Q-and-A with Phillip Phillips
Grand Canyon University student Ashley Romantic sat down with Phillip Phillips before his concert at GCU Arena Saturday night to talk about his music, faith, advice for college students and, of course, how to get your Lopes Up.
Q: Tell us about your album “Behind the Light.”
A: I think it’s got a little bit of everything to it. It’s got some funk, a little bit of soul, rock, a little jazz and pop. I think it’s good. It’s honest. I only have two albums out so it’s definitely my best work so far. I am starting to work on my third one right now and am really excited. It has some cool, kind of weird stuff happening, but I like it like that.
Q: I am sure everyone out there will think it’s really good.
A: Not everyone, there’s always somebody who thinks it’s not good, but that’s just people you know. As long as my mom and fiancé like it, that’s what counts.
Q: I understand it’s geared more toward a concert setting. Is this the most fun you’ve ever had on tour?
A: Yes. I was touring last year. This year I am writing a lot more, doing shows here and there kind of like this one, more like one-off shows. But every time I get to play the songs, especially when I was debuting and doing the tour, it was a lot of fun. It’s easy to get them live. As my band played on, we just changed up stuff, added some jam in and other musical parts. It’s always fun and it’s always evolving. I definitely wanted to represent that live setting, live show and that is what I am working toward on the third one. You always want to keep them different, and when making a song for the album you want to make a song and not just a jam. And when you play it live, that’s when you have fun and get crazy.
Q: Do you play university settings often? What are your impressions of GCU and GCU Arena?
A: It’s very beautiful. It’s definitely one of the cleaner arenas I have ever seen. This campus is great. My first headlining tour, all I did was college dates and it was a lot of fun. You build those fans with people similar to your age.
Q: You get the crazy college kids.
A: Yeah, are they crazy here?
Q: Well, we go to Chapel so we are mellow, but we do get crazy.
A: We’ll go to church tonight, then!
Q: So what was your school experience like? Were you more the excited and anxious type or were you dreading it?
A: Ah no, I always hated school since I was kid. When I was going to college, too… What I was studying, it was something I didn’t want to do for the rest of my life, so that made it miserable. If you are going for something you enjoy, I am sure it is a lot more fun. It’s still hard work.
Q: What role does faith play in your life?
A: It plays a big part. I grew up in church. Ever since I was a kid, my mom played the piano and sang. My Poppa, my grandfather, he led worship when I was a kid. He has a deep voice, and now he sings a little quieter. My dad would sing sometimes, and both my sisters sang in church at a young age. I didn’t get into music until I was about 14. I was into my music, but I didn’t pick up the guitar until I was 14. I grew up on the hymns. I was writing this week with my band — a few of those guys play in church sometimes when they are home — and I started signing some hymns, and they were like, “Oh yeah, Phil, we didn’t know you knew that.” And I was like, “Oh yeah, I grew up learning all those.” All my friends went to a more contemporary churches, singing more David Crowder type of stuff. I love David Crowder, it’s an incredible band. I was singing “Old Rugged Cross” or “Victory in Jesus” type stuff. Faith plays a role every day. Anyone who grew up religious, even if you get away from it, it always comes back to you in some way or form. I try to keep living right every day. Sometimes you don’t do it right, but that is what learning and life is all about.
Q: The audience tonight is filled with young people chasing their dreams. What words of advice can you give them?
A: Don’t mess up (laughing).
Q: That’s good advice.
A: Aim to do something you love and enjoy – that’s really the biggest thing that counts. Money doesn’t buy happiness. It can buy you fun things sometimes, but in the end, if you’re not enjoying what you’re doing… I’ve met a lot of miserable people that don’t like doing what they are doing and that is not a fun place to be. Like I said, I was going to college for something I didn’t want to do and I was miserable. Do something you love. If it’s music, if it’s technology, if it’s being a teacher, whatever it is, do it to the best of your capability. That is how I was brought up.
Q: Now, “Lopes Up” is a thing we do here at GCU.
A: Is this like a hand signal thing? I saw a billboard about it. I didn’t know if it was a dog or what.
Q: It’s an antelope. If you do this (showing Lopes Up), you’ll connect with the audience right away. That’s my best piece of advice.
A: OK, I get nervous doing interviews — I am nervous right now — but I will try and remember it. My mind starts racing once I get up on stage. I’ll either do it right when I go out, or sometime during the show, when I’m like – “I need to do that.”
Q: I am sure you will see lots of people who will join in. If there are 7,000 people out there, and you do Lopes Up, you’ll get 14,000 hands up in the air. It’s what they teach you Day 1.
A: Sweet… If they are not into the show, I’ll do this (Lopes Up) after every song.