Personal Fires Burn Brightly for Glen Phillips

by Brett Leigh Dicks

Between recording as a solo artist and reigniting the enigmatic
Toad the Wet Sprocket, life’s recently been a balancing act for
Glen Phillips. But while his musical career requires a little
juggling, it’s not the only thing Phillips is balancing, for it’s
his family that affords him the greatest riches. So when the
singer/songwriter brings both musical chariots back to Santa
Barbara next week — with a solo show at SOhO on Tuesday, July 25
and as part of Toad at the Marjorie Luke on Thursday, July 27 — one
senses the greatest reward for Glen Phillips will come from simply
being home.

What does being back on the road with Toad the Wet
Sprocket mean to you personally?
Last time around, we left
things on such a low note. Toad was such a big part of my life. I
started playing music with Todd when I was 14 and stopped when I
was around 27. Now we are not feeling as though we have to do
anything past this group of shows, and that lack of pressure has
meant that we’re enjoying each other’s company more than we have in
years. So if this is the last thing we do, it’s worth it just to be
able to go out on a high note.

How different are the dynamics between fronting a rock
band to playing solo?
I have always felt somewhat at odds
with being in a rock band. In rock music, it’s really easy to work
it if you want to use the accepted gestures that get everyone
excited. When I put on an acoustic solo show, I can move things
emotionally in a more subtle way. It’s not about getting someone’s
adrenal gland working — not that Toad is the most adrenal band in
the world.

Talk me through the inspiration and dynamics behind your
new album, Mr. Lemons.
I wanted to do a record that aimed
itself more squarely at the solo acoustic shows I have been doing;
a record that had a gentle sound to it. It’s not trying to rock at
all. Last time I did a big, brash, overproduced pop album which was
a lot of fun and I really enjoy how that album sounds, but it’s
kind of silly to do a record like that and then go off with an
acoustic guitar and tour for it. It is a little green album that
doesn’t mean any harm. Rather than tapping into the weight
and support of a major label, this time around you are releasing
the album yourself . . .
… the weight and attitude of a
major label!

What does approaching a release this way offer
The main thing that I gain from it is not losing
another year talking with people, having meetings, and working out
contracts. I want to make music for a living. And I used to make
music for a living. But, at some point, I started having to sell
myself for a living and I got really sick of that. I needed to make
another record just to prove I could put it out without being
dependent upon anybody.

Does it afford you more creative freedom as
I won’t claim that doing it this way gives me any
more creative control than I would have anywhere else. I am not
dealing with multi-million dollar contracts that are going to throw
me in with Timberlake. I’m trusted to make the music I want to make
no matter where I am, so, more than anything else, this is about
momentum. I just wanted to make a record and get it out there.

So the rewards you’re looking for are personal rather
than professional?
At this point all I really want to do
is afford enough time to be home with my family. I miss my wife and
kids constantly. I miss my home constantly. And I don’t like the
fact that I have to be gone all the time. The way to get away from
that is to put out a record very calmly, without the dynamics of
trying to break into the next level. I am much more interested in
having a life at this point than reclaiming my stake in the pop

As a songwriter, do you feel your songs are more
questions or answers?
They’re all questions. I have a lot
of songs that are very declarative. The thing I can’t get down in
my personal life is to remember how grateful I should be. I live in
Santa Barbara. I have three kids and they’re healthy. I have a
wonderful wife. I get to make music for a living. And I spend most
of my time really, really depressed. I see the black lining around
things. I have a lot of songs that are about gratitude and hope,
but for me they’re harmonic devices. They’re all about constantly
reminding me of where I need to aim.

I once read you are continually searching for the
perfect song. How annoying is it when writers dig up old quotes and
throw them back at you?
That quote isn’t as bad as

But in regards to that comment, how will you recognize
the perfect song?
The perfect song is of course
unachievable. You can get one that’s perfect for a moment, but when
that moment’s lost it’s not perfect anymore. I’m pretty critical
when it comes to my work. I would love to write something that
lasts a little longer and that I could stay proud of a little
longer. We’ll see, maybe I’ll get there.

4-1-1 Glen Phillips plays a solo show at SOhO
on Tuesday, July 25. Call 962‑7776 or visit He
then reunites with Toad the Wet Sprocket for a benefit show for the
Rape Crisis Center at the Marjorie Luke Theatre on Thursday, July
27. Call 283-8700 or visit


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