Exclusive interview: Singer K Phillips talks about touring with Counting Crows and Rob Thomas
Courtesy of K Phillips

One of the big tours of the late summer is the pairing of Counting Crows and Rob Thomas; the performers have been on the road since the end of July and the tour runs through the end of September. Besides the two starring acts, the tour is a big opportunity for singer K Phillips and his fans as the indie artist is holding down the coveted opening slot for the entire tour.

Phillips has a soulful and evocative voice that brings his songs to vivid life, and a musical style that encompasses country, rock, R&B and a lot more, all delivered in a manner that lends believability to his storytelling. The tour, which has a stop at Ak-Chin Pavilion in Phoenix on Sept. 13, is giving Phillips a chance to showcase music from his upcoming album Dirty Wonder, which is available for pre-order now.

From somewhere out on the road, Phillips answered a few questions for us by email; his commentary is below.

AXS: You’re pretty tight with Counting Crows front man Adam Duritz; he personally invited you to take part in the band’s current tour with Rob Thomas and he also sings on “Hadrian,” the first single from your forthcoming album Dirty Wonder. How did you first meet and how did your friendship develop?

K Phillips: I met him at The Outlaw Roadshow, which is a music series he sponsors. My band was picked to play and he came to watch us. Our friendship developed because Adam takes a genuine interest in songwriters and musicians. He's one of the greatest singer/songwriters and front men of any generation, and he's one of the best people I've ever met. I think we bonded over our reverence for an honest lyric. 

AXS: What’s the most fun thing that’s happened on the tour with Counting Crows and Rob Thomas so far, and what’s the story behind Rob buying you a camera?

KP: I always love hanging at Adam's house in New York City. We watch movies in his theater or in hotel rooms on his mobile theater rig. He really loves movies. It comes through in his writing; all his songs are films. Rob and I usually watch the Crows set. I bum cigarettes from him and I shoot the Crows with an old Pentax 6x7. Film photography is a recent love of mine. Rob takes interest in everyone so he bought me a camera. He's one of the most grounded, giving individuals I've met. He's got a huge heart but he destroys any stage he steps on. He's a killer. Willie Nelson is his hero but he's like Mick Jagger and David Bowie if they grew up in the '80s. 

AXS: While “Hadrian” is about a personal relationship, it name-checks historical figures like Napoleon and the Roman emperor that the song is named after. Are you particularly a student of history?

KP: Yes I am. Every songwriter should be. I don't like to explain my songs. It's up to the listener now, but the narrator is being clever. “And the Taj Mahal was a late gift for the one the king loved best/ she never saw it coming/ you know the rest.” The Taj Mahal was built for the Maharajah's late wife, after she died. He could've given it to her when she was alive but he didn't. 

AXS: You showed an interest in songwriting when you were only five-years-old and were playing piano and organ in bar bands a decade later, and that sounds like there’s musical talent in your family lineage. Did you inherit some show biz genes from your parents or grandparents?

KP: Yes, my great grandmother played a Hammond A-100 organ in her high rise apartment every day. That was my daycare. I learned “How Great Though Art” before I could write my name. Gospel organ is my instrument.

AXS: You left your native Texas in favor of Nashville. What’s your take on your adopted home scene?

KP: I was full time in Austin for 10-years. I moved to Nashville six months ago and things happened. I can't explain it. They are both great scenes. Sometimes you have to move.

AXS: You have a show coming up in Phoenix soon. Can you share with us a favorite memory of something you’ve experienced in the state, on stage or off, on a previous visit?

KP: I was driving to California a year ago on a solo acoustic tour and I was taking pictures of the landscape with my iPhone in my Suburban on cruise control. I knew the scenery deserved more. That day I went to a Goodwill store by the University of Arizona in Tucson and I bought an old film camera. Since then I've been shooting film. Those pictures of the desert are still some of my favorite pictures that I've taken. I'm looking forward to taking more in the beautiful state.

Follow K Phillips and find a list of shows here.