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Last updated: April 09. 2014 2:17AM - 1253 Views
By Ralphie Aversa Weekender Correspondent



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Say whatever you want about Phillip Phillips – except that fame and fortune changed him.


“I’m just watching everybody else lose money,” Phillips responded to “Ralphie Tonight” last week when asked if he had a college basketball pick. The “Home” singer found himself in Dallas, the host city for this year’s Final Four weekend, to perform on “Conan.” He did not fill out a bracket.


“Nah, I’m too cheap to do that.”


You could encourage him to “never change,” but at this point he probably does not need the advice. Besides, who saw UConn winning the National Championship anyways? The Huskies going all the way was about as likely as a kid of a pawn shop owner from Albany, Ga., winning “American Idol” and selling over a million copies of his debut album.


Well, if the points about his betting habits and background illustrate anything, it is that Phillips is unique. Perhaps that explains the mellow guitar player’s early success. After a cross-country trek last year with John Mayer, it does not seem that Phillips is fading away any time soon. The “Idol” winner released “Raging Fire,” the first single from his sophomore LP “Behind the Light,” due out in May. It is Phillips’ first song to hit radio that he received a writing credit for.


“We wrote that one so quick,” he said of the track. “First it was me and Todd (Clark) in the room, and we started pounding it out. Then Derek (Fuhrmann) came in. We wrote it in less than a week and it was just all craziness.”


Phillips had a chance to return to his old stomping grounds and perform the song live. He characterized the trip back to the “Idol” set as “terrifying” at first.


“It was like a nervous little kid going somewhere that you know everyone but it’s been a while and you don’t really know how to react,” he recalled. “But it was awesome.”


His persona obviously did not change following the show, but his music might. In addition to having a bigger influence in the first radio single for this project, Phillips noted that there was another difference for his second release.


“I had more time to make this one,” he noted. “I got to do more with production and producing it as well. I got to make it sound like me.”


Phillips classified the new record as “more rock” in part because he brought in a band for most of it. He is the only featured artist on the LP but revealed that Robert Randolph plays guitar on one track. “Behind the Light” drops May 19. Phillips will co-headline a tour this summer with O.A.R. to support the record.


And perhaps most importantly of all, the artist will do all of this in a good physical state. After a few publicized trips to the hospital for a congenital kidney condition, Phillips said that his “health is great” and should be for many years to come.


-Listen to “Ralphie Tonight” weeknights from 7 p.m.-midnight on 97 BHT.


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