Phillips and Phillips find common ground
BY TRICIA DeSPRES October 24, 2012 6:06PM
Glen Phillips (left) and Grant-Lee Phillips headline City Winery on Oct. 27.
GLEN PHILLIPS & GRANT-LEE PHILLIPS
♦ 8 p.m. Oct. 27
♦ City Winery, 1200 W. Randolph
♦ Tickets, $28-$35
♦ (312) 733-WINE
Updated: November 27, 2012 10:35AM
Singer, songwriter, and now tour mates Glen Phillips and Grant-Lee Phillips are not related when it comes to their family tree. Yet, when it comes to their musical paths through the shadows of today’s ever complex music industry, they have much in common. While both got a taste of widespread stardom back in the ’90s while fronting critically acclaimed bands, they now share the stage, including a show at Chicago’s City Winery on Oct. 27.
“We came a bit out of the same era,” explains Glen Phillips, who served as the lead singer of Toad the Wet Sprocket before launching his solo career. “While our writing styles are very different, we compliment one other. [Grant-Lee] is a hilarious stage personality, so we kind of bounce off each other all night.”
“There just seems to be a natural chemistry between the two of us,” adds Grant-Lee Phillips, who fronted Grant Lee Buffalo back in the late’90s. “(Glen) invited me as a guest to a show he was playing in Santa Barbara one night and we started playing at 4 p.m. and kept playing long after our set. I rejoice at the opportunity to play something different than your average rock show. It’s actually nice not to be screaming over folks at a bar. City Winery is the kind of place where people actually listen to the music.”
And while both artists say they are genuinely enjoying their time on this acoustic, co-headliner tour, they also hint at the rocky road that led them here.
“It took us a long time to bury all of our collective hatchets,” says Glen Phillips, who released six albums with Toad the Wet Sprocket and enjoyed numerous radio hits such as “All I Want,” “Walk on the Ocean” and “Good Intentions” before the band’s demise. “We didn’t air our laundry publicly, but all you have to do is watch a few episodes of “Behind the Music” and we had a lot of the same plot points. We didn’t trash each other . . . we just stopped working together. When it felt right, we got back together. We are enjoying it again. We will be in the studio in December and hopefully will have the record out next year. We just need to focus and get it done.”
Besides the new Toad the Wet Sprocket album scheduled for release in 2013, Glen Phillips also recently finished “The Coyote Sessions,” a limited-release album of rarities recorded live to a single microphone. The tour also coincides with the release of Grant-Lee Phillips’ upcoming album “Walking in the Green Corn,” which is a Pledge Music-supported project.
“I had always anticipated exploring music totally on my own as a songwriter with Grant Lee Buffalo,” says Grant-Lee Phillips. “Playing with a group, you tend to incorporate the strengths of those players. I loved having the chance to write songs that were ferocious and explosive, but it’s also nice not to be tethered to a drumbeat. It’s a privilege now to focus on the music alone.”
And while both say they that the life of an independent musician can have its share of pitfalls, the chance to play in front of their devoted fans and then return home to their relatively normal lives is really what it’s all about.
“I just got back from three weeks on the road, and my morning has so far involved laundry, absentee voting and paying bills,” says Glen, suddenly sounding a bit weary.
Just then, someone knocks on his door.
“It’s good to see your face,” he says to his friend and neighbor before returning to the phone. “I’m very confident when it comes to touring — it’s life that is unpredictable.”
Tricia Despres is a local free-lance writer.