Phillip Phillips became an overnight sensation after winning "American Idol" this year. So perhaps it's fitting that the recording process for his post-"Idol" debut album, The World From The Side Of The Moon--the preview of which is premiering right here, right now--was just as much of a whirlwind. Coming off summer 2012's Idols Live Tour, Phillip had just THREE weeks to record the album, and even now he admits, "I'm still shocked that I did it!"
Explains Phillip, "At first it was going to be coming out in December, then February, and then [the label] came back and said they wanted to get it out by November. And I was like, 'Aw, crap!' I have no idea how we did it. A lot of hours. We were in the studio for at least 13, 14, 15 hours a day, just getting work done."
In retrospect, Phillip thinks the crazy deadline was actually a blessing in disguise. "I think it was best to have a really short amount of time, because we didn't overanalyze things. I didn't want to overproduce anything, anyway. I didn't want to do anything that I couldn't perform live; I really wanted to keep it raw. So it was an awesome experience, having to get everything done that fast and learning so much in such a short amount of time."
And how did Phillip's health hold up during this grueling experience, considering that he underwent major kidney surgery shortly after his "Idol" victory and shortly before going on tour? "My health is awesome," he insists. "I couldn't ask for anything better. The doctors did an awesome job. I still have to watch what I eat, to help prevent problems from happening again, and I have to take a few medications, but I'm doing really good."
Aside from all these pressures, Phillip was in fact afforded some luxuries and freedoms in the studio that past Idols haven't enjoyed--which thankfully prevented his album from sounding like a rush job. First of all, he was able to work with only one producer, Greg Wattenberg (Train, Daughtry, Goo Goo Dolls, Five For Fighting), to create a cohesive sound--when other Idols in the past have had so many producers, their CD booklets required multiple extra pages to fit in all the credits. Additionally, Phillip was able to record several of his pre-"Idol" original compositions, and he wrote or co-wrote all but two of the 11 new, non-"Home" tracks recorded for the album. He even got to recruit his brother-in-law, Ben Neil, to play lead guitar on the album and co-write one of the cuts, "Drive Me."
Interestingly, Phillip credits this to his good working relationship with Jimmy Iovine, the Interscope Records hothead with whom he famously butted heads during his "Idol" stint. "Jimmy has been awesome and really respectful, and it's been amazing to have that, since he's such a huge guy in the industry," Phillip says. "I was definitely a little nervous about working with him, because you can't really tell Jimmy Iovine that he's wrong! He kind of knows best, because he's worked with some of the greatest artists in the world. But he let me do so much on this album."
Phillip received flak from Jimmy and the "Idol" judges during Season 11 for some of his obscure song choices and arrangements--"arty" was one adjective that was tossed around, disdainfully--but Phillip insists that when he was in the studio, he learned how to balance "American Idol's" commercial pressures with his own artistic tendencies. "I definitely got to be 'arty' a lot! But I also learned to write songs that were more simple. That was a learning experience for me, but I like to have a little bit of a challenge. But they learned from me, too. Sometimes they'd be like, 'That's a little strange...but I like it!' So I fought for it. It was a give and take from everybody. But I think the album is arty.
"It's an album that really represents me and it really comes from my heart, so I really hope people can connect with it," Phillip states. "Hey, maybe people will like at least just one song!"
Oh, we think people will like more than one song. Listen to 60-second snippets of all 12 songs above, and check out Phillip's track-by-track commentary below!
Man On The Moon (written by Phillip Phillips) - "I wrote that song by myself. It's just me, the music and lyrics. It's a song about someone trying to be somebody that they're not, and how you need to be yourself no matter what. But I had that song written right before 'Idol,' so I wasn't really thinking about that. It's something more personal. I don't want to say what it's about right now. Maybe if I get a 'VH1 Storytellers' someday, I will..."
Home (Greg Holden, Drew Pearson) - "This song [which has sold 2 million downloads] has just been a blessing to me. I couldn't ask for anything better. I've grown more into the song; each time I play it, I make it more of my own and do some fun things to make it more different, to make it more me."
Gone Gone Gone (Derek Fuhrmann, Todd Clark, Gregg Wattenberg) - "This is just a beautiful love song--but it's not cheesy. I really like how it plays out. It has a serious feel to it, like, 'I'll be at your side, no matter what.' But it doesn't have to be about a girlfriend or boyfriend. It can be about anyone that you love dearly--a family member or something."
Hold On (Phillip Phillips) - "I wrote this one a while back. It's about how when I was a little younger, after graduating college, people would say, 'You'll find yourself out in this world. You'll find out who you are later in life.' Which is kind of true...but they don't know me at all, so they don't know if I've found myself already or not! So that's what the song means. Have I found myself? I don't know! It's a big world out there."
Tell Me A Story (Phillip Phillips, David Ryan Harris) - "I had the music mostly written during 'Idol,' but I never wrote any words to it. After I won, I wrote the first verse and half of the second verse, but then I was just stumped. So they brought in David Ryan Harris, an awesome songwriter. It took us maybe an hour or two to come up with a second verse. He wrote it, and I loved it. It's a story about hope, I guess--about not being scared of what's around you, and trying to take it all in. It's a sweet love song, too, saying not to be scared to just go out there."
Get Up Get Down (Phillip Phillips, Gregg Wattenberg, Derek Fuhrmann) - "This is a funky song, a fun song. It'll be fun to play live. The verse has a nice melody, but when the chorus comes in, it gets a bit aggressive. This one is also about going out there and experiencing the whole world."
Where We Came From (Phillip Phillips, Jon Green) - "I wrote this with Jon Green, from London. Such a nice, awesome guy. I showed him an idea I had, a funky guitar part, and I was thinking of making it a bigger song--but once we got to the chorus, he kind of brought it down and made it a little more mellow. And I enjoyed that. It's catchy, but lyrics-wise, it's got some good meaning to it. It's got darker lyrics."
Drive Me (Phillip Phillips, Ben Neil) - "That's a song me and my brother-in-law Ben wrote a while ago. It was a pretty heavy rock song, but we tried to lighten it up to fit the album more. It's basically about going to a bar or club, and trying to look for a good-looking lady! Ben should tell [Phillip's sister, to whom Ben is married] that it's not autobiographical! [laughs]"
Wanted Is Love (Phillip Phillips) - "I wrote that one two or three years ago, but I changed up the lyrics for this album. It's kind of a deep song, about how everybody wants to be loved in some way, and how it's not wrong to feel that way. Some 'tough guys' might want to sound romantic, but I'm like, there's nothing wrong with being romantic, or with loving someone. It's okay to want to be loved."
Can't Go Wrong (Phillip Phillips, Greg Holden, Drew Pearson) - "I wrote this with the guys who wrote 'Home.' We got in the studio, met each other, and this 'Idol' thing was all new to them, too. We wrote it in three or four hours, maybe, and I really liked how it turned out. We wanted to keep it similar to 'Home,' but I told them I wanted more of a rockish feel, not too folky. It's just a good song about not losing yourself. For me, it was about my whole experience with 'Idol,' about not losing who I am and sticking to my ground."
Fool's Dance (Phillip Phillips) - "I wrote this a year or two ago. It's a very personal song, a very dark song, about how you think you know someone, and you've known them a long time--and then something changes in the blink of an eye, and they're not the same person that you thought they were. But everything works out in the end, because I love the song. And I like that it's a little bit darker."
So Easy (Stephen Wrabel, Peter Amato, Pete Salis) - "This is a just a good little love song that maybe people will like. Who wrote it? Honestly, I have no idea! I was hoping you wouldn't ask. [laughs] I think it'll be a pretty good song after I make it more of my own and play it out live."