We Want the Folk: Booty Band Alum Embraces the Festival Incarnate
We want the Folk: Booty Band alum embraces the festival incarnate
When asked to describe his musical philosophy, there’s an old saying from Louis Armstrong that Josh Phillips (www.joshphillipsfolk.com) employs that goes something like: “All music is folk music. I ain’t never heard a horse sing no song.” The quote in question was a snarky comeback to those who questioned his reinvention of folk ensembles into solo-oriented jazz pieces, but it does well to describe the modus operandi of Phillips, the former primary songwriter and singer for funk collective Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band. It’s already been two years now since Phillips departed to focus on his own music and nearly a year since his first solo offering under the umbrella of the Josh Phillips Folk Festival, entitled Wicker, and Phillips hasn’t veered from the general idea behind the Armstrong quote. Even the inclusion of the term “Folk Festival” in his performance moniker evokes a wealth of symbolism. A folk festival generally revolves around stripped-down acoustic tunes, but might also include soul, reggae or any other style with a predominantly organic feel to it. “I grew up loving music and going to a festival in Asheville called LEAF,” Phillips said. “To me the idea of a festival is to provide many genres and not just music, but having a good time. The feeling that the term ‘folk festival’ brings is just that of a good time.” The sentiment behind Phillips’ solo outfit can be described as all of those things and more, though wasn’t didn’t necessarily conceived in his head in such a way. Phillips had never worked with any of his bandmates prior to stepping into the studio to cut the album. He had a bundle of songs that didn’t fit the direction that YMBFBB was headed and simply wanted to get the best of the bunch down into a CD. “I came close to calling our first album Best Of,” Phillips said. “There was so much that just started happening from getting used to the different things everyone brought. That’s the cool thing with this project, is that it wasn’t really a band going into the studio. There were no prior relationships, so the options were just limitless.” While YMBFBB has experienced a drastic change of course, many of the songs that Phillips wrote for them are out of their playlist and, as a result, a few are finding a second life in Phillips’ own sets. He’s in the midst of recording two albums, though he’s undecided whether any of them will be rerecorded for either. One is the full-band follow-up to Wicker, though the other, to be released after, has had to be put on hold for the time being as the recording process began to get away from his intentions. “It is supposed to be an acoustic album and originally, I wasn’t going to overdub anything,” Phillips said. “Then we did a couple and it felt like we were trying too hard, so I just wanted to give it some time and maybe rethink it.” It was his love of musical diversity that inevitably led to his decision to part ways with YMBFBB. The band narrowed their focus from driving party tunes, characterized only as a potpourri of funk, rock, rap and whatever else Phillips conceived, and into a more concise brand of hard, almost aggressive dance-funk and Phillips began to lose his place with that alignment. John- Paul Miller summed up best in a January interview why the rift emerged, but in the same breath, how Phillips has flourished on his own:
“[Josh] realized one day he wasn’t putting out the funk anymore, so we decided to go our own separate ways,” Miller said. “At the same time, it kind of took the pop out of the music. He was our catchy songwriter guy.”
Josh Phillips Folk Festival will perform at the Blind Tiger on Thursday, Sept. 10.