Over at Albany Sporting Goods & Pawn, owner Phillip Phillips Sr. deals in a lot of used goods — including guitars. This fact was not lost on his son, Phillip Jr., who worked in the shop during his teenage years.
"He brought me home my first guitar, and after I got into music more, I started realizing that musical instruments were coming into the store," says Junior. "And that got me even more interested. So any time somebody'd bring a guitar in, I would definitely play it and check it out."
In the spring of 2012, Phillip Phillips — no suffix, please — took the big prize on American Idol, due in large part to his Dave Matthews-like prowess on the guitar.
His first single, "Home," earned a gold record. Last October, a month after his 22nd birthday, he sang the National Anthem before the opening game of the World Series.
Phillips' first album, The World From the Side of the Moon, appeared in November. It's No. 17 with a bullet on this week's Billboard Top 200 chart.
All of this has come as pleasant surprise to this soft-spoken Georgia boy.
"I was never a fan of American Idol," he says. "It was just too pop of a show. But the season before me, I was scoping the channels one night and I saw a guy playing an upright bass. I stopped and watched. He did a killer version of 'Georgia on My Mind.' I watched him until he got eliminated. So he kind of gave me the idea to try out."
He'd been performing semi-regularly, with a brother-in-law on bass and another playing percussion, around Albany, Macon and Valdosta.
Phillips beat out 11,000 other hopefuls through three arduous audition rounds in Charleston, before finding himself face-to-face with Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler.
At the Hyatt Regency in Savannah. It was Aug. 19, 2011.
He came in with his guitar. They asked him to put it down and sing something a capella. So he dazzled them with a soulful rendition of Stevie Wonder's "Superstition."
The celebrity judges were impressed. "I just wanted to go in there and sing and get it over with," Phillips recalls, "but they want to talk and get to know you. I was sweatin' like a dog. I just wanted to get out of there."
"Get your guitar," Jackson said, inviting Phillips to play another one. He strummed and picked his way through a high-energy "Thriller."
And just like that, he was Hollywood-bound.
Phillips is aware of the fact — and he's very pleased about it — that he broke the mold of pop singers, dance divas and clean-cut crooners who habitually win American Idol.
"It was definitely surprising, for sure," he says. "I didn't really care to win. I just wanted to go out there and have a good time with the band. They're awesome musicians. I tried to do my best each time and show people what I had to offer throughout the music. I did that and people seemed to like it."
Later this year, he plans to take a month or two off, relax a bit, hang around Albany and write songs for his second album.
Until then, there's work to be done. He's dead set on establishing his rock cred. "There are definitely people out there who judge me because I was on Idol," he says.
"I'm just touring a lot, man. I'm a live guy. I want to build up my fan base, and friendships, for years to come. I'm going on tour with John Mayer this summer, which is a similar kind of music. That's gonna be getting me out there in front of other people."
Incidentally, no, his middle name isn't Phillip. "That," he laughs, "would be just too strange."
Where: At 7:30 p.m. Sunday, April 7
Where: Armstrong Atlantic State University Fine Arts Auditorium, 11935 Abercorn St.
Tickets: Sold out
@ The Sentient Bean – A poetry and music open mic with an emphasis on… (more)
@ Jepson Center for the Arts – Watershed examines landscape photographs produced after 1970, in particular works… (more)