Sam Phillips (musician)

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Sam Phillips
Leslie Ann Phillips cropped.jpg
Phillips on stage in Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Background information
Birth nameLeslie Ann Phillips
Born (1962-01-28) January 28, 1962 (age 59)
Glendale, California, U.S.
Genres Alternative rock, pop
Occupation(s)Singer, songwriter
InstrumentsGuitar, keyboards
Years active1980–present
Labels Myrrh, Virgin, Nonesuch
Associated acts T Bone Burnett, Eric Gorfain

Leslie Ann Phillips [1] (born January 28, 1962), better known by her stage name Sam Phillips, is an American singer and songwriter. Her albums include the critically acclaimed Martinis & Bikinis in 1994 and Fan Dance in 2001. She has also composed scores for the television shows Gilmore Girls , Bunheads , and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel . [2]


Early life

Phillips was born in Glendale, California, the second of three children, and has a brother and a sister. [3] [4]


Phillips began her musical career in the early 1980s in the contemporary Christian music industry, where she sang background vocals for Christian artists Mark Heard and Randy Stonehill.

Phillips was signed as a solo artist with Myrrh Records under her given name and recorded four Christian pop albums: Beyond Saturday Night , Dancing with Danger , Black and White in a Grey World and, The Turning . The Turning teamed her with producer and future husband, T Bone Burnett.

Several became Top 10 singles on Christian radio [5] and Myrrh records promoted her as "the Christian Cyndi Lauper". Phillips was never comfortable with this image, and it was a bone of contention between her and her label. She began using the name "Sam" professionally in 1988 when she left Myrrh Records and signed with Virgin Records in order to distance herself from her prior persona. [6]

With The Indescribable Wow Philips moved into mainstream music. The album featured the orchestrations of Van Dyke Parks. Cruel Inventions was released in 1991, and included a guest performance by Elvis Costello. 1994's Martinis and Bikinis was widely praised by music critics and was nominated for a Grammy Award; [7] her second nomination (the first was as Leslie Phillips).

In 1995, Phillips made her film acting debut as the mute terrorist Katya in the Bruce Willis blockbuster Die Hard with a Vengeance . In 1996, Phillips released Omnipop (It's Only a Flesh Wound Lambchop) , which featured a song co-written by R.E.M.. Phillips made a cameo appearance in the 1997 Wim Wenders film The End of Violence , singing part of the song "Animals on Wheels" from Omnipop. After releasing a contractually obligated "best of" album in 1999, Virgin Records dropped Phillips from its roster.

In 2001, Phillips signed with Nonesuch Records, evolving her musical style to a stripped-down, acoustically-based sound on her album called Fan Dance , which featured some of her most critically acclaimed songwriting [ citation needed ], as well as guest appearances from musical partners Gillian Welch on vocals & David Rawlings on piano, for whom T Bone Burnett had produced several years earlier. Phillips also began writing music for and scoring the television series Gilmore Girls , and appeared in the final episode of season six, performing "Taking Pictures" from her Fan Dance album. In 2004, she released A Boot and a Shoe , another collection of acoustically-based songs, similar in style to Fan Dance.

After the release of A Boot and a Shoe, Phillips and T Bone Burnett, who had been her longtime producer, divorced, although they continued to work together to finish her album. [8] [9] [10] Her album Don't Do Anything was self-produced and released in 2008.

In October 2009, Phillips launched The Long Play, a music subscription service offering digital releases without a record label. [11] The first subscription only EP, Hypnotists in Paris, was recorded with the Section Quartet and a Christmas collection Cold Dark Night, Magic for Everyone, Old Tin Pan, and Days of the One Night Stands followed, with the full-length album Cameras in the Sky being released in early 2010. In Spring of 2011 she issued Solid State , a public CD release comprising 13 of the best songs from her subscription service.

In 2012, it was announced that she would be reunited with Gilmore Girls creator Amy Sherman-Palladino by scoring music for the short-lived American TV show Bunheads . [12]

Phillips described her next album, Pretty Time Bomb (later renamed Push Any Button), as being "a nostalgic sort of dream of being a pop star in the 60s and early 70s. It's a sweet kind of album and I don't know where it came from. I don't know what compelled me to make it. It's probably a bad idea, but every time I listen to what I've done, it makes me really happy. So I figure, that must mean something and I should go ahead and put it out there." [13]

Push Any Button was released on August 13, 2013. [14] Phillips has described Push Any Button in as 'an impressionistic version of the AM pop radio playing inside her head'—a way of 'looking at the future through the past. For the vinyl release through her website, Phillips created a limited run of unique handmade collages on repurposed vintage LP sleeves sourced from flea markets. In 2015, a suite of these collage artworks were exhibited at Gertrude Contemporary in Melbourne, Australia in an exhibition called Lost and Profound curated by Daniel Mudie Cunningham.

