Phillip Phillips performs at WSU

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Phillip Phillips performs both original and cover songs for a sold out crowd in McCown Gymnasium. Brad Farrell
Phillip Phillips performs both original and cover songs for a sold out crowd in McCown Gymnasium.
Brad Farrell/Winonan

Marcie Ratliff/Winonan

American Idol winner Phillip Phillips made Winona State University’s McCown Gymnasium feel like “Home” last Friday.

Tickets to Phillips’s highly anticipated show sold out 19 days before the concert.

Danielle Stone, concerts director for the University Programming Activities Committee, or UPAC, said Phillips was an ideal artist for a college campus.

“It’s hard to pinpoint a genre for him,” Stone said. “There are so many genres in his music that it tends toward non-genre.”

Phillips’s act came on the heels of two country artists, so many students were hungry for a change. “I wanted to refocus the concerts committee back on students,” Stone said.

Stone said she and UPAC have received barely any negative feedback. In the weeks leading up to the concert, they received calls for more tickets, even though they were sold out.

Phillips, who took time before the show to meet with media representatives, said college students make an ideal audience. “I want to connect with people around my age,” he said, emphasizing that he wants to build a fan base for the future.

Besides, college students “will let you know if it’s good or not,” he said.

As a 22-year-old, Phillips connects with the kinds of hard decisions a college student faces.

“That’s what I was trying to figure out before all this,” Phillips said of his non-musical career.

Phillips said his brother-in-law, Benjamin Neil, a fellow musician, has influenced his music, but he also looks to experiences he has in everyday life. “You see a movie that makes you feel good,” he said, and that inspires a song.

His creative process is organic. “I need some rest, a day on the guitar, I mumble some words. I don’t like to rush songs, so if it’s not happening in 35 to 40 minutes, I’ll stop,” he said.

“The World from the Side of the Moon,” Phillips’s debut album, came out in November and was put together in four weeks. “I feel it represents me musically and lyrically,” he said.

However, Phillips said he would like more time on the next one. “I’d like to have a lot more fun,” he said. “The last album was a little bit more rushed.”

Phillips said conquering pre-concert jitters is a challenge for him. “I pace around a lot, I get nervous, eat a lot of cough drops, drink a lot of tea.”

However, by the third song or so, “I get lost in it. It’s always kinda like home.”

Late Friday night, Phillips’s “Gone, Gone, Gone” and “Home” were crowd favorites. He also performed a cover of “Thriller,” featuring Mike Morter from Churchill on mandolin, during his hour-long set.

Contact Marcie at [email protected]