When Phillip Phillips came off the American Idols Live tour inSeptember, he went almost directly into the studio to record his album.
"Wewere working non-stop to get it done, at least 12-, 15-hour days," saysthe 22-year-old from Leesburg, Ga., who won the 11th American Idol season in May. "Some of the guys that were helping with the album, lining things up, they were working even harder than that."
Phillips recorded his debut album, The World From the Side of the Moon, during three weeks in September and October. He and Interscope Records had good reason to hurry. Home,Phillips' coronation single from the show, initially had put upimpressive sales numbers. But after NBC started using the record withits coverage of women's gymnastics during the Summer Olympics, it turnedinto a legitimate hit.
Now the most successful first single from an Idol act, Home hassold more than 2.3 million copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Onradio, it's a cross-format pop hit that's still gaining airplay.
Even though Phillips didn't write Home, he did write most of The World From the Side of the Moon, out today. He wrote several of the songs before his first Idol appearance and did some collaborating with other songwriters during the tour.
Phillipssays he started playing his original material for Interscope GeffenA&M chairman Jimmy Iovine, who also serves as an Idol mentor, in the final weeks of the competition.
"It's nerve-wracking when you're new and you don't know if you can write or not," Phillips says.
Iovineliked what he heard. "He's growing" as a songwriter, Iovine says. "Hehad the basis of a good idea of who he was and what he wanted to do."
Phillips' songs on The World From the Side of the Moonoften are reminiscent of Dave Matthews, one of Phillips' heroes,especially in their use of violin, cello and horn. The two new outsidesongs - Gone, Gone, Gone and So Easy - hew closer to Home, stylistically.
Phillips initially distanced himself from Home,saying, "I don't write songs like that," but has changed his tune withthe song's success. "It took me time to grow to it and make it more myown, instead of someone else's. Now, I have so much fun with it, playingit live, and it has done so well and helped so many people in so manysituations. I couldn't be more proud of it."
He also wrote another song for the album, Can't Go Wrong, with Home writers Drew Pearson and Greg Holden.
"The album really represents me, before Idol and after," he says. "That's kind of what we wrote Can't Go Wrong about, this whole 'after' experience with Idol and how much my life has changed."
On Idol,Phillips sometimes came across as someone with little use for authorityfigures. But he says the visions he and his record label had for hismusic turned out to be compatible.
"Honestly, man, they just letme make the music how I wanted it," he says. "It was kind of unreal forme. I was expecting a lot of tension but it didn't really happen."
Iovine sees strong potential for Phillips' music beyond Home and anticipates that Phillips' will follow Season 10 winner Scotty McCreery in having a platinum album.
"Heknows what he wants, he stands for it, yet he understandscollaboration," Iovine says. "He understands where he should collaborateand where he shouldn't. He's got a good sense about him."