I made it a goal to write really nice things about all the returning 3Ws interviewees, but I’m already stumped. I have written and rewritten this intro many times, and am not sure I’m any closer to matching words and feelings accurately. I’m not sure it’s possible. To say I’m a Glen Phillips fan is a ridiculous understatement. As a teenager in turmoil, Toad the Wet Sprocket gave me context for my feelings. I escaped into those songs and felt like they saved me.
Through Toad, a dozen solo albums, and side projects like Mutual Admiration Society, Remote Tree Children, and Works Progress Administration, Glen has continued to share his deeply thoughtful, evolving philosophies on the human experience. Not only do I love Glen’s music, I am grateful for the joy, comfort, and wisdom his songs have brought to my life for the past thirty years. “Whatever happens will be,” has served as my calming mantra since first hearing the song All I Want at fourteen years old. Glen’s latest solo album, Swallowed By the New comes with equally useful navigation: “To be swallowed by the new, whatever it may be.”
I am also grateful to know that I am one of many who feel this way. To meet another Glen Phillips fan is to meet a kindred spirit. So, in addition to the gift of his work, Glen has given us the gift of each other.
It is thrilling to have Glen Phillips back for 3 More Ws (original interview here).
Thank you, Glen.
When did you discover your creative calling(s)?
I was an emotional, somewhat anxious kid. Music, acting and dancing were the things that gave me a place to put all that extra feeling and to feel calm and like the world made sense. The arts were a way to go into the scary feelings and find the beauty in there, where in other situations I would spend a lot of time trying to avoid them or distract myself. So it was always there. Not really a choice so much as a wonderful necessity.
Where do you do your best work?
There’s a balance between letting things flow and go in unexpected directions and in doing the nitty gritty work of critical thinking and editing. The best songs are a bit of both – too much flow and you don’t clean up the details, too much criticism and there’s not enough soul. So – the best work is when I show up not just for what the muses throw me but also for the detail work. It’s about being open and aware but also willing to work hard. Every word counts, every note counts.
Who are your great mentors, inspirations, or guides?
They change over time. I’ve learned a lot from the poets Mary Oliver and David Whyte. Tara Brach is a Buddhist teacher who’s helped me broaden my perspective, especially in the last year. There’s so many authors and musicians and teachers. It’s hard to list them all. So – back to a Mary Oliver quote: Attention is the beginning of devotion. The teachers I like the most don’t pretend to have everything worked out. The point of their teaching is the importance of staying in the moment, being open and aware, curious and conscious. It’s not mystical or magical, it’s just about showing up and then seeing if you can show up even more. It’s a lifetime of good, fascinating work.