Phillip Phillips: "I came close to dropping out" of 'American Idol' for surgery
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 05/24/2012
Phillip Phillips, a 21-year-old pawn shop clerk from Leesburg, GA, was crowned American Idol's eleventh-season winner during Wednesday night's live finale broadcast on Fox.
Phillip, the fifth-straight male finalist to take home Idol's title, defeated Jessica Sanchez, a 16-year-old from San Diego, CA, after he received the larger portion of the "132 million" home viewer votes cast immediately following Tuesday night's live performance broadcast that saw Phillips and Sanchez each sing three songs -- including an original written and produced solely for them.
During a conference call on Thursday, Phillip talked to reporters about his American Idol experience and victory. Check back with Reality TV World tomorrow for Jessica's interview with reporters.
Congratulations on your big win. Are you relieved American Idol's over?
Phillip Phillips: Yeah, I am man. It's kind of crazy. I've got a whole new schedule and it's going to take getting used to.
Do you feel any pressure now to achieve mainstream success? How do you deal with that?
Phillip Phillips: It's pretty crazy, you know? But I'm not trying to do something too mainstream or anything that's not me, but if it happens to get mainstream, that's cool -- I want to do that. I'm just ready to -- I just want people to enjoy the music that I put out and I'm excited to get my record out.
Other than the performances you were involved in, what were your favorite performances from last night's finale?
Phillip Phillips: Probably Jessica's and [Jennifer Holliday]'s duet there. I thought it was outstanding.
How did the choice of your single "Home" come about? How much say did you have in that selection for your first single? Did they give you a few options?
Phillip Phillips: No, not really man. They kind of threw that song out there because they felt like it was the right fit for me. I kind of wanted to do my own song -- one of my own songs that I've written -- but in the short amount of time, I just couldn't really do it recording-wise and everything. It's a good song, but it's not something I would really write, but I'm glad people like it. It is a good song.
What will your new album be like?
Phillip Phillips: Kind of jazz and rock and acoustic kind of stuff, you know? -- do something a little different. I'm kind of really excited to get it out there, so it'll be cool.
Could you talk a little bit about what it's like to be able to spend time with your girlfriend and how does she feel about the win? Will she be going on tour with you?
Phillip Phillips: Yeah man, she's so excited for me and she's helped me out a lot through this. Yeah, maybe she'll be able to come on tour with me. It'd be cool to have her there because she supports me throughout all this and I love her to death.
How does your girlfriend feel about all your screaming female fans who adore you?
Phillip Phillips: You know, to be honest, and especially for me. If a girl just votes for me because I'm cute and then gets mad if I have a girlfriend then she really doesn't like the music, you know?
So I'm all about the music man and I'm not trying to be just some cute guy trying to be successful. I'm not about that man. I just really want the music to come first. I just want people to kind of feel it and have fun, like I do with it.
Your emotions took over while you were performing your first single at the end of the show. Did that surprise you?
Phillip Phillips: Yeah man, I didn't really want to sing or anything. I was just so shocked and I just started thinking about the whole Top 12 and everything -- and started thinking about our whole journey. It's just so crazy that it's over and it was a tough road for all of us. It was just amazing to get to know them and it just kind of got me a little emotional up there.
Could you talk about exactly what's wrong with your kidneys and what will your surgery entail? Also, do you know when it will be?
Phillip Phillips: It's just my right kidney kind of isn't functioning and I have a stent in to help with that, so I just kind of have to get that fixed up pretty soon.
When Ryan Seacrest announced you'd won the competition, what thoughts went through your head?
Phillip Phillips: Honestly, I don't even think I had any thoughts. I was just in shock and so overwhelmed and didn't know how to process it all. I just didn't know what I was thinking the whole rest of the night, honestly.
Do you think you're going to be moving now or will you stay in Georgia for awhile?
Phillip Phillips: No, I think I'm most likely going to be moving. You gotta go after a lot of things and so you're going to have to go to a lot of places. So I probably, most likely, will be moving.
Where do you think you'll be having your kidney surgery?
Are you going to miss any Idol tour dates? I know your surgery will require recovery time.
Phillip Phillips: No, I'm not going to be missing anything. I'll be 100% percent by then, so I'm excited.
What did Jessica say to you after you were declared the American Idol champ?
Phillip Phillips: She was just so proud of me and she said she knew it, but I honestly didn't know. I honestly thought she was going to win. She has such an amazing voice, so we're just so proud of each other in many ways no matter the outcome.
Your "Home" single is number one on iTunes and you've got quite a few songs in the Top 100. How does that feel?
Phillip Phillips: That's just pretty insane, man. It's such a blessing and I'm ready to get my own stuff out there as well.
What did you feel like you learned about yourself as a person and musician from being on Idol?
Phillip Phillips: I just learned to not let people change you, because it gets tough when a lot of opinions are going your way and they're trying to tell you what you should do and what you shouldn't do, but I tried to tell everybody that you know yourself better than anybody and you know what's best for you. So I'm just kind of proud about how I stuck to my guns, you know?
Did you feel a lot of pressure to conform to others' ideas and opinions on your song choices or how you should dress and such?
Phillip Phillips: I didn't really feel too much pressure because I knew that I wasn't going to change for anybody. If I didn't feel comfortable doing something, I wouldn't want to do it. I didn't really feel pressure because I knew no one can make me do anything. They just stated their opinions out there and hoped I would take them, but sometimes, you just don't.
So you felt like you had the leeway to make your own choices?
Phillip Phillips: Yeah, no one really threatened me or anything to try to change me. So, they knew I was going to be who I am. That's all I could do.
How have you adjusted to and dealt with being in the spotlight since the competition began?
Phillip Phillips: Still adjusting. It's pretty crazy. I'm not used to all this attention and stuff and being the center of attention. It's pretty crazy right now, so I'm still trying to take all of it in piece by piece, but it's definitely different.
Many people have been comparing you to the last four American Idol winners, who were also all men. How do you feel about that, especially when the criticism is coming from Jessica's fans?
Phillip Phillips: You know, it's just people's opinions. If you're going to look at the past guy contestants who have won, we're all different in our own ways. But I feel like I'm really different -- a lot different than the other ones who play the guitar, because I'm not that great of a singer.
They're probably better singers than I am, but I play guitar a lot different than they did. I don't really just strum chords here and there. I have to do something a little different with it, so I know some people have noticed it like [Randy Jackson] and all those people -- a lot of other people. So I feel like I'm different.
How come you're saying you're not a great singer? You often seem to downplay your singing ability.
Phillip Phillips: I just don't feel like I'm that great. I'm not an outstanding -- I can't hit all these high notes and things. I do something. I try to hit some kind of note. (Laughs) I don't know if it's good or not, but I try to do something with it.
So if you didn't feel it was your voice that won you American Idol, what do you think gave you the edge over Jessica? What compensated for that?
Phillip Phillips: I don't know. I guess a lot of people saw what I did with music and that I'm really passionate about it. Maybe they felt that through what I did in how I changed the songs and everything.
You mentioned you don't think your single "Home" really represents you, so why is that?
Phillip Phillips: It's just a little too pop for me. I don't really put in any, "Oh, Oh, Oh's," or "OoOooO's" into it. It's a very good song and I'm glad people like it. I'm just a little more rock than that and I hope that people will enjoy what I have to put out -- the rock stuff.
Do you have many songs written?
Phillip Phillips: Oh yes. I have a pretty good amount -- not too many like, "Oh my gosh," how many. I'm really critical in my writing and in my music stuff. I'm really passionate about it.
Do you think your health will have any impact on your ability to perform and participate in the rigorous Idol tour schedule?
There have been some rumors that Jennifer Lopez may not be returning to Idol's judging panel next season. Can you tell me how much of an asset she has been to you throughout your journey on the show? Would you miss her if she wasn't there to watch next season?
Phillip Phillips: Yeah, that would be horrible. They all gave us advice. They were all very helpful. They wanted all of us to win. She's done this for years and she cares about each one of us. She's a great woman and I honestly hope she stays.
How bad exactly were you feeling during the show and were you ever in danger of leaving Idol completely?
Phillip Phillips: Yeah I mean, I had some bad days and I had some pretty good days. It was rough at times. There were a couple times I thought about just going ahead and getting out and getting the surgery done, but I had a lot of great doctors and a lot of great people who helped me out. So, I'm blessed to have that... I came close to dropping out to get the surgery, but my doctors helped me out a lot through it.
Did you have a gut feeling you'd win American Idol when you woke up the day of the finale?
Phillip Phillips: No, honestly, I didn't think I was going to win at all. I was caught off guard and I was in such awe.
If you were single, what type of girl would you be attracted to?
Phillip Phillips: I don't know, I'd just really have to get to know a woman, you know, who knows how to have fun and everything. She'll definitely have to have my sense of humor -- have a strange sense of humor -- so I'd definitely have to get to know the person.
Did you have any inkling at all from the very beginning of the competition that you'd have a shot at winning?
Phillip Phillips: I had no idea. I didn't even think I'd make it in front of the judges. I just feel so blessed to have had all this happen. I'm still trying to take it all in.
Check back with Reality TV World tomorrow for Jessica's interview with reporters.