Idol Chit-Chat
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Friday, September 12, 2008

Phil Stacey: My New Favorite Idol?

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while know that I’m a pretty big Phil Stacey fan. So it was a pretty big thrill for me to be able to talk to him before he comes to Ashland for Poage Landing Days.

And when he started the interview by telling me it was an honor to talk with me, I have to admit I was a little flustered…

But as we laughed together over the next 15 minutes, I became an even bigger fan and I know that anyone who comes to see him Friday night will feel the same way.

Phil and I talked about life on the road, singing with Michael W. Smith, and what Simon Cowell is really like. Plus, he even let me make a request for his show…

It’s hard to believe that it was just this time last year that we watched Phil bring down the house in Huntington as part of the “Idol” tour. “It’s been a crazy year,” he told me. I’ve traveled a lot. I’m just going around and meeting folks and singing for them…It’s been really cool.”

Although his family travels with him whenever they can, Phil admits that it’s tough when he has to leave his wife, Kendra, and their two daughters behind. “It breaks my heart every time I leave them. But if you’re really doing what you love then there’s a peace in that.”

And it’s clear that Phil loves what he does. When I asked him what we could expect from his concert, he said, “lots of jumping and screaming and maybe some dance moves. I’m going to show why I should have been a contestant on ‘So You Think You Can Dance.’”

After a good laugh, Phil added, “I am the world’s worst dancer and I like to prove it.”

As for the setlist, Phil promised a lot of songs from his self-titled debut CD and some songs that he performed on “Idol.”

At this point, I had to ask him if one of those “Idol” songs was going to be “Blaze of Glory,” which you guys know is one of my favorite “Idol” performances ever (and one I tried to imitate during a recent karaoke performance, but I seriously doubt I came anywhere close). His response? “Do you want it to be?”

And yes, I admit I was flustered again. I told him that if it was up to me, that I would include it, but I wasn’t in charge of the concert. But Phil wouldn’t quit. “If you want it, we’re adding it to the setlist. I do take requests.”

Now whether he was serious or “Blaze” is actually already on the setlist, I have no idea. But I couldn’t help but be impressed…

One song that will definitely be part of the concert is “Old Glory,” the patriotic song Phil wrote while he was on active duty in the Navy. “That’s one moment of the concert when everybody’s on board.”

Phil said the song really brings people together during this political season when there’s so much disagreement. “We forget about everything we disagree about and remember what we do agree about. Our flag and nation are unifying factors.”

Phil added that for his return to his home state of Kentucky, “We might have to rock out a little bit.”

Another style of music Phil is deeply connected to is Christian music. Phil’s CD has had some crossover to the Christian charts, but he admits he would like to cross over even further. “I would love to do [a Christian CD]. My biggest influences growing up were country or Christian.” His father and father-in-law are pastors and both of his grandfathers were pastors. “Every man in my life with father in his name is a pastor.”

But whether Phil records a Christian CD or not, his strong faith will always be on display in his music. “My faith is the biggest part of who I am…One of the beautiful things about country music is its honesty. I can’t reflect real life without [including my faith].”

Phil recently had the chance to perform with Kenova’s own Michael W. Smith (and Amy Grant) at the Dove Awards. “I love Michael W. Smith…He is one of the most brilliant minds…Standing up there with him, it was just as great a moment as when Bono walked into the room [on “Idol Gives Back”].”

Phil and Smitty share the same management team and he is one of the reasons why Phil chose Wayne Kirkpatrick to produce his CD since Kirkpatrick got his start in Smitty’s band and also co-wrote several songs with Smitty including “Place In This World.”

So of course, I had to conclude the interview by asking what the most popular question he’s asked about “Idol” is and, of course, he answered without hesitation, “What is Simon like?”

So what’s Phil’s answer? “If he wasn’t exactly the way he is on TV, then the show wouldn’t be as successful as it is. People would see through that…Some people say, ‘oh he’s nicer behind the scenes.’ No he isn’t…He’s the mean old grandma that tells you the truth. And sometimes the truth hurts…I did get to spend a lot of time with him and he is as real as real can be.”

But Phil said he used Simon’s criticism to motivate him to do better. It’s the same thing he did in college when Kendra criticized him for not giving it his all. “My wife called me a slacker in college and that just made me want to work harder.”

At this point, I had to ask Phil if this was when I should apologize to him for not voting for him enough times (You guys remember how guilty I felt when he was eliminated.). But Phil assured me an apology wasn’t necessary.

“I got to be on [“Idol”] long enough to have Simon call a few of my performances brilliant. And that totally outweighs the 40 times he told me I was terrible.”

As we ended our conversation, Phil reiterated his excitement in coming to Kentucky and his hope that the crowd would really get into his performance. And one more time he told me it was an honor to speak with me.

I have to admit, I am reordering my favorite Idols list as we speak…

Phil Stacey will perform at Poage Landing Days in Ashland Friday, September 19th on the 16th Street Stage. He is scheduled to go on at 9:15 p.m. after performances by ETA, Aaron Holley and Stephen Salyers. The music starts at 6 p.m.

And if Phil does do “Blaze of Glory,” that screaming you hear will be me…

Photos courtesy of Lyric Street Records