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Glen Phillips enjoying solo career, band projects


Put a bunch of notable musicians together under a common name, and the natural thing to do is dub the collective a “super group.”

Glen Phillips, best known for his work with Toad the Wet Sprocket, doesn’t use that term to describe Works Progress Administration. In addition to Phillips, WPA’s members (eight total) include siblings Sean and Sara Watkins from Nickel Creek, Benmont Tench from Tom Petty‘s Heartbreakers and Pete Thomas from Elvis Costello‘s Imposters.

“It’s a real community, so I don’t think of it so much as a super group as a really natural progression,” Phillips says.

It’s a pretty easy progression to follow. Phillips’ has been recording and touring with friends Sean and Sara Watkins for about 10 years, and he’s had Thomas play on one of his albums. All four played together in a group called the Mutual Admiration Society.

The Tench connection comes through Sean and Sara Watkins. Every Thursday in Los Angeles for the past few years at a club called Largo, Tench — when he’s not on the road with Petty — is part of the house band for the Watkins Family Hour, which Phillips describes as “a fairly loose family variety show.”

“We just like playing together and we had enough time and we realized we should do a record, and so we did a record,” Phillips says. “And then we worried about things like management or a band name or a label after we got the record done.”

Look for the WPA album sometime in 2009. Meanwhile, Phillips recently wrapped up another band project called Plover, and that group’s album can be streamed and purchased on his Web site.

After years of working as a solo artist, Phillips says he developed “some (kind of) chip on my shoulder about having to have some success and prove myself as a solo artist in contrast to Toad.”

“And the thing is, I like being around other people; I like working with other people,” he adds. “At some point I backed myself into a corner where I was fortunate enough to be able to make a living touring solo acoustic, except that was the only way I could make a living — and it gets really lonely after 10 years.

“I just starting wanted to love my job again because I got to a point where I didn’t. So I’ve been doing a bunch of collaborative projects and just having the time of my life, and it’s made it so that going on the road by myself doing the solo shows — I like it now. I don’t feel trapped by it, and so I’m enjoying all of it a lot more.”

— By Chris M. Junior

Glen Phillips on tour (schedule subject to change):

* Nov. 1: Pollak Theatre — West Long Branch, N.J.
* Nov. 2: The Birchmere — Alexandria, Va.
* Nov. 6: Aladdin Theater — Portland, Ore.
* Nov. 8: El Rey Theatre — Chico, Calif.
* Nov. 9: Slim’s — San Francisco
* Nov. 12: Largo at the Coronet — Los Angeles
* Nov. 13: The Canyon Club – Agoura Hills, Calif.
* Nov. 14: Anthology — San Diego
* Nov. 20: Jack’s Patio Bar and Grill — San Antonio
* Nov. 21: Bend Studio — Dallas
* Nov. 22: Cactus Cafe — Austin, Texas
* Nov. 23: McGonigel’s Mucky Duck — Houston