Toad the Wet Sprocket frontman Glen Phillips, performing a sold-out show at Yellow Cab Tavern in Dayton on Saturday, Jan. 28, is nearly four decades deep into his music career.
The Santa Barbara, California native has been part of the major label ecosystem with Toad and put out records on small independent labels and done DIY releases with the band and as a solo artist. Through it all, he has managed to make one solid record after another for a modest but attentive fanbase.
For the past several decades, Phillips has been an independent artist. He has either self-released small-run projects or worked with indie labels like Compass Records, which released his latest solo album, “There Is So Much Here.” Compass also re-issued his LP, “Swallowed by the New,” originally self-released in 2016 as a collection about death, divorce and change written in the wake of his 2014 divorce.
Phillips has since fallen in love with a new woman and has moved beyond heartbreak, which is reflected on “There Is So Much Here.” The basic tracks were recorded with John Morgan Askew at Bocce Recording Company in Vancouver, Washington, just across the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon. Askew brought in Ji Tanzer (drums) and Dave Depper (bass, guitar, keyboards), of Death Cab For Cutie. Phillips then spent six months tinkering with the tracks, adding overdubs on his laptop. While in New York, he visited his friend Natalie Zuckerman, who recorded harmony vocals in her apartment.
Phillips is currently on the road doing solo dates backed by Jonathan Kingham (guitar, keyboards), who is an auxiliary touring member of Toad. He recently answered questions in advance of his upcoming Dayton engagement.
Q: How are the solo dates going?
A: Jonathan Kingham is with me again and we’re having a good time. He’s playing keyboards and guitar with me and we’re keeping each other happy and sane on the road. We haven’t gone out in like six years or something. It’s been too long but I love touring with him, and we’re playing a bit of everything. We do some Toad songs, some solo stuff and whatever else happens.
Q: Since it was your first new record made for Compass, did you do anything different from previous solo albums?
A: With most of my solo records, I’ve made them so they could easily be folded into a solo acoustic performance. The songs on this still work solo acoustic but instead of making a folkie sounding record I decided to have as much as I possibly could. There was this conscious limiting of making things not exactly smaller but much starker and much more in contrast to what Toad does. This time I just wanted to have fun and make an album that sounded the way I wanted it to sound. There is a lot less restraint on it. There are moments that are even a little bit ridiculous, but I had so much fun making it.
Q: Did the label have much input in the album’s direction?
A: We talked about me doing a strategic Americana record would be the smartest next step. When I handed this in to Garry (West), who runs Compass, his comment was, “Well, it’s not the record we talked about, but I like it.” The thing about having one of those modern zero-advance record deals is they can’t really tell you what to do. (laughs)
Q: It has rootsy touches but it’s more interesting than a standard issue Americana album. How were the sessions?
A: We spent about 10 days at John’s studio. We hadn’t done any preproduction, so we walked in and worked out the songs. We spent about six days with Dave and Ji. Dave played bass and a lot of guitars and keys and Ji played drums. We knocked that out and all the basic lead vocals too in about a 10-day period. Then, I went on tour with Toad, so I got to mess with it on my laptop and do more overdubs with friends and add a bunch of crazy vocals. I love to play around with sounds and with arrangements. I like a little challenge and a little familiarity and let them push and pull with each other. Dave is such a phenomenal musician. He is so much of the color and flavor on the record. He was wonderful to work with. Then, having John recording it all was so great. It was a fun team to have with Ji on drums. I often have crazy ideas, but I don’t implement them so it’s nice to have people going, “No, that’s fun, let’s do it.” They had the willingness to sometimes be a little bit audacious.
Q: Anything we missed about the new album?
A: I’m really happy with how it turned out. For me, it ended up revealing the changes I’d gone through since my divorce. I had done this other record about grief and change, and I realized this newer collection of songs I’d been writing were about falling in love and being happy. It was nice to see I had kind of retroactively turned a corner.
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Artist info: glenphillips.com
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