Phillips on 'American Idol': 'I'm not that great a singer'
Only hours after being declared the winner of Season 11 of "American Idol," Phillip Phillips still sounded like he was struggling to grasp the dimensions of his accomplishment when he got on the phone Thursday to take calls from reporters.
"It's so unreal," he said, allowing that, yes, he was feeling relieved that the competition was over, but also sort of bowled over by the dramatic changes in his life the win would bring. "It's kind of crazy."
Still, though Phillips insists he hadn't expected to win -– "I honestly thought [runner-up Jessica Sanchez] was gonna win; she has such an amazing voice" -– he's nevertheless planned for the next stage in his musical career, which he'll be able to focus on without health distractions as soon as he gets his much-needed kidney surgery "pretty soon." (He expects to be 100% recovered by the time the "Idol" tour kicks off this summer.)
His first album, he said, will fuse rock and jazz and acoustic elements into his own trademark sound. "I'm really excited to get it out there. It's gonna be cool."
Here's what else "Idol's" newest winner had to say:
On being compared to the last four "American Idol" winners, all white guys who play guitar:
If they really look at the past guy contestants who've won, we're all different in our ways. But I feel I'm really different -- actually a lot different from the others who've played the guitar and sang -- because I'm not that great of a singer. They're probably better singers than I am, but you know, 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. I know some people have noticed it. … I feel like I'm different.
On why he tends to downplay his singing ability:
I just don't feel like I'm that great. I'm not outstanding. I can't hit all these high notes and everything. But I do something. I try to hit some kind of note. I don't know if it's good or not, but I try and do something with it.
On why he thinks he won, if it wasn't because he was the best singer:
I guess hopefully a lot of people saw what I did with music, because I'm really passionate about it. And you know, maybe they felt that through what I did, how I changed songs up and everything.
On whether he feels pressure to achieve mainstream success:
I'm not trying to be or do something too mainstream or anything, that's not me. But if it happens to get mainstream, that's cool. I just want people to enjoy the music I put out, and I'm excited to get my record out.
Favorite moment from last night, other than his own performances:
Probably Jessica and Jennifer's performance. That thing was outstanding.
On how "Home" became his "winner's song":
They just kind of threw that song out there. They felt like it was the right fit for me. I wanted to do my own song, one of my own songs I've written. But just the short amount of time, we couldn't really do it … It's a good song. It's not really something I would write. But I'm glad people enjoy it, because it is a good song and a good writer.
On how his girlfriend feels about his win and whether she'll go on tour with him:
She's so excited for me, and she's helped me out a lot through this. … I'm hoping she'll be able to come on tour with me. That'd be cool to have her there. She's supported me throughout all this. I love her to death.
On all his adoring female fans:
If a girl votes for me because I'm cute and then gets mad at me because I have a girlfriend, then she didn't like the music. I'm all about the music, man. I'm not trying to be some cute guy who's trying to be successful off that. I really want the music to come first. And I really want people to feel it and have fun with it like I do.
On feeling too overwhelmed to sing after his win:
I didn't even really want to sing or anything. I was just so shocked. I just started thinking about the whole Top 12 then and … our whole journey, that it was just so crazy that it was over and that it was a tough road for all of us. It was just amazing to get to know [the other contestants in the Top 12]. It just kind of got me a little emotional.
On what runner-up Jessica Sanchez said to him after his win:
She was just so proud of me. She said she knew it, but I honestly didn't know it. I honestly thought she was gonna win -- you know, she has such an amazing voice. We're just so proud of each other, no matter the outcome.
On his friendship with fellow Top 12 contestant Heejun Han:
We met one day during Hollywood Week, right before group round, and we just kind of clicked. He's a really great guy. We still keep in touch. He's got a big future ahead of him.
On what he learned from his time on "Idol":
Just that it's good to just not let people try to change you, you know. 'Cause it gets tough when a lot of opinions are coming your way, trying to tell you what you should do and what you shouldn't do.... So I'm kind of proud of how I stuck to my guns.
On how he's adjusted to being in the spotlight:
I'm still adjusting. It's pretty crazy. I'm not used to all this attention. … I hate being the center of attention. … So I'm still trying to take all of it in, piece by piece, but it's definitely different.
On which artist, dead or alive, he'd most like to perform with:
That's a tough question. So many people: Eric Clapton and Damien Rice … Rob Thomas.
On how he celebrates his victory:
Went to a couple of parties, not for too long, and wish I would have left a little earlier because I'm kind of running low on some sleep. I … just kind of hung out for a few minutes and went home and tried to get some rest.
On why he says "Home" isn't the sort of song he'd put out:
It's just a little too pop for me. I don't really put in too many 'oh-oh-ohs.' But it's a very good song, and I'm glad people like it. I guess I'm a little more rock than that, so hopefully people will enjoy what I have to put out. Some jazz-rock stuff.
On how many songs he has written:
I have a pretty good bit. Not too many, not like "oh my gosh" how many. But I'm really critical of my writing in music stuff.
On the possibility that Jennifer Lopez might not return to "Idol" next season:
That would be horrible. All [the judges] gave us advice. They were very helpful. And they wanted all of us to win. She's done this for years and knows her stuff and cares about each one of us. She's a great woman, and hopefully she stays.
On the pain he was in during the show and whether he considered quitting:
I had some bad days and … some good days. It was rough at times, and there were a couple of times, you know, I thought about just 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 through it. I'm blessed to have that.
On whether there's anything he'd like to have done differently:
I would have liked to have had more sound in my inner ear [monitor] on "Time of the Season," because that was a pretty bad performance. But you can't go back and change it. … It's all over with now.
-- Amy Reiter
Photo: Phillip Phillips is embraced by Jessica Sanchez on "American Idol." Credit: John Shearer / Invision/Associated Press