The Free Press, Mankato, MN

April 10, 2013

'Idol' winner packs the Ballroom at MSU

By Amanda Dyslin
The Free Press

MANKATO — You can’t go anywhere without hearing “American Idol” winner Phillip Phillips’ first and enduring single “Home,” a fact that the singer-songwriter humbly apologized for before his concert in Mankato Wednesday night.

Actually, he said, he didn’t connect with the song at first when it was assigned to him last spring at the end of season 11. The finalists on “Idol” are given a coronation song that producers think suits them.

For Phillips, he likes to write his own music, and he’s more of a musician than a singer, he said. He wanted to make the song his own.

“It’s very folk,” Phillips said during a media event before his Minnesota State University show. “I wish I would have had some input.”

That’s been a big blessing since leaving the “American Idol” circus. He’s gotten to play his music his way, and when he’s on stage, he experiments with “Home” to make it more his own. And now, he says, he feels that connection to it.

Phillips also had creative control over the content of his debut album, “The World from the Side of the Moon,” writing all but two songs. That combined with selling out shows and seeing how excited people are to hear his music — the Georgia native said he’s got a lot to be thankful for.

The past year has been crazy — going from being an unknown artist to selling 4 million copies of “Home,” playing for the president, performing the national anthem at the opening game of the World Series — and his demeanor suggests he’s not quite acclimated to that level of fame.

But he’s got his routine down while on this college tour, which includes about 40 shows in just a few weeks. In each town, for example, he asks where the best pizza place is. So this reporter steered him right to Pagliai’s, a tip which students from KMSU were quick to back-up from across the room.

“I’ll have to try that,” he said.

Downstairs in the Student Union, hundreds of people were lining up to wait for the show, including friends and MSU sophomores Kayce Hammer, Courtney Baeyen and Katrina Ortloff, who were first in line.

For Baeyen and Ortloff, the Phillips concert was about to become their first concert experience ever, which is why they wanted to come early and get good spots up front.

Hammer was excited too, and she shared something in common with a lot of young people in line: Her parents were jealous she got to be there.

“My parents are huge fans,” she said. “I’m going to send them lots of pictures.”