In an online chat with longtime “American Idol” pianist and vocal coach Michael Orland, season 11 winner Phillip Phillips opened up about being “super sick” throughout his journey on the show, revealing that he had to wear long sleeves to cover up evidence of the IVs he says he was hooked up to before each live performance.
After Phillips won “American Idol” in May 2012, his dad told People that his son had undergone eight surgeries to remove kidney stones during his “Idol” journey, including one to reconstruct his kidneys before heading out on the “Idol” concert tour that summer.
“He’s been doing (well), but it’s just grueling hours and it’s just amazing what he’s done through the journey,” he said at the time.
During an Instagram Live conversation on September 8, 2023, Phillips, who recently released his first album in five years and kicks off a fall tour on October 5, reminisced about his time on the show with Orland, who worked closely with “Idol” contestants for 16 seasons and continues to support many of them — including appearing in concert with season 16 winner Maddie Poppe in August.
“The entire time, man, I was super sick,” Phillips said of his “Idol” journey, adding that there were times he had a hard time just standing up. “That was a rough, rough time.”
Phillip Phillips Says He Was So Sick He Couldn’t Enjoy His Time on ‘American Idol’
Phillips, who hails from Leesburg, Georgia, was just 20 and had “never been on a plane before in my life” when he earned a golden ticket to Hollywood from “Idol” judges Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler, he told Orland.
But a congenital kidney condition nearly sidelined him, according to CNN, which reported that a stent had to be placed during the competition to try to prevent blockage and that pain kept him from participating in some aspects of the show, like the weekly Ford-sponsored music video shoots the contestants used to film.
“I always had to wear a lot of long sleeves because I remember I would be hooked up to IVs before we’d go live because I could barely stand up,” he reminded Orland, who said not many people knew just how sick Phillips was during the show.
“You know, the sad thing about it was I didn’t really get to enjoy it,” Phillips said of his “Idol” journey. “I never really knew what was happening … I was so sick, I didn’t really care about anything except sleeping. That was the only thing — I wish I would’ve enjoyed it a little more, but I was just so sick, man.”
Now 32, Phillips got married in 2015, per Entertainment Tonight, to his longtime girlfriend Hannah Blackwell, who accompanied him when he advanced to Hollywood on “American Idol” and helped take care of him behind the scenes.
Phillips recalled, “I would go to the doctor three or four times a week … and she was the best. Luckily, her parents agreed to let her come on out. I think they were scared something else might happen but even if something wanted to happen, I was too tired! I couldn’t do anything.”
Phillip Phillips Says He’s ‘Super Blessed’ to Still Have a Music Career After Ups and Downs
After his big win at age 21, Phillips’ first studio album, “The World from the Side of the Moon” went platinum with two of his hit singles, “Home” and “Gone, Gone, Gone,” per Today. But he couldn’t complete his college campus concert tour the following year due to exhaustion and dehydration, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
In early 2015, according to People, Phillips filed a lawsuit against the production company behind “American Idol,” 19 Entertainment, claiming they “manipulated” him into accepting jobs and were being “oppressive” about his career. Over a year later, 19 Entertainment filed its own complaint against Phillips, alleging he owed them $1 million. He wasn’t allowed to release any new music until the two parties reached a settlement in June 2018.
“It was really tough,” Phillips told People. “I thought, ‘Man, is this ever going to end? Will I ever be able to release new music?’ (I was) a little depressed about it and also anxious trying to figure out what I can do to push things forward.”
But Phillips is back to doing what he loves, even returning to “Idol” in 2023 as a mentor to contestants, and he and his wife have a little boy, Patch, born in late 2019.
“I’m super blessed, man, I don’t take anything for granted,” he told Orland during their chat.
Phillips also said he hadn’t watched any of his “Idol” performances in a long time until his sister recently posted video footage of him singing Billy Joel’s “Moving Out.”
“It was so uncomfortable, man,” he laughed. “I look like such a baby. I’m such an old man now! I’ve got a few gray hairs now. I was so awkward, I don’t know how anybody liked me!”
Phillips released his newest album, “Drift Back,” independently and is enjoying great success with it, including making his debut at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry and watching his single “Dancing With Your Shadows” climb the charts. On September 3, he excitedly revealed via Instagram that the song was number 15 on Billboard’s Hot Adult Contemporary charts.