Like the 10 winners before him, Phillip Phillips faces the uneven road from "American Idol" victor to pop-chart mainstay.
After the success of his Top 10 hit, "Home," the Georgia native is facing a new challenge - to replicate the mainstream successes of past "Idol" winners Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson on his debut album, "The World from the Side of the Moon," released on Monday by Interscope Records.
Phillips, 22, spoke to Reuters about making his first proper studio album, what he might do differently on a second one, and whether he could have won "Idol" with this season's panel of judges.
Q: How do you plan to transition from "American Idol" winner to a mainstream music career?
A: "It's pretty funny that you mention that because the majority of the people I meet don't even know that I was on 'Idol.' It's really cool to hear that. When I go home, people ask, 'What've you been doing? I've heard your song,' but they don't even know that I've been on 'Idol.'"
Q: Your first single "Home" has gone twice platinum. You've said that it isn't a song you would have written yourself. What's your relationship now with your first hit?
A: "It's amazing how well it has done, and I look at all the stories that I hear like how it has helped families out with their situation, or something's happened with their kid, mom or dad, or if their child's overseas in the war. Something like that's pretty amazing how many different stories come out of it."
Q: Did you have any ideas on how you wanted to develop your sound finally getting into a big-time studio?
A: "I already had the songs written, and it was just a matter of throwing in ideas and then just trimming it down to what felt right, because we only had three weeks to do this album. So it was kind of pressured, but that kind of helped out as well. It didn't make us overthink anything."
Q: Was there anything in particular you wanted to achieve?
A: "I wanted to make it similar to what I did on the show - a horn section and some rock. I tried to be a little artistic. I just wrote what came from my heart and what felt right."
Q: Unlike many of the other contestants, you went into "Idol" as a songwriter, how many of the album's songs did you write?
A: "I think five. Some of the co-writes, (the writers) really just kind of pushed me, so I kind of wrote most of those myself. But it was a lot of fun; it was a great experience."
Q: Would you do anything differently next time?
A: "It's still early, but I'd definitely want a little more time to do it. But that's really about it, because three weeks is just really quick, and also I have just so many other things going on. ... It was very kind of stressful and hopefully for the next record I'll have a little more time."
Q: What would that time allow you to do in the studio?
A: "Just being able to listen to it a little more. We all knew that it sounded really good but also having to listen to, like 17 songs in a row. You say, 'Yeah that sounds great' but you listen to it more and more and (say) 'Maybe I would've brought this instrument down a little bit or brought it up a little bit more.'"
Q: Would you have fared any differently on 'Idol' with the current judges Nicky Minaj and Mariah Carey?
A: "I don't know. I'm curious to see how they're going to judge. It's a completely different panel this year. ... I don't really know how I would've turned out. Maybe I'll have to go out and audition again (laughs)."
Q: Would you have had to change your roots-y style?
A: "Naw, I would've still been the same dude. If they wouldn't have sent me through, they wouldn't have sent me through. And if they did, that'd be awesome."
(Reporting By Eric Kelsey, editing by Jill Serjeant and Gunna Dickson)