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Phillip Phillips.

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American Idol’s Phillip Phillips on Soft Judges, Nicki Minaj’s Body Parts, and the Girl Vote

Phillip Phillips may be the fifth consecutive White Guy With Guitar to win American Idol, but he's so far managed to stand out from the rest: His single "Home" is the show's best-selling coronation song to date. He got Jimmy Iovine's blessing to write or co-write all but two tracks off his debut album, The World From the Side of the Moon (out today). And, to be really blunt (and vain and obnoxious ... and realistic), he is very, very hot. Vulture met up with him at a Starbucks in midtown and, after stupidly suggesting we get maple lattes (no, he didn't understand the reference; yes, he does "respect" Taylor Swift), we talked Dave Matthews, Nicki Minaj, and Idol's all-powerful — and basically sexist — girl vote.

You get compared to Dave Matthews a lot. Is that getting old for you?
I mean, I take it as a compliment. Dave is one of my heroes.

One of our reporters asked him what he thought of you and he said, “more power to him.” That’s on your Wikipedia page.
I have to check it out. I saw him comment about us taking over his band.

Yeah, that was from the same interview.  
Oh, was that it? Yeah, yeah, yeah. He’s a nice guy. I met him a couple times. I met him in St. Louis and at the Dalai Lama event, One World Concert.

What happened when you met?
We just talked and talked. He was cracking us up. I was talking about my album. I don’t know. We just kind of chilled out.

Did you smoke with him?
[Laughs.] No. No, no, no. It was at a peace concert. 

It’s considered a peaceful drug.
[Laughs more; pretends to smoke a joint; laughs more.]

Can we talk about Jimmy Iovine? He was the only honest person on the show; the judges were always nice.
Yeah. I agree. There were some times when I wished they would have been a little harder on me. So whenever they wouldn't, I would just, like, shake my head. I mean, you gotta think: It’s a show. When I did “Time of the Season,” it was a very horrible performance.

But you were still not in the bottom three, and you never were.
I know. And I believe I should have been.

Jimmy’s theory was that you were getting the girl vote, and he basically pitted you and Colton Dixon against each other ... You’re making a face. Why?
It was for the show. I mean, he told me Colton’s beatin’ me with the girl votes, then he also told Colton I was beatin’ him with the girl votes. It was just kind of a show thing, and, honestly, I didn’t care. When he told me Colton’s beatin' me, I said, “Yeah, he’s a good-lookin’ guy.” It didn’t bother me; I was never in it to win it or anything. I was just in it to have fun. I’m not a competitive guy.

I don’t really believe that. I don’t see how you can win a huge competition show and not be competitive.
You can ask all of my friends back at home, I’ve never been competitive. Life’s too short for that.

Okay, so you weren't competing for the girl vote. But then you did Usher’s “You Got It Bad.” I just feel like you knew what you were doing.
[Laughs.] No, it was actually we only had a certain amount of songs to choose from on the list. The other ones just weren’t — I wasn’t feeling it.

What do you think of the White Guy With Guitar phenomenon?
I mean, it’s true. For the last four or five years. But I’m different than Kris [Allen], Kris is different than David [Cook]. I just think we’re all different.

But it does seem like girls on the show have a harder time getting votes. And a harder time in general.
Yeah. I mean, I completely agree. It’s definitely harder; they have to prove themselves a lot more. Because girls — I mean, guys, too, they get jealous — but girls, you know, they get a little more jealous of other girls who can sing really well. On a show like that, too, during the show it’s a lot of teeny girls.

You mean in the audience.
Yeah, and so it’s just hard to please them, sometimes. I agree, they definitely have it a lot harder.

You looked like you were getting a lot of writing done on the tour bus in the “Home” video. Was that your real notebook?
That was my actual notebook. But I couldn’t afford that bus.

It was a stage bus?
Yeah. You know, people wanna make stuff look nice. I couldn’t afford that bus. I don’t have money. Not yet, anyways. [Laughs.]

That was sort of my reaction to the TMZ story. It was like, “Phillip Phillips refuses to save his family's pawn shop” — but how much money do they think you have?
Yeah, that’s what I’m saying. Actually, my dad’s had the shop up for sale for like eight years. He was trying to get rid of it for a certain price, but he’s never gotten it. So he’s kind of letting it go now. And I think my mom’s retiring pretty soon, too. So they’re kind of just ready to retire and go see the world a little bit, maybe.

When you come back to perform next season, Nicki Minaj will be there.
[Raises eyebrows, nods head.] Yeah. I know. It’ll be interesting to meet her. I met her, I think, one time. Maybe.

How can you not remember if you met Nicki Minaj?
Actually, I did meet her, she played on the show last year.

Oh yeah, she kept having to adjust her bra top.
She was definitely showing off every part of her body. But you can’t complain.

You said you’d have chosen Stevie Wonder to be a judge.
Yeah. It wouldn’t be about looks. That’s kind of a sad thing, that it’s about looks. I mean, Joe Cocker: He’s not too good-looking a guy, but he’s awesome.

Is this why you can’t see your face on your album cover?
Yes. I just didn't want — maybe on another album. This one, I wanted a design, but it was too short a time to do that. And I thought this was a really cool picture. And, yeah, that’s kind of why I have my head down: I didn’t want it to be all my face.

The performance that really sealed the deal for you was “We’ve Got Tonight.” A lot of people were waiting for —
My sensitive side.   

I was going to say they wanted to hear your regular voice, without the growl. You were also rubbing your leg a lot during that performance.
Yeah, it was kind of weird. Thanks for pointing that out. Everyone in my family has pointed that out. Uh, I was nervous doing that song. I didn’t know what else to do. The pants felt really good.   

Photo: Getty Images