Glen Phillips steps away from his early fame and into a new comfort zone

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:: Glen Phillips :: Soiled Dove Underground :: February 13 :: 

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By Monica Banks

 For many, a high school band is an extra curricular activity that gets left behind after a high school diploma is earned. However, for Glen Phillips and his high school band Toad the Wet Sprocket, the 12-year run was just the beginning of a new direction — a direction that now finds Phillips fiercely independent, focused and as inspirational as he is prolific.

Phillips is inspired by other musicians and is constantly on the lookout for opportunities to improve or try something different. Last summer he was able to again tap into the muse he shared with his old companions in Toad, as they toured around the country playing 36 shows. However, for Phillips, this tour did not mark a re-launch of his Toad career. 

After exploring the pop world, Phillips returned to his singer/songwriter roots for his 2006 release Mr. Lemons, the third studio album of his solo career. “It’s stripped down and modest, with less pop flavor,” Phillips said in a recent interview with The Marquee. Teaming up producer Neilson Hubbard and engineer/mixer Andy Hunt, Phillips married his voice perfectly with the music to create an insightful production of harmonious acoustics. With up-beat love songs like “Everything But You,” a track dedicated solely to Phillips grateful adoration, “Thank You,” and the evolutionary “The Next Day,” Mr. Lemons is introspective and lively. “I like making things with a lot of sound in them,” Phillips said in regards to the album.

The release, which also features guest vocalists Kim Richey and Garrison Starr, was recorded in Nashville, Tenn., and marked Phillips’ return to independence. He released Mr. Lemons on Umami Records/bigHelium, and claims (maybe jokingly) that Mr. Lemons is “named after a studio named after a deceased cat.”

Having traded a college education for a guitar and the road, Phillips relished and suffered the success of Toad the Wet Sprocket, which sold more than three million albums and had a handful of radio hits, including “Walk on the Ocean.” The band spent its time traveling and offering music wherever and whenever, living the lives of road-warrior musicians. When Toad called it quits in 1998 “for all of the usual reasons” there was no question of whether or not Phillips would continue on in his musical life. “You stick with what you know and this is what I do,” Phillips said. “I get to play music for people. It’s a gift and I’m really grateful for it.”

While the success of Toad was an inspiring adventure, Phillips, now married with three daughters, has put his rock-star costume in the closet. “It’s a blue collar job,” Phillips said.

In the aftermath of Toad, Phillips is trying to re-focus his energy back into the creative side of the business. “I got lost there for a while,” he said, referring to the business side of the industry. Phillips continued to explain that is part of the reason that he released Mr. Lemons independently. “I am releasing my new record independently as part of a decision to shift from the insanity of the record business to the manageability of a family business,” he said.

That family business theme took another step forward this past fall. Beginning in September of 2006, Phillips and his family were scheduled to spend nine months living and traveling in a motor home. “Laurel and I will home-school the children and I will use the opportunity to play club residencies, home concerts and festivals across Europe,” he said at the time. “Much delicious food will be cooked and consumed. Art and music will be created. Fine friends will be made. Mirth will ensue.”

Unfortunately, a family emergency cut that trip short, but if nothing else, it planted the seed for a readjustment in Phillips’ life and career. As he wrote on the page that was to be his European travel blog, “I had a brief moment of mainstream success as a young man which I am still in the process of recovering from … I’m trying to learn how to make music for a living without it being at the expense of my family and community.”

While some would like to see Phillips playing more shows and producing more for radio play, he has other plans. “I realized that I don’t have to want that,” Phillips said.

With side projects like Mutual Admiration Society (Phillips in cahoots with Nickel Creek), it’s hard for fans to not demand more from the former Toad, but he is looking at this phase of his life as he has the rest of his life in music — developing a sustainable career rather than a big-hit money grab that leaves him well off, but unemployed for life. Taking example from heroes like Greg Brown, Phillips is looking to produce “quiet prosperity” that keeps coming year after year. “The success is completely internal,” said Phillips. “It means liking what you do and being proud of it.”

 

:: Glen Phillips ::

:: Soiled Dove Underground ::

:: February 13 ::

 

Spectate if you Gravitate:

• Toad the Wet Sprocket

• Greg Brown

• Gin Blossoms

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