Phillip Phillips is returning to Savannah, where it all began.

In August 2011, the singer/songwriter/guitarist from Leesburg successfully auditioned for the 11th season of "American Idol." In May 2012, he was chosen its winner.

On April 7, Phillips will return to Savannah to perform in the annual Campus Union Board Big Show concert at Armstrong Atlantic State University.

Opening for Phillips will be Churchill, a Denver-based band best known for the hit single "Change."

At age 14, Phillips began making music when his brother-in-law, Ben Neil, taught him to play guitar. Phillips kept studying on his own and later founded an acoustic band, which led to him to learn to sing.

"When I picked the guitar up at 14 years old, I knew I wanted to do something in music," Phillips says. "I started writing music and lyrics at about 18."

After high school, he graduated from Albany Technical College with a degree in industrial systems technology but kept playing music on the side. He was working at his family's pawn shop when he decided to audition for "American Idol."

"I don't know honestly (why I auditioned)," he says. "Casey Abrams (season 10 finalist) really inspired me to because he's a real musician."

At the audition in Savannah, he sang Stevie Wonder's "Superstition."

The judges then asked him to play his guitar, so he performed Michael Jackson's "Thriller."

The best part of appearing on the show?

"Meeting so many good people," Phillips says. "The worst was the hurry-up-and-wait."

During performances on the show, Phillips chose to cover music by artists such as Creedence Clearwater Revival, Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett. Choosing what to perform was a challenge.

"I just went through so many," Phillips says. "I asked my family and friends what they thought were the best ones."

On the day he won the "American Idol" title, Phillips released his first single, "Home," which has since gone triple platinum and was used as the soundtrack for the 2012 U.S. Olympics Women's Gymnastics Team.

"Home" also has become the unofficial theme for Hurricane Sandy relief and has been presented on numerous television shows. Phillips released his second single, "Gone Gone Gone," in January.

His debut album, "The World from the Side of the Moon," was released in November. It topped the Billboard rock album chart and became a gold record.

Among Phillips' influences are Jonny Lang, John Butler, Dave Matthews, Damien Rice, Mumford & Sons and Tool. But his own songs have been most successful for him and "different things" inspire those songs.

Phillips says he enjoys songwriting and performing.

"Writing is very therapeutic," he says, "and performing is just fun and you can really lose yourself in those moments."

While "American Idol" advanced Phillips' career, the journey wasn't easy. After the Top 13 performance night, he was taken to a doctor for possible kidney stones.

While on the show, Phillips, who suffers from a congenital kidney condition that produces stones so large he cannot pass them, underwent eight surgeries. He even considered quitting because he was in so much pain, and after winning, underwent surgery to remove the stones and repair a kidney.

Last summer, Phillips went on the "American Idol LIVE Tour" with the rest of the Top 10. Since then, he has sung the national anthem at the opening game of the 2012 World Series in October and performed at the National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony in December.

The highlight of being an American Idol is "meeting some heroes and playing with so many great bands."

In Savannah, Phillips says, he plans to put on a rocking show.

"Hopefully, they'll have a great time hearing us jam and having a great time," he says.


What: Phillip Phillips with opening act Churchill

When: 7:30 p.m., April 7

Where: Armstrong Atlantic State University Fine Arts Center, 11935 Abercorn Street

Cost: $10 in advance, $15 day of show

Info: 912-344-2801,