The battle with 19 -- which Phillips sued in January of 2015 to get out of an "oppressive" deal, while 19 countered six months later for breach of contract -- has weighed on the Georgia-based singer-songwriter during the songwriting process. "Sometimes you might forget about it," he says. "But it's kind of always hanging over your head or on your shoulder, a lot more than what people realize." But he was also inspired by his 2015 marriage to Hannah Blackwell, who he calls his "best friend...the most amazing person in the world." The music, meanwhile, may take be a bit grittier this time out.
"It's kind of what I've always done, but I feel like it's better," Phillips says. "There’s a little bit of R&B and blues on this album, and a few more rock songs, but still pop. It's just very emotional, a more emotional meaning towards a lot of these songs. Some of them might sound like a relationship between a man and a woman, but it's not. I have my own meanings, but I want people to have their own meanings towards them."
Phillips has continued to prolific in his writing, with new songs still coming that could wind up on the album. Producer Ryan Hadlock (The Lumineers, Foo Fighters) has been Phillips' primary collaborator, but he's also worked with Nathan Chapman, John Knight and previous collaborator Todd Clark, with whom he wrote the singles "Gone" and "Raging Fire." The album's title is still up in the air, however. "I've got about 10 of them written down and I'm trying to choose which one I like and still trying to think of others," Phillips says.
He's hoping for a summer release, and in addition to touring he has live dates lined up, including a summer run with the Goo Goo Dolls.
"I'll be playing some of these new songs this summer," Phillips promises. "I love playing live. It's still one of my favorite things to do. My band, we like to jam out and have a good time, whether I'm playing for 45 minutes or an hour and a half. That's time I don't have to worry about emails or phone calls. I love it."