Haggard State of Mind: Steven Phillips and The Midnight Express

Singer, songwriter, musician and talk show host Steven Philips brought his musical talents to stage at MadLife Stage and Studios.    I was sitting with a local musician that had never heard Steven Phillips and The Midnight Express and I was curious to know what a trained “musician’s ear” would think about Steven and the band. After their set was over my friend made two comments that really stuck out. He first said that Steven’s voice was “smooth and genuine” and then said that you could feel the guitarist “singing with his hands”. I thought both of those comments were spot on and I am already looking forward to catching Steven Phillips and The Midnight Express again soon.

Steven Phillips has been playing music since he was a kid and over the years he has built up a heck of a following and made lots of friends and met many of his heroes, like Kris Kristofferson, Billy Joe Shaver, Fred Newell, Jigger Bridges and Richie Albright. He has opened for Lee Greenwood, Earl Thomas Conley, Gene Watson, Diamond Rio, and Connie Smith, just to name a few. He has played at many festivals and fairs, such as the North Georgia State Fair, Georgia Mountain Fair, Dahlonega Gold Rush, Sorghum Festival and Mountain Laurel Festival. He is the annual entertainment at the Moonshine Cruize-In and numerous more events too many to list. He just released his second album Haggard State of Mind” which just may become one of your favorites.

Steven Philips also has his own morning talk show from 8-9 on 97.5 WJUL , and 95.1 WJRB called “The Morning Dish”.  This show is the place to be in the mornings because it is fun, unpredictable and laugh out loud red neck theology from Steven. Not only is Steven a great entertainer, he is also bright, witty and off-the-cuff funny!  You can listen at “Tune in Radio” online for a direct stream to the show.

An Interview with Steven Phillips

At what age did you begin playing music? My first taste of music was when I was in the 3rd grade at the PTA meeting and I was the lead singer for my class singing “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hand”.

What instruments do you know how to play? I play guitar. I am self-taught.

When did you write your first song? What was it called and what was it about? I wrote my first song “Headed for the Country Tonight” in my early 20’s. It was about an old country boy who had fell in love with a city girl and moved up North and found out the city life ain’t for him, so “He’s Headed for the Country Tonight”.

What were you like in high school? Would you go back and redo high school again if you could? In high school I had a lot of fun. Always a cut up and into stuff, not bad stuff, but fun stuff. I’ve never really thought about going back, but I guess I would and pay attention and try to learn something this time.

Who are your musical influences? When I was about 11 years old, Alex Cooley gave my dad a tape of Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson and that greatly influenced me as to my taste. I soon discovered Billy Joe Shaver. but as far as my music preference, I listen to anything from Waylon Jennings to Dean Martin. I’m not much into rap, but I listen to Bob Segar, Molly Hatchet and all the standards, as I like to say.

When people hear your music, who do you hope it reminds them of?
I hope my music reminds them of themselves. I hope they can sense a little of their own personal experiences in their own life. I hope they can relate to the song.

What was the first album that you added to your personal music library? The first album in my personal musical library was Waylon Jennings Live.

What was your most recent addition to your personal music library? The most recent addition to my personal music library would be Ward Davis.

What was your first live music experience? When I was about 18, my brother came to me asking if I wanted to start a band, because he knew I always had. I said of course I do. He said “Great” we open for Elvis in two weeks. So, we put a 30-minute show together and opened for Elvis at Mountain Home Music in Hiawassee. It was me, a bass player, and piano. (Of course, it wasn’t the real Elvis!)

If you could cover one album in your music library which would it be? If I could ever cover one album it would be Billy Joe Shaver “Tramp on your Street”.

What artist(s) do you wish more people had in their music library? I wish more people had me in their music library.

Who is in your band?
Kaleb Garrett, Lead Guitar, Jason Robertson, Drums. Jeff Stewart, Bass, Jim Richter, Keyboards and Steven Phillips, Lead Singer

What genre of music do you consider your work to be? My genre is southern country/rock

How long have you all known each other? How did you meet? Kaleb Garrett and Jeff Stewart started playing with me when they were 15 years old. I am a school bus driver and picked them off the band bus. Jason Robertson has been with me about 2 years. He was introduced to me by a fellow band member. Jim Richter came for an interview on my radio show about 3 years ago and has been with me since then.

When did you form your band? What inspired you to make music together? I had always wanted a band, because of my love of music, and when the opportunity presented with Elvis, the rest is history.
Do you have a record label? No, I do not have a record label.

What can you tell me about your instruments? We will play anything cheap and loud!

Where have you performed? What are the local venues that we might find you playing the most often? Do you have any upcoming shows?
I have performed at Smoky Mountain Center for Performing Arts, Georgia Mountain Fair, North Georgia State Fair, Woodstock Ampitheater, Daisy Festival, Georgia Theater, Mad Life Stage and Studios and various other festivals, and some places I would be embarrassed to even mention.

I have opened up for Lee Greenwood, Earl Thomas Conley, Gene Watson, Shooter Jennings, Kentucky Headhunters, Waymore Outlaws and Connie Smith.

I have upcoming shows as follows:
August 23-Madlife State and Studio in Woodstock, Georgia
August 25-“A Taste of the Mountains” in Blairsville, Georgia
August 30-Amarillo Grill in Blairsville, Georgia
September 21- Hoschton’s Fall Festival in Hoschton, Georgia
October 13- Veno and Vibes at the Hightower Creek Vineyard
October 27-Opening for Confederate Railroad at the Bearclaw Vineyard in Blue Ridge, GA
November 10-Branch House Tavern in Flowery Branch, Georgia

Which songs do you perform most frequently? Do you ever play any covers? I perform my own songs most frequently. Lightning Road, Haggard State of Mind, Brayton Mountain, etc. But, I always lean toward the more upbeat tunes. On the cover tunes, we try to not do what all the other bands do, so we do tunes like Levon Helms “Up on Cripple Creek” and “High Heeled Sneakers” by Tommy Tucker.

Who writes your songs? The main topics are everyday life and they will change as my life goes on and changes. I write most of my songs.

Describe the music-making process. Most of the time, bits and pieces of the songs come to me early in the morning. I have learned to carry a recorder with me, so I can get it down before I forget it. Then it grows from that. But, I think everybody is different.

What are your rehearsals generally like? We have played together so much, that the only time we really have to rehearse is when we add new songs or are in the studio recording new songs. Everybody just kinda knows, so it makes it really easy now, instead of having to practice over and over and over.

How has your music evolved since you first began playing music together? Over time, it has become tighter and more polished and a whole lot more fun. Because music is fun and when that stops, that will be the day I quit.

What has been your biggest challenge as a band? My biggest challenge is bookings. Finding new venues to play.

What’s your ultimate direction for your band? Too old for fame and fortune, we just want to be weekend warriors.
What advice do you have for people who want to form their own bands?Don’t every try to be like anybody else and don’t be afraid to take risks. Never give up the music for the show or the money.”

How can fans-to-be gain access to your music? Fans can gain access to our music through Facebook and YouTube. My music is playing on Pandora, Spotify and I-Tunes.

What do you want people to know about you? You can listen to me every morning on “The Morning Dish” on WJULRadio.com where I do an hour morning show from Monday-Friday 8-9 a.m. I am very down to earth and easy to work with.

Carey Hood Written by: