Most "American Idol" champs hit the promotional treadmill hard the morning after the finale, but since winning Season 11 of "Idol" in May, Phillip Phillips has been laying low and staying out of the public eye, undergoing and then recovering from a serious kidney operation that he had postponed during his "Idol" run. But Phillip came out of hiding this week to play a rare acoustic performance of his winning song "Home" for Yahoo! Music, assisted by his guitar-shredding brother-in-law, Ben Neil. And the Idol was looking like his old self, humble and likable as ever. It was fantastic to see him doing so well.
"It's still weird for me [that I won]," Phillip admitted later to Yahoo!'s Reality Rocks. "It hasn't all kicked in, because I have been recovering and I'm still in my little bubble. I never took anything in until the finale, and that's where it all hit me, like, wow."
While some naysayers have theorized that Phillip's kidney stone condition earned him sympathy votes on "Idol," in actuality, viewers had no idea how ill he really was until after the show was over. Phillip explained: "I don't like getting my own personal business out there too much. I never really told anybody until it got really bad at one point, so then it kind of had to get out there. But I didn't want people to vote for me as a sympathy vote or anything. I wanted it to be about the music. Even throughout Hollywood Week it was kind of rough, but still, I didn't want to talk about it. I wanted to see what people would think of the most I could do right then."
Phillip did say that he felt he wasn't always at his best on "Idol," although that obviously didn't stop millions of people from being impressed and voting for him week after week. "During the show, I wasn't at 100 percent at all. I would always try to save all my energy for that Wednesday night, and then I'd be drained and have to start saving up all my energy for the next week...There was a couple times I almost dropped out because it was getting to me. But I talked to the producers and doctors and whatnot, and they helped me get through it," he said.
Now, with his post-surgery recovery on the right track, Phillip has a busy and grueling year ahead of him, with the 46-date Idols Live summer tour kicking off July 6 while he simultaneously works on his debut album. How will he maintain his health on the road, with such a punishing schedule? "I'm gonna tell them if I really need a break or something," Phillip explained, joking that he may play the "kidney card" that helped him get out of shooting many of Season 11's Ford Music Videos. "And I've been drinking a little bit of caffeine. I don't need to be, but it helps me get through the day!"
Phillip's victory was admittedly a polarizing one on "Idol"--many viewers were hoping that Jessica Sanchez, or at least a female contestant, would prevail this year. But in his usual casual manner, Phillip has shrugged off such controversy. "It's not hurting my feelings. Jessica is an amazing, amazing singer, especially for her age, and she's got a huge future ahead of her. I'm so proud of her, and she's so proud of me. Life's too short to be mad because someone won something, or didn't win something! It's just kind of silly to me," he chuckled.
As for comparisons between Phillip and the previous four (male, guitar-strumming) "American Idol" winners, Phillip said: "It's all good. I feel like I play the guitar a lot differently than they do. We're all different in our own ways. I don't really like playing regular chords, I like doing something different with it, doing different tunings and stuff. Some people have noticed how I've approached music on the guitar and just music in general, and that's really cool...Like Casey Abrams, he'd come up to me, and he's an amazing musician. He's one of the people who made me think about even trying out!"
Check out Phillip's full interview above for more details on the Idols Live Tour, Phillip's forthcoming album (slated for November/December release), his off-camera jam session with Casey, and his thoughts about his entire "Idol" journey. Thanks so much to Phillip for coming in, and here's wishing him a continued speedy recovery!