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Phillip Phillips told an old tale for his new tune: the time-tested fable of turning lemons into lemonade; overcoming adversity.

It has been a minute (read: a few years) since we’ve heard from the “American Idol” winner and that isn’t a coincidence; Phillips was embroiled in a legal battle with former management, 19 Entertainment, claiming his contract wasn’t fair and thus he should be allowed to exit it. The dispute is now settled and the Georgia-born artist is moving on with plans to release a third album through Interscope Records.

“I’m a pretty patient and relaxed guy,” Phillips told me recently in an interview on Stage 17 when I brought up the lawsuit. “It takes a lot to get me angry.”

Phillips joked that under normal circumstance, the only thing that might irritate him is food that doesn’t taste good. And while the tussle in court might have left a bad taste in his mouth, the singer didn’t let that stop him from channeling that emotion in to his new single, “Miles.”

“Yunno, you gotta stand up for what you believe,” Phillips said regarding his inspiration behind writing the track. “You might feel like you’re stuck in something but there’s always hope and a little light at the end of the tunnel of it.”

The normally-jovial and light-hearted Phillips was sure to punctuate the statement with perhaps a phrase that he should use to title his next LP.

“Life is good!”

When Phillip Phillips was just nine years old, Max Harris was just beginning his tour of duty with the U.S. Armed Forces. The Allentown, PA native served as an Arabic Linguist. He remembers crossing in to Iraq on the first night of the war, and spending his last nine months working on counter insurgency.


In 2004, Harris received his discharge due to Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, a condition that is becoming too common amongst U.S. veterans. PTSD can lead to everything from nightmares to suicidal thoughts. A 2008 study by the RAND Corporation placed the prevalence of the disorder among Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans at just under 14%. As knowledge and awareness of the disease rises, many believe that number increases as well.

When Harris was sent home, Phillips was 14 years old. He just started playing music. Sure he showed promise early on, but the Georgia native still had his sights set on high school, college, and working in between at his father’s pawn shop.

Phillips went on to win the 12th season of “American Idol,” release a single that has sold over three million copies, and drop an album that is on the verge of going platinum. But perhaps most importantly, the stories that Phillips shares through his music are now helping people cope with problems in all corners of the world. In Allentown, the Iraqi vet is thankful for Phillips’ new album The World From the Side of the Moon, specifically the next single, “Gone, Gone, Gone.”

“This past weekend I had some pretty horrible nightmares stemming from my service overseas,” explained Harris on “The Ralphie Show” via telephone while Phillips sat in studio and listened. “I really needed something to calm me down.”

Not able to sleep, Harris reached for his iPad and cued up the track.

“Something about the lyrics in that song… I heard things differently that time and it finally put me at peace,” he said. “I wanted to thank you Phillip for the amazing things that you’re doing. It’s been a long time since a story-teller has come along who really conveys that emotion in his music.”

Phillips, normally reserved and low-key, seemed to be at an even greater loss for words, yet was compelled by Harris’ story to respond.

“Yunno, music affects me in a lot of ways; it’s very therapeutic for me and then once you share it with people in the world you hear so many stories come out of it,” he said. “I respect you a lot Max for what you’ve done. You’re more of a man than I am.”

From hospital visits to family members making headlines, Phillips’ ride to success since “Idol” has been far from smooth. Yet moments like this help him to put things in perspective.

“It’s a little nerve wracking when you (share your music) because… that’s a big story,” said Phillips after we hung up with Harris. “I don’t know if you’ll ever overcome that because it’s always just so new.”

Of the four judges/mentors on “American Idol,” Interscope Records chairman Jimmy Iovine usually played the role of “bad cop,” offering up at times brutally harsh critiques of performances. Season eleven top three finalist Joshua Ledet didn’t bother to listen.


“I didn’t pay attention to Jimmy,” Ledet admitted on “The Ralphie Radio Show.” “It was fake. I just listened to the judges.”

After mentioning that Iovine often complimented the R&B singer, Ledet elaborated on why he didn’t care for the record executive’s TV persona.

“I just find it quite odd that there were people on the show that gave great performances and the judges thought they were great and the audience and the whole world thought they were great and he was the only one that thought it was horrible,” Ledet said. “It’s obvious that stuff was done for TV.”

Ledet said that off camera, Iovine was as nice as could be. And yet despite not enjoying his critiques, the singer would not rule out signing with Interscope.

“I just sing, I just sing,” he said of his future plans. “It doesn’t matter if I sell or not. As long as I can make real music and good music and people can listen to it. If people don’t like it at the end of the day, I think that’s their problem and they should just switch and listen to something else but I just like to make real music.”

“American Idol” season eleven finalist Erika Van Pelt did not forget her roots, and she’ll be returning to them soon.


“I’m letting my lease run out in Massachusetts and I’m actually moving back to Warwick (RI),” Van Pelt revealed on “The Ralphie Radio Show.” “I can’t really say exactly what it is yet, but I’m going to be doing some work with Alex and Ani.”

The Ocean State-based jewelry company will be enlisting the help of the “Idol” singer for new jingles and other commercial-related services. Other than that, Van Pelt will be working on a new album, independently.

“I don’t have a label or a management contract as of right now,” she said. “But I do want to make a record, and I know if I have to fund it independently, I totally will. I’ll do more DJ gigs; whatever I have to do to make that happen.”

Backstage at “American Idol Live!” Elise Testone admitted there were times during season eleven of “Idol” where she didn’t agree with the judges, but didn’t want to be portrayed the wrong way on camera.

Backstage at “American Idol Live!” DeAndre Brackensick talks about some of the pranks the finalists pull on each other during performances.

– Loved the opening montage and number, minus the break dancers. Starting with them, it constantly felt like segments were being stretched out so that “Idol” could fill all two hours and eight minutes of prime-time.

– In the footage that opened the show, last year’s winner, Scotty McCreery, is shown talking to Phillip Phillips. The country star tells Phillips to be prepared not to sleep the night before the results show. Phillips is on stage ten minutes later telling Ryan Seacrest he got a good “9 or 10” hours of sleep the night before. I suppose at this point in the “Idol” journey, especially with Phillips’ heath issues, there isn’t much that can keep him up at night.

– Throughout this season we constantly heard Phillips being characterized as a “throwback” and compared to older artists. I think everybody was able to make sense of this completely when he performed side-by-side on stage with John Fogerty. They both sounded great together.

– Some of the montages shown throughout the night were hilarious and well-done. The one of Jimmy Iovine constantly calling Jennifer Lopez “Jessica” – even once on live TV – was my favorite. How about at the end when Jimmy tells Lopez he’s working on getting her name right, and then jokes, “Yeah, next year.” Of course, JLO probably won’t be there next year.

– Was “Mantasia” (Joshua Ledet) trying to out Fantasia, Fantasia – or was Fantasia trying to out Mantasia, Mantasia? What a mess that performance was.

– Chaka Khan needs to hire a new stylist… or simply hire a stylist.

– Rihanna killed it. Great set, wardrobe, choreography, and she sang live (and sang well).

– Like earlier with Phillip and Fogerty, it was cool to see generations merge with Skylar Laine and Reba McEntire singing a duet.

– New England well-represented on the “Idol” finale with Top 10 finalist Erika Van Pelt (Rhode Island), Neil Diamond (“Sweet Caroline” might as well be New England’s national anthem) and Boston’s Aerosmith performing.

– Props to “Idol” for calling out Randy Jackson on recycling his cliches, namely, “You could sing the phone book.”

– I’m still trying to figure out what happened during that JLO performance. I saw Lil Jon, Flo Rida, and Wisin y Yandel, who will be opening up for JLO and Enrique Iglesias this summer. Again though, props to JLO for singing live. I don’t think the same could be said for anyone else during that set.

– Ryan Seacrest a little teary-eyed as season three runner-up Diana DeGarmo said yes to the on-camera proposal of season five finalist Ace Young. Again, we need to fill two hours here people…

– Jordin Sparks is well on her way to having the best year ever, no?

– The Jessica Holiday/Jessica Sanchez performance was epic in both the singers’ vocal prowess and Holiday’s facial expressions. It was definitely a “moment” for Sanchez, but simply too little, too late.

– Thought Aerosmith sounded OK. I like the band’s new single. Anyone else notice how there’s actual a screen that counts down the time until you have to stop playing on the “Idol” stage? Never saw that before.

– When Phillip Phillips made Top 5, this was his to lose. Week in and week out, he delivered effortlessly. It was great to see Steven Tyler shed a tear as Phillip was crowned the new “American Idol.” The moment where he lost it on stage and walked off to collapse in his family’s arms was another moving scene. I am curious to see how his career progresses, but I have no doubt that he’ll be successful.

– While Randy and JLO make their way to the table, Steven stops in front of the stage to high-five fans. Is this guy having fun or what?

– Seacrest’s characterization of the finalists was interesting: the pawn shop worker vs. the powerhouse?

– Jessica Sanchez hands down won round one. Whitney songs are in her wheelhouse, and that in itself is quite impressive.

– Thought again about the transformation these contestants make from auditions to the live show. Amazing to see within a span of months how Hollywood hair, makeup, and wardrobe can change a person.

– Great to see my buddy Jason Derulo back on the stage, his first performance since breaking his neck at the top of the year. He sounded great!

– Round two was a wash. Neither singer impressed me – Jessica was underwhelming and I don’t think Phillip covering Billy Joel is a good look.

– Anyone notice that the iPad has made sheet music on a piano obsolete?

– Jessica’s “Change Nothing” sounded more crafted for pop radio than to showcase her abilities for “Idol.” That’s Jimmy Iovine’s bad… until it goes for adds.

– Meanwhile, Phillip Phillips sealed up his “Idol” win in my opinion with “Home.” Maybe this kid will have some radio hits after all…

– Noticing a big sell towards the top of each episode for the “Idol Live!” tour. The on-sale already took place, it makes me think that tickets aren’t selling well. Last year’s tour went well, and I thought for sure the same would happen again this year.

– As Joshua Ledet said, the top three are all winners regardless of the vote. They all have Interscope Records deals.

– Seacrest and Iovine like jabbing at each other. Although I found it interesting that of all the people in Hollywood to poke fun at Iovine’s height, it was Seacrest.

– Good to see Interscope artist Ester Dean make a cameo. She had a hit of her own in “Drop It Low” but has penned big songs for Rihanna and Katy Perry, among others.

– Lisa Marie Presley came off very Lana Del Ray-awkward-like on stage. Didn’t fit for that audience.

– Nice to see Adam Lambert back on stage but I wasn’t impressed with his performance.

– Jimmy was on point with all of his post-criticisms for the performances, including those targeted at him for the songs he picked for Joshua and Jessica.

– I don’t agree with America – I still thought at Joshua/Phillip finale should have happened but alas, Jessica Sanchez will sing against Phillip Phillips for the “Idol” crown. I predict Phillips will win.

– I was a fan of the three rounds tonight – judges choice, contestant’s choice, Jimmy Iovine’s choice.

– I thought all three singers gave strong first round performances. Steven basically said after each one that they are winners – and let’s face it – they all have record deals waiting for them with Interscope so in a sense they are. I thought Tyler calling Phillip Phillips the next Springsteen though was a bit premature, he gets a speeding ticket on that one.

– I love how each judge has a special connection to each of the final three contestants – Jackson the perfect mentor for the southern, gospel singer; Jennifer Lopez looking after the younger version of her in Jessica; Tyler relating to another free-spirited rocker trying to live in the pop world.

– Ultimately, despite the way he seemed to be making out with the microphone, Joshua won the first round. Great choice on Jackson’s end.

– “I feel like Barack Obama!” screamed Joshua as he received a police escort in his hometown. I think I loved his the most, seemed the most authentic.

– I wasn’t a fan of Joshua’s “Imagine” rendition. Yes it was a departure from the norm and yes he showed great restraint, but that doesn’t mean it sounded good.

– What a gutsy move by Jessica to not only select, but slay “I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing” in front of Tyler.

– Phillip was good but not great with the Matchbox 20 song… too safe of a move for him.

– Round two goes to Jessica – almost by default – but she did do a good job with the track, especially given the circumstances.

– Jimmy Iovine with the Beats Wireless Dock product placement. This guy is a genius.

– Joshua went for the kill, and if he went last this round, he would’ve had it. Another big moment for this kid and it moved him a step closer to the final round.

– Coming off of Ledet’s moving “No Drama” rendition, Sanchez just lacked that extra oomph. She needed to have a similar moment here, and fell short with her Jackson 5 rendition.

– Phillip Phillips ditched the gray, the guitar, and the freestyle melody and delivered one of the best performances of anyone, all season. He gained a lot of new fans tonight (me included) and punched his ticket for the finals.

– To be honest, I had Phillip in the finals before the night began. My theory is that Jessica and Joshua share more fans with each other than either does with Phillip. I have Joshua and Phillip battling for the “Idol” crown next week, and I’m reserving my final choice until after the performance episode!