. My fans, I feel like they really enjoy that. I have people that come out to six, seven shows in a row, if not more, and we always like to keep it different. Me and the band, we’re trying to make something new and exciting, for not just us, but for the fans as well. So it’s going to be fun. It’s going to be a lot of new stuff, a lot of old stuff, and some covers. We kind of hit a little bit of everything.”

Opening act

The Ballroom Thieves bring their synthesis of folk, pop, country and indie rock sensibilities to Boise to open for Phillip Phillips.

The Boston-based band recently released “Do Something,” a sly takedown of the current political climate. With a modern spin on classic Doo-Wop, the track is elevated by Calin Peters’ raw, impassioned lead vocal and complemented by the full harmonies of her bandmates guitarist Martin Earley and drummer Devin Mauch.

“As artists, we’re sometimes told that our jobs are to entertain and to keep politics and personal opinions out of our shows,” Peters says. “But, that feels misguided. We’re humans, small business owners, citizens ... We will always believe that free speech is a tool to bring people together in the pursuit of truth.”

Peters said President Trump deserved a chance when he was elected. “We tried to be forbearing and hopeful, to watch and wait. Now a year has passed and it’s apparent that the patience we once championed is wholly wasted on an egomaniacal president who cares for nothing but his own enrichment. As such, the meaning behind this song has shifted with the times and it now stands as a letter for you, to him, from us. Patience has become a virtue of yesterday, and time’s up.”

In concert

Phillip Phillips: 8 p.m. March 14, Knitting Factory, 416 S. 9th St., Boise. $25. TicketWeb. $27 day of show. Opening: The Ballroom Thieves

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