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Glen Phillips Gets Metaphysical
Episode 409 - Glen Phillips of Toad the Wet Sprocket
Provided you don’t buy into the construct and marginalization that accompanies ageism, one of the perks to getting older is that you can openly move about your life - even if you’re a rock star.
Ask Glen Phillips, frontman of the multi-platinum band Toad the Wet Sprocket.
“It’s so great not to worry about being cool anymore.” - Glen Phillips.
The cynics reading that quote from Phillips will grumble: “When was Toad the Wet Sprocket ever cool?” And to them, I will respond this way:
The band was, and remains, very self-aware, which has always made them very cool.
I hear Limp Bizkit is re-uniting.
Of course, I’m biased.
Geoff and I got the chance to speak with Glen about Toad, his solo work, and his surprising - at least to me - array of side projects.
I’ve always enjoyed Toad because the songs are taut, thoughtful, and well-crafted with a genuine je ne sais quoi.
During our conversation with Glen, he spoke a little about “spirituality.” That was the “ah-ha” moment for me because I realized maybe that subtle sense of calm that I associate with thoughtfulness makes the songs still resonate after all these years. For example, “Walk on the Ocean” has a very chill vibe to it, but wtf is it about?
I don’t know.
Neither does Glen:
“Well, it sounds like I know what I'm talking about. So we just left it as is."
Phillips has said he’s OK with a song not making much sense; his goal is to make you feel something.
Mission accomplished, Glen… mission accomplished.
The “something” I feel when I hear Toad songs like “Walk on the Ocean,” “All I Want,” “Fly From Heaven,” etc., is serenity. Hell, even a rocker like “Fall Down” has a touch of peace and, like so much of Glen’s work, a lot of humanity.
It’s that relatability that makes the music resonate after 30-plus years.
If you can’t relate to being a human, well, it ain’t music that’s gonna save you.
The deeper we get into this Abandoned Albums project, three things come into focus:
Music is very powerful (this has always been crystal clear to me).
It’s ALL connected.
The two most mentioned bands by the artists we’ve talked with are The Pixies and The Replacements.
In researching, I realized for the first time that Toad’s “Something’s Always Wrong” is the kissing cousin to The Replacements “Unsatisfied.” They’re beautiful and powerful songs about the inherent humanity that IS love.
Similarly, look at the intro to “Fly From Heaven”:
Paul is making me nervous
Paul is making me scared
Walk into this room and swaggers
Like he's God's own messenger
That first stanza has the same gravitas to me as the first verse to one of the most iconic songs in pop culture - Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain”:
You walked into the party like you were walking onto a yacht
Your hat strategically dipped below one eye
Your scarf it was apricot
You had one eye in the mirror as you watched yourself gavotte
And all the girls dreamed that they'd be your partner
They'd be your partner
Simon’s song is famously about Warren Beatty - and there was a period of time when Warren Beatty certainly thought he was God.
I neglected to ask Glen if “Fly From Heaven” was about Warren Beatty, but I’ma go-ahead and say it is NOT.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that in this episode; you won’t find Geoff and me talking to Glen too much about the Toad the Wet Sprocket catalog. Oh sure, we talked about it; how could we not? But we dug deep into his other work… and other things.
If you’re hoping for a deep dive into Toad the Wet Sprocket’s oeuvre, we apologize in advance. If you wanna learn more about Glen Phillips, the man, and his work, this IS the episode for that.
In addition to his solo albums, he made one album (to date) with Nickel Creek’s Sean and Sara Watkins as the Mutual Admiration Society and an album under the banner of Works Progress Administration with the Nickel Creek team, a Heartbreaker, and an Attraction… among other brilliant players.
Of note to me was Glen’s candor around losing his career at the age of 27. That was refreshing and honest, and human. And how he describes continuing to work when his career was at a crossroads, as was his industry, is a testament to his creativity and tenacity. Our cultural landscape is richer as a result of his spirit and drive.
The three of us talked about A LOT of things: disco, mental health, spirituality, glass coffee tables, the music business, Santa Barbara… and much more. You’ll dig this one.
Here’s our conversation with Glen Phillips:
LINKS TO MENTIONS IN THE PODCAST: