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 has started 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 after 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.”
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 he 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-hit single, “Gone Gone Gone,” Phillips came to be viewed as a folk-centric artist in the vein of Mumford & Sons.
That’s part of the 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.” But Phillips feels “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 (“Collateral”) 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 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.” “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.”