When he was still in his teens, Glen Phillips signed to a major label with his band Toad the Wet Sprocket. By the time he was old enough to drink, the college radio/alt rock band had three hit singles and a platinum album.
That was in the early 1990s. These days, Phillips has taken to flying solo, making melodic folk rock and touring extensively while raising his family in Santa Barbara. He’s put out three albums since his days with Toad—the latest being Mr. Lemons, released in May of this year and is already lauded for its “incomparable songwriting” by American Songwriter.
Aside from his slinky cover of Huey Lewis and the News’ “I Want A New Drug,” Phillips writes all the songs on Mr. Lemons. Whether it’s death of a loved one (“Marigolds”), the end of the world (“Last Sunset”), breaking resolutions (“The Next Day”) or neurological disorders, Phillips’ lyrics tend towards the intimate and deeply personal.
Inspired by his new album, I decided to get a little personal with Phillips myself—by phone from California.
MAUI TIME WEEKLY: What is the best love song ever written?
GLEN PHILLIPS: I always go back to “Crazy Love” by Van Morrison. Or “Hyper-Ballad” by Bjork—it’s definitely a different kind of love song.
What’s the secret to marriage?
More than anything, it’s about not wanting to change the other person. And at the same time—not letting them get away with anything!
What are five things that make you happy?
Uh, let’s see… putting together modular furniture and assembling well-designed kitchen products, good food, spending a day in the waves with my kids is just about perfect, hiking and making sweet love.
What would be your last meal on the last day of earth?
I’d probably want to have a big potluck.
What’s your most embarrassing moment?
I get ‘em all the time. I’m kind of a shame junkie. Every show night there’s usually something significant that nobody else seems to notice. I’ll think I’ve said something stupid and everybody’ll be like, “What?” You know that nightmare some people get about going to school in their underwear? I have that one all the time. It’s about public humiliation. And here I am putting myself in a room of strangers every night. I think it’s mostly just a way to rub my face in my fears. People tend to think performers are confident, but they’re mostly insecure.
What new invention needs to be made?
An electro-magnetic pulse weapon to blow out all laptops—I’ll admit it: I’m addicted to mine. But some sort of anti-gadget device like that. I miss the time before all the gadgets. I liked writing a lot of letters—when I was on the road, I wrote to my wife instead of calling her cell phone all the time, like I can now. And I think I felt more “connected” then, when I had to miss her more.
What does heaven look like?
I don’t think it does. I don’t think it’s a place. I think it’s just a lack of illusions—it looks like this, but with clarity.
What’s your biggest weakness?
It’s that shame thing.
When was the last time you were surprised?
It happens a lot. The most common kind of surprise is when I don’t give someone enough credit, and they’re much more generous than people think they are.
What would you like to see in the newspaper headlines tomorrow?
“Nothing To Report” would be nice. Or, “Israel Pulls Out/Hezbollah Disarms/Everyone Gets Along”—something like that.
What’s your biggest obstacle these days?
Shame. It’s really just another word for fear.
What’s your favorite sound?
Quiet. Finding places quiet enough to be able to hear the little details makes me really happy. MTW