Shawn Phillips - Perspective - 2014
Shawn Phillips has changed his physical address more than a few times. What Phillips hasn't changed is his ability to strike resonant chords in the hearts of a legion of listeners while striking complex and inventive guitar chords to accompany his songs, which range from love songs to plain-spoken indictments of the music business and wars.
Born in Fort Worth in 1943, Phillips is based in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. In between, he has traveled the world and, though he's known for working gigs solo, has made music with a dizzying array of people, including Tim Hardin, Donovan, George Harrison, Joni Mitchell, Traffic and Paul Buckmaster.
“I toured South Africa in 2000, met my wife there and that's it,” Phillips said, laughing, during a phone interview from a Denver tour stop. “Best thing that ever happened to me.”
When Phillips plays a gig, people come out of the woodwork. It's likely that's what they'll do on Monday when Phillips brings his guitars to the Sam's Burger Joint stage.
“From 1994 to 2003 I was pretty much out of music completely,” Phillips said.
Phillips channeled his energy working as a firefighter and emergency medical technician in Briarcliff in Travis County. At home in South Africa, Phillips works with the National Sea Rescue Institute.
“The way the music business was going, and was going to go, there really wasn't a lot of call for singer/songwriters,” he said. “Back in the '80s, when disco came in, I used to sit in front of the desk of a vice president of A&M Records and listen to him rant about music being a business. I told him it was for him, but not for me. His statement has become more than true. All these television shows, 'American Idol,' 'X Factor,' they're just looking for clones.
“Now you have two choices. You can sign with a major label, which is good, because you'll have a whole machine behind you, but you have to 'take direction,' and you have to sign a deal where the machine makes all the money. Otherwise, you can get a following on the Internet, where you generally find more innovative artists.”
Phillips broke through on A&M in the early '70s with the albums “Contribution,” “Second Contribution” and “Collaboration,” which spawned fan favorites such as “Burning Fingers,” “Moonshine,” “What's Happenin' Jim” and “The Only Logical Conclusion/Get Up Off Your Ass and Dance.” Phillips is touring with a new album, his 25th, a straight-up independent double CD, “Perspective.”
“I don't like listening to albums where every track sounds the same,” Phillips said. “This album is called 'Perspective' because it's the way I'm looking at the world today. These are pieces of music I wanted to get out there. There's quite a few people who still like what I do.”
“Perspective” certainly runs the musical and topical gamut, to include economics.
“Almost every individual on the planet is surviving through World War III, which is an economic war,” he said. “We have cellphones, I talk to my wife in South Africa with Skype, we've made tremendous advances in music technology, we have tremendous medical technology, we've been to the moon, more than once; we communicate with a piece of technology on Mars, but we can't come up with an economic system that's equitable to everyone. It's numbers. It has nothing to do with politics.”
Phillips has spent a lot of time in studios and on stages.
“I turned 70 this February, but I pretend I'm dyslexic, so I'm only 7,” he said, laughing. “I tour alone. It's kickin' my ass. The thing about the studio is what you do will live forever so you've got to get it right. I've toured for 50 years. At some point, it just becomes a job. But, for me, it's still fun.”
Writing still figures heavily into Phillips' routine.
“When music comes to me, it just channels through. Seventy-five to 80 percent of the time, when a song comes through, it comes with words and music. When I write the first line, I don't leave the room until I get the last line finished. The longest it's taken me to finish a song was 'Talking in the Garden' (on the “Furthermore” album). It took me one day short of two weeks.”
Phillips' loyal audience is expanding.
“I'm seeing people I've been seeing for 40 or 50 years,” he said. “And I'm seeing a lot of brand-new people who come with those people, and they're walking out saying they've never seen anything like that. So I have a whole new audience at that point through word of mouth.”
02 Devil's Highway
04 Funkin' Country Rock And Roll Stew
05 Beyond The Rain
06 Watch Over Mary Anne
08 Light Of Life
03 Take The Day - Ascent
05 Going Home
08 Everything She Gives Me
Thanks to my friend Garth J. for original links.
MORE SHAWN? LOOK HERE