Growing up in rural North Carolina, Josh Phillips was constantly surrounded by music.
“Daddy just always had a radio playing country or classic rock,” Phillips recalls during a phone conversation with Country Now. “I was also put in the church choir, reluctantly, so there was a mixture of gospel, country, and classic rock.”
His mother, a receptionist, had dreams to have children who were musical, so she also enrolled them in lessons. Phillips’ sister learned to play the piano, while he took lessons for guitar and piano.
“I played for probably 5 or 6 years and then quit,” he admits.
As he got older, his priorities shifted and his main focus throughout high school and college was baseball. Sidelined by a major injury in college, Phillips returned to his musical roots and hasn’t looked back since.
“I just picked up the guitar again and started writing songs,” he shares. “I definitely think the good Lord has a plan.”
No longer receiving his baseball scholarship money, Phillips turned to music to help fund his degree and a few of his extracurricular activities.
“I needed a way to make money. I had to pay my bills and everything, and get a little beer money every now and then, so I would go to these little old honky-tonks that would let me play acoustic for $150 bucks.”
He adds, “It was four hours of 40-50 cover songs with four or five original songs thrown in there. It was old biker bars with five or six people in there and maybe it was just me and a couple of bartenders. Those were the days… It was fun but it was definitely difficult.”
Building up quite the following in his home state, Phillips soon toyed around with the idea to make the move to Nashville. It was his friend and now-Grand Ole Opry member Luke Combs who helped inspire his decision.
“I think when I wanted to start doing it full time was probably five years ago,” Phillips recalls. “I wrote a song called “Can I Get An Outlaw” that Luke Combs cut and then I said, ‘Man I need to move to Nashville and give it a go.'”
“Going to Nashville was actually Luke’s idea,” he continues. “He was playing acoustic shows and he called me one day and said, ‘hey man, I’m going to Nashville to stay with a buddy…We’re just going to network, go out to bars and meet people and try to make some connections.’ So we did that and we met a couple of guys named Rob Snyder and Channing Wilson and they were really great to us. We would then come up to Nashville about a week out of every month, or at least try to, and just write songs and make connections and then eventually moved.”
Phillips continued to cut his teeth around Nashville and eventually signed with Big Machine Records. His debut single, “In A Bar Somewhere,” is out now.
“It was one of those songs that when we left the writers room, we were really excited about it. We felt like it was really special,” he explains of the song, which he co-wrote with Erik Dylan and Randy Montana. “I remember calling Randy and Eric that night and I was like, ‘man I think this song is going to be really big.’ Ironically, when I signed my deal, that was the one that everybody fell in love with.”
Earlier this month, Phillips dropped a surprise four-song EP. Co-writing each track, the singer/songwriter feels like these songs were a great representation of who he is.
While he loves each song for different reasons, “You’re Gonna Love Me” is a standout to him.
“It’s just so me,” he assures. “It’s really autobiographical.”
With little to no promotion to fuel the fire, Phillips’ eponymous EP shot up the charts upon its release, leaving Phillips speechless.
“It went to number seven or six on iTunes, so the fact that it had no promo and nobody even knew it was coming out, for it to do that, it was just mind-blowing to me,” he confesses.
As his career continues to gain momentum, Phillips remains focused on two things: touring and making great music.
“We’re just steady writing and hopefully going to get back into the studio here soon and record a full-length album. That’s the most important part… just staying on the road and writing songs.”