There’s not a lot of room for pretentiousness in Lee County, North Carolina. In an area where brick manufacturing, cotton and tobacco reign supreme, there’s a feeling of “What you see is what you get.” That mentality also extends to the mindset of Josh Phillips. He says it’s a personality trait that caught the attention of an independent powerhouse and hopes is reflected in his music.
“I grew up in a really small town,” says Josh. “My family is very close knit, not a whole lot of money. It was very blue collar. I want people from back home to listen to my music and remind them of where we came from and how we live.”
School played a crucial role in Josh’s story. A standout on his high school’s baseball team, Josh found himself playing college ball in hopes of following his grandfather to play professionally. But, one day, that dream came crashing down when Josh suffered a meniscus injury that would end his athletic pursuits.
Looking for direction, Josh recalled one of his first memories as a child – and it revolved around a singer who kept it simple and straightforward in his approach. “My parents had a video tape of Alan Jackson; it had three songs on it, ‘Don’t Rock the Jukebox,’ ‘Chattahoochee’ and ‘Midnight In Montgomery.’ I remember being instantly hooked.”
The nostalgia of those sounds set Josh on a path to music, and soon found himself playing clubs in his Tar Heel State, developing a steady following. One night, through word of mouth and social media, he connected with another local singer who had dreams of making it in the music business. His name was Luke Combs.
“We began to message each other on Twitter, saying ‘Hey. Let’s do a show together.’ After that, we’d just hang out and make a little money, drink some cold beers and play songs that we loved.”
Shortly after watching his friend venture off to Music City, Josh knew that he too had to roll the dice and make the move. “You either jump and move back ten years later or wish that you had.”
So, with a guitar, a few songs and a lot of dreams, Josh moved to Nashville. He found the music mecca to be intoxicating – but he also faced the sonic challenge of conforming to something he wasn’t. He wanted to remain true to the blue-collar, rustic roots that were a part of his life but the city could sometimes – inadvertently – influence artists to follow other sounds or trends in order to “make it.” The built guy with a Carolina drawl wanted to be different. He wanted to be…Josh Phillips.
“I grew up on a lot of Country and Rock. When you mix those sounds in with the way I was raised with all the motorcycles, hunting and everything else, I wanted my stuff to be lyrically inclined to show all of that.”
His experiences are reflected in songs like the free-wheeling “Turn It Up” and “Outskirts,” but he can also turn on a traditional dime, with heartfelt performances such as “Tough” and “In a Bar Somewhere” that evoke artists such as Alan Jackson with their heartfelt sincerity. Josh’s music soon began to make the rounds on Music Row, and the phones started to ring.
Now, as the newest signee to the Big Machine Records, Josh is humbled and honored to begin taking his music to the masses. Yet, he knows that it goes much deeper than just him.
“It’s a God thing. It’s a lot of prayer and a lot of hard work paying off. It’s a testament to how I was raised and the friends backing me up along the way. You’ve got to follow your dreams and chase it. We only get one chance, that’s why we’re here.”
With a spot on Brantley Gilbert’s THE ONES THAT LIKE ME 2018 TOUR, the sky is seemingly the limit. But, just as Josh has had his own path to center stage, he also has a unique definition of success.
“One side of me would tell you I want more No. 1s than George Strait,” says Josh with a laugh. “I do want that. But, success to me is what I leave behind. It’s not about the material things, it’s about what people will say about Josh Phillips when I’m no longer here – not that he made a lot of money and he had sixty No. 1s. It’s his character was great, he was a man that I want my son to grow up like. He was always there when we needed him. If I can go out like that in this business that I love, then I’ve succeeded.”
Joe's on Weed Street
Manchester Music Hall
The Blue Note
The Complex Springfield
North Carolina Azalea Festival
Saint Andrews Hall
Tailgate N' Tallboys
The Country Fest, June 20-22