The band is gearing up for the September 2 release of their new album Heartland and last week Phillip Fox took some time to talk about the show, growing up in Michigan and the new album.
Q: You are going to be playing at Toby Keith's I Love This Bar in Auburn Hills in a couple of weeks. You have played there quite a bit lately. What keeps bringing you back there?
Phillip: Yeah we played there a couple of times last month. I mean it's nice to have a kind of home venue. I grew up in that area and all of my friends and family are up there still. It's kind of like a bit of a homecoming.
Q: What can people expect from the show?
Phillip: Well this will actually be one of our cd release shows for our new record so we're going to be playing a lot of new songs from that record. We're going to be playing for a few hours so we will be doing some covers as well; some fun stuff.
Q: What aspect of playing live are you enjoying the most right now?
Phillip: I mean we love getting to do this. We all have other jobs and so even the crappiest days of being in a band where we're getting no sleep and not seeing our families are better. You get up on stage and it's all worth it.
Q: Can you talk about the process that went into making this album?
Phillip: Absolutely. We've been working on this full-length for about a year and a half. We started pre-production in January of 2013. We had about thirty songs and we slowly whittled it down to twelve. We started final tracking in November of last year and had the record pretty much in the bag by January. Then we went to our fans with a Kickstarter campaign and raised $18,000 to finish the packaging and make sure we could put it out in a way that would represent the songs well. We've gotten a really positive response from it so far and the fans that have gotten the pre-releases who supported the Kickstarter are just ecstatic.
Q: What made you go the Kickstarter route?
Phillip: Well it was just one of the alternative ways that bands have to look at now. We had done all of the recording out of our own pocket. We play two-hundred shows a year but you can only make so much money and have to pay the rent so it came down to our fans. We had five songs ready to go and I knew that if we told them that we couldn't put the record out until 2015 they might murder us. [laughing] We just gave them the option of look, if we can get this Kickstarter funded then you can get this record this year.
Q: Is there a song on the new album that you feel closest to?
Phillip: Well I wrote the song "Cancer Cannot" for my wife. She's a cancer survivor. She was diagnosed six months after we were married so that one always still hits me when we play it. I wrote it so I could tell her just how strong I think she is.
Q: There is a lot of honesty that comes through in your lyrics. Has it always been a goal to share as much truth from your life as you can?
Phillip: Yeah I mean at the end of the day we want to write music that people can relate to but not just that we also wanted to write something that touches people and will inspire them. Our goal is deeper than what's on top of the radio play, you know? Fortunately, we were able to put this record out. If we were signed to a label, it probably wouldn't have come out as it is. Some songs probably would have been cut or re-worked but because of our fans supporting us we were able to put it out the way that we wanted to do it. We hope that the songs stay with people and have a sort of timeless aspect to it. That's what we were shooting for.
Q: What do you have going on for the rest of the year?
Phillip: Well the month of September is full of release shows and then we get back out start working on a newer circuit again. We're going back to Texas and we're hoping that after the release of the record that we will continue to expand our fan base.
Q: What is your biggest goal moving forward?
Phillip: Well it has been from the beginning to write music that we love making with the support of our friends and family who are proud of us. If we become famous or something like that then great. I mean we're not opposed to that but it's not the goal. The goal is to make music that we are proud of.
Q: Your music has that southern rock/country mix to it. Was that something that was there from the beginning?
Phillip: I really think that it wasn't about capturing a certain sound but it was just about just being honest to what we were writing and not just writing to a formula. I write a lot of stuff that doesn't even fit with the Phillip Fox Band so it just sits. With the band we knew we wanted to go for a very natural sound, a more rural sound. That's where you get those elements of southern rock from. We wanted to stay away from tracks and digital sounds. You know, no samples, none of that stuff. It's all what we create with our hands, mouth and feet. That's what goes into it. I think it was just really a natural thing. We knew from the get go that we weren't trying to sell this to a label and our primary goal wasn't to get it on the radio. That gave us a lot of freedom to really write what we wanted to write and what we enjoyed. We all lived off of previous jobs and just weren't happy there so the worst thing would be to take what our true passion was and sell that out and not be happy. We just wanted to enjoy what we were doing.
Q: Do you listen to a lot of different types of music then? I'm sure growing up in the Midwest and in the Detroit area in particular you get exposed to a large variety.
Phillip: Yeah, definitely. Yeah that is one thing that I can really say for Detroit. Actually it was really shocking moving to Columbus and realizing that groups like Bob Seger and Grand Funk Railroad, who were monsters in my upbringing, the biggest bands could get in my mind, but then I come down here and people were like oh yeah, Seger, he had that one song didn't he? It was like my god, really!! So yeah Detroit has a really rich musical heritage. Growing up in that area I think I didn't quite realize how special that is.
Q: Who do you think is out there right now that you would fit with on tour?
Phillip: There are several. I would love to go out with Blackberry Smoke. They've been a big inspiration for us as a band in a lot of respects. There's a band Monster Truck that's pretty sweet. They're definitely on the harder rock side. In terms of like really big acts, we have a lot of respect for the Zac Brown Band and how they approach their career and the decisions that they've made. Then hell if we could go out with Seger that would be kind of surreal!
Q: What is your favorite thing about getting out on tour and getting to meet the fans?
Phillip: I mean every aspect of it really I enjoy. I love getting to play in front of people and see their responses and getting to talk to them after the show and hearing how a certain song has become a part of their life. We've heard crazy stuff like our first slow dance was to one of your songs and now we're getting married and we're going to play that song as we're walking down the aisle and it's just really amazing that something you create in your living room can become this thing that is so important to somebody else. That's so nice.
Q: Final words?
Phillip: Yeah, I just encourage people to check out the website at www.phillipfoxband.com and if they like what they hear come out. We sound very similar live to what we do recorded.