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Phillips began touring as a solo act after Toad the Wet Sprocket's demise and worked with producer Ethan Johns to create his first solo album, 2001's Abulum. He also collaborated on several songs with the bluegrass band Nickel Creek and toured with them for the latter half of 2001. Live at Largo appeared in 2003, followed by Winter Pays for Summer in 2005, a collection of new material that featured guest appearances from ex-Jellyfish frontman Andy Sturmer, Ben Folds, Kristin Mooney, Jon Brion, and Semisonic/Trip Shakespeare scribe Dan Wilson.
Phillips released Mr. Lemons in 2006. That same year, he also toured North American with a reunited Toad the Wet Sprocket, although he only continued releasing new material under his own name. The EP Secrets of the New Explorers arrived in 2008, along with news that Phillips would be joining members of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Nickel Creek, Elvis Costello & the Imposters, and other musicians to form a new band, the Scrolls. ~ Laurel Greenidge, Rovi