Live To Inspire: K Phillips

September 18, 2015

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K Phillips isn’t afraid to get personal. Since the age of six, he has been writing songs and singing about something we all experience: life. While he admits most of his early writing wasn’t the best, he said the process helped him pursue music. Inspired by artists like Van Morrison and The Counting Crows, Phillips’ melds the grit of Americana with the rebellious and passionate sounds of rock and soul. From women and family to pop culture and religion, nothing is lyrically off limits.

When he arrived on campus in 2002, the San Angelo-native had no idea he’d one day be booking shows from coast to coast promoting his latest album. It was at Texas Lutheran University where he strengthened his songwriting and fell in love with the piano.

“I felt the power of the piano the first time I ever sat behind one in the practice room at TLU,” Phillips said. “The piano is all-inclusive. It’s percussion and bass lines and lead lines. And Dr. Eric Daub is the reason I know how to play piano.”

Daub, TLU associate professor of music, said Phillips showed up at his door one day and told him he wanted to learn piano.

“His enthusiasm and good nature made me immediately say yes,” Daub said. “We didn't focus a lot on proper fingerings or reading notes. I just sat down and played. He copied what I did, internalized it, and created really great songs. I'm very proud of his achievements. He's a really creative artist.”

However, it was the combination of music and other subjects, Phillips said, that showed him a person could actually be a professional singer and songwriter.

“The conversations and experiences I had with my professors taught me that you shouldn’t wait for inspiration to hit you,” Phillips said. “From poetry to throwing pots in pottery class, I know I wouldn’t be where I am without the education I got at TLU. I owe everything to the university. My professors let be who was while showing me how to do this as a career and be a professional artist.”

In 2008, Phillips was given the opportunity to go on his first tour. He had to choose between graduating or going out on the road.

“When I went on my first tour it was really hard,” Phillips said. “There were times when I didn’t know where my next meal was coming from and I didn’t have any support from my family on my decision to leave TLU and tour. At one point, I sold everything I owned and lived in my van. But I look back and that was good for me. I needed to go through that. Now, things are completely different. I wake up and just do music. I still can’t believe this is my life and that I get to do this for a living. The experiences I had at TLU are what led me to where I’m at today.”

Phillips fondly remembers a conversation he had with English Professor Jean-Pierre Metereau.

“I saw him walking on campus one day,” Phillips said. “I had been up all night trying to write a song for a girl I was absolutely in love with at the time. Dr. Metereau asked me if I’d ever read the poem “Love Without Hope” by Robert Graves. It’s basically about a guy trying to impress a girl out of his league. He’s collected these birds under his hat and he tips his hat as this woman walks by and they all fly out. He gave up what probably would’ve been his food or something to sell all for this woman. It made me realize how personal music can be. I think about that walk with Dr. Metereau every morning when I sit down to write.”

This past summer, Phillips spent most of his time touring in California and working his latest album, “Dirty Wonder.” Released this fall, “Dirty Wonder” was produced by Brian Deck and Gordy Quisp who also produced albums for Iron And Wine, The Counting Crows, and Modest Mouse. While his music career is in a much different place than when he left TLU, his feelings about TLU will never change.

“I owe everything to TLU,” Phillips said. “So many of my professors helped me. Doug Boyer made me want to be a better singer. Pam Johnston made me a better writer. And of course, Eric Daub and Dr. Metereau inspired me. They all taught me to be a better version of myself.”

This story appears in the fall 2015 print edition of TORCH magazine.

Learn more about K Phillips and his music at www.kphillipsmusic.com.


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