Last night, Phillip Phillips took home the title of this year’s American Idol winner. The Georgia native won voters over with his singer-songwriter style and knack for tailoring a randomly assigned song to his own aesthetic. And he managed to win despite suffering through a severe kidney illness that required numerous doctor visits and rumors of emergency surgery after the semi-final performances. As he adjusts to life in the spotlight the day after his win, a very sleepy Phillips sat down for a conference call with reporters eager to find out more about the Idol champion.
What was your reaction to winning? You got pretty emotional.
I didn’t want to sing or anything. I was just so shocked. I was thinking about the whole top 12 and our journey. It was a tough road for all of us, and I just got a little emotional. I was shocked, overwhelmed. I don’t know what I was thinking the rest of the night.
Do you feel pressure to achieve mainstream success?
It’s pretty crazy, but I’m not trying to do something too mainstream or not me. If ends up being mainstream, that’s cool. I’m ready to just meet cool people who enjoy the music I put out.
How did the song “Home,” your first single, come about?
They kind of just threw that song out there. I didn’t have a lot of options. They thought it was the right fit for me. I wanted to do one of my own songs that I had written, but with the short about of time [it wasn’t possible]. It’s a good song, but it’s not something I would write. I’m glad people like it. It’s a good song [by] a good writer [Drew Pearson].
You keep saying that “Home” isn’t the kind of song you wanted for your first single. What do you mean?
It’s a little too pop for me. I don’t put in any of those “ooohs.” I’m a little more rock than that. Hopefully people will enjoy what I have to put out. Some jazz-rock stuff. But, it’s a good song. Good writer.
“Home” is Number One on iTunes right now. How does that feel?
Insane, but I’m ready to get my own stuff out there.
Much was made this season about you not singing the original melodies of the songs you chose to perform each week. Did you just not want to sing them that way?
That’s just how I am. I sang the melody on some songs, just to show them I could, but I wanted to get the world ready for the kind of album I wanted to put out.
What do your songs sound like?
Kind of like jazz and rock, acoustic stuff.
While you were on the show, did you feel a lot of pressure to conform your music or how you should dress?
I didn’t feel pressure, because I knew I wasn’t going to change. No one was going to make me do anything I didn’t want to do. No one could make me do anything. They would throw their opinions out there and hopefully I would listen, but I didn’t have to.
Can you explain what’s wrong with your kidneys?
It’s my right kidney that isn’t functioning. I have a stent that’s helping, and I have to get that fixed pretty soon.
Are you going to be missing any Idol Live tour dates?
No, I’ll be 100% by the end.
How bad were you feeling during the show, and were you ever in danger of leaving the competition?
I had some bad days. I had some good days, but it was rough at times. There were a few times that I thought about getting out and getting the surgery done. I had really good doctors. My doctors helped me out a bunch, and I am really blessed.
There have been some rumors that judge Jennifer Lopez is not returning to the show. What’s your reaction?
That would be horrible. She knows her stuff and she cares about each one of us, and hopefully she stays.
You’ve been compared to the last four Idol winners, who are all males. How do you feel about that?
We’re all different in our ways, and I feel like I’m a lot different than the other ones. I’m not that great a singer. I play the guitar a lot different. They sing a lot better than me. So I feel that I’m pretty different from them.
How come you’re always saying you’re not a great singer?
I’m not outstanding. I can’t hit all these high notes. I just try to hit some kind of notes. I try to do something with it.
What did Jessica Sanchez say to you when you won?
She was just so proud of me. She said that she knew it, but I thought that she was going to win it. We were just so proud of each other anyway. She has such an amazing voice.