Jack Phillips BTD Artist Interview
Written by Matt Zin on December 4, 2020
Hi Jack! I am so happy to take this time out to interview you and learn more about your musical mind! So I see you grew up and California but now you are living in New York, nothing like moving clear across to the other side of the states, lol. What brought you to do that?
I’ve always liked living in cities. I grew up in Fresno but thought San Francisco was a magical place from the moment I first saw the city from the Bay Bridge. So in my life I’ve lived San Francisco, Los Angeles and London and around 2005 I decided that New York was where I belonged at the time. I had always wanted to move to New York and just had not done it yet. I’m glad I did.
I also understand you were brought up in a musical family, can you tell us more about that?
My mother was a fine pianist. She once entered a piano competition that was judged by Artur Rubenstein. I grew up hearing her play her grand piano and when I was a teen we got a second grand piano in our living room, very unusual. We would play piano duets once in a while. Both of my grandmothers played the piano and one was responsible for a lot of musical concerts in my home town.
You are a wonderful piano player, I play the piano as well, so I can really relate. Do you own a piano now and what brand is it? If you could dream of having any piano in the world, which one would it be and why?
I have my grandmother’s Steinway. Because she was so involved with musical concerts in my home town, many famous pianists have played it at the parties in her home after the concerts. I’ve always loved Steinway best and if I had the room I’d love to have a concert grand.
How would you best describe your music to a heavy metal rocker?
My music is piano-based and not guitar-based. But some of the earliest rock music was piano-based, e.g., Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino, Little Richard and people like that. I’m closer to Elton John, Billy Joel and Bruce Hornsby.
I see you have been really busy in writing music and getting your music out there since the 80’s. Boy were those the days of big hair and weird clothes. LOL! How did the 80’s influence you in your musical journey?
My first album Revival Time has an 80s vibe to it – it was heavily influenced by the sounds of the time. My next album To Whom It May Concern didn’t have any of those 80s influences and by the 00s I had moved away from pop. The 80s was a keyboard era and so I fit right in.
Speaking of influences, who are yours?
Elton John was always a big influence on me, but so were so many of the big artists of that era, e.g., The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, and so forth. But as I got older I started to appreciate Bobby Short so much. I met and talked with him a number of times and just loved his shows at the Carlyle.
Out of all the songs you have written to this day, which would you say are your most favorite and why?
“I Love New York” is probably one of my best songs. I think most the material on Night & Day are my current favorites. But going back I remember the excitement of recording “For You Jane” and “Church of Nowhere” back in the early days or “Alowishus” and “To Whom It May Concern” back in the 00s.
What would you say are some of your memorable mile markers in your musical journey?
I think the One Night Only Live In New York show recorded in New York was a milestone for me. I played all of the material from To Whom It May Concern as well as some older material and was thrilled with how well it was received. Recording and performing Café Nights In New York was another milestone.
Your song, “I love New York” is an awesome song. What was behind writing that song?
I had the idea of recording a jazz and blues album, e.g., original jazz standards with a New York theme that became Café Nights in New York and the blues rock material that became Down In The Jungle Room. Tying it together was pop song with the New York theme and the first song I wrote in 2012 for the two album project “I Love New York.” Night & Day is the original idea I had of those two genres incorporated into one album. It’s the album I would have made in 2012 had I not decided to expand on the idea and release two albums.
Cute artwork for your album, “Night and Day” who create it, and is there a meaning behind it?
Nate Butler in Fresno, CA is an old childhood friend of mine. He designed the cover of me in my tuxedo, which is what I wear when I perform songs from Café Nights In New York, staring into a dressing room mirror and seeing me as a blues rocker staring back. It’s about the two genres in one album.
Can you tell our listeners about this album and what they will hear during their listening journey starting from the first song to the end?
The first song is “I Love New York” which introduces the New York theme and the idea of moving from somewhere to New York and calling it home. The album then alternates between original jazz standards, mostly about New York, and blues rock material that is mostly about wanting to leave the past behind.
How has COVID changed the way you do your music business today?
Sure – I can’t perform right now. I can’t even collaborate in person with anyone. I have some projects right now which would benefit by having a few people in the same room but we can’t do that right now. So I think a lot of plans are on hold right now.
Are there any new projects coming up that you can share with us?
I have the idea of doing an orchestral album of either instrumentals or songs with orchestration.
We are coming to a close of this wonderful interview, have I left anything out that you would like to talk about?
I have benefited as a musician by performing live. I didn’t think it would really matter when I first started out but I can certainly say that it’s made a big difference to me. So I think supporting live music is very important.
Where can our listeners find your music?
My music is available on Amazon Music Unlimited, Apple Music, Spotify, YouTube and elsewhere.
It’s been a pleasure learning about you and your musical world, please stay in touch!
Thank you T very much for having me.
T Dawn and the BTD Radio Crew