In 2013, Phillips' first live concert album, Sam Phillips: Live @ Largo at The Coronet, was made available digitally through her website, [15] and is also the title of a 2019 documentary directed by Dave Rygalski, who filmed the 2013 performances. [16]

On November 21, 2016 Phillips released an eight-track downloadable EP Human Contact is Never Easy, which included four new tracks off her next album World on Sticks.

Phillips reunited with Amy Sherman-Palladino as composer for Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life , a revival of the much-loved television series, which was released on Netflix on November 25, 2016.

In September 2018, Phillips released World on Sticks. [2]

Personal life

In 1989, Phillips married producer and musician T Bone Burnett. They have a daughter, Simone, born in 1997. [17] Phillips and Burnett divorced in 2004, and both have since remarried. [18] [19]

Selected awards



As Leslie Phillips

As Sam Phillips

Digital EPs


As Leslie Phillips

  • 1987: Recollection (Myrrh)
  • 2007: The Definitive Collection (Myrrh)

As Sam Phillips

  • 1998: Zero Zero Zero (Virgin)
  • 2008: The Disappearing Act 1987–1998 (Raven)

Compilation appearances

As guest

Selected collaborations


As Leslie Phillips

YearTitleChart positionsAlbum
US Christian [23]
1983"Heart of Hearts"14Beyond Saturday Night
"I'm Finding"31Beyond Saturday Night
1984"Make My Heart Your Home" (with Paul Smith and The Imperials)12Side By Side
"By My Spirit" (with Matthew Ward)12Dancing with Danger
1985"Here He Comes with My Heart"6Dancing with Danger
"Strength of My Life" (guest vocals by Russ Taff)9Dancing with Danger
"Dancing with Danger"11Dancing with Danger
1986"Your Kindness"1Black and White in a Grey World
"The More I Know"7Black and White in a Grey World
"Psalm 55"8Black and White in a Grey World
1987"Libera Me"2The Turning
"Love Is Not Lost"14The Turning
"Answers Don't Come Easy"11The Turning
1988"No One But You"11Recollection

As Sam Phillips

YearTitleChart positionsAlbum
US Hot 100 US Modern Rock US Mainstream Rock US Rock Sales UK
1989"Holding on to the Earth"22 [24] The Indescribable Wow
1994"Baby I Can't Please You"Martinis & Bikinis
2016"Reflecting Light"15 [25] A Boot and a Shoe

Composer of television music

Selected filmography

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<i>The Turning</i> (album) 1987 studio album by Leslie Phillips

The Turning is an album by Leslie Phillips that was released by Myrrh in 1987 and re-released in 1997 under the name Sam Phillips.

<i>Omnipop (Its Only a Flesh Wound Lambchop)</i> 1996 studio album by Sam Phillips

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Martinis & Bikinis is the seventh studio album by American singer and songwriter Sam Phillips. It was released on March 8, 1994 and re-released on July 17, 2012. "Circle of Fire" was nominated for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance at the 37th Annual Grammy Awards.

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<i>Dancing with Danger</i> 1984 studio album by Leslie Phillips

Dancing with Danger is the second album by Leslie Phillips, released in 1984 on Myrrh Records.

<i>Beyond Saturday Night</i> 1983 studio album by Leslie Phillips

Beyond Saturday Night is the title of the first album by Leslie Phillips, released in 1983 on Myrrh Records. The album's style is placed between the contemporary Christian music artist Amy Grant, Christian rocker Margaret Becker and hard rock group, Resurrection Band.

<i>Recollection</i> (Leslie Phillips album) 1987 compilation album by Leslie Phillips

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  1. "Songwriter/Composer: Phillips Leslie A - Current Affiliation: ASCAP CAE/IPI #:51325120". BMI .
  2. 1 2 Philbrook, Erik (December 4, 2018). "The World According to Sam Phillips". ASCAP .
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  4. Overstreet, Jeffrey (2009). "A Conversation with Sam Phillips". Retrieved May 26, 2016.
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  17. Stewart, Perry, "Nightcrawler: A Star Is Born" Fort Worth Star-Telegram January 9, 1998
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  19. Ouellette, Dan (June 21, 2008). "T Bone Burnett's Ex Finds Her Voice". ABC News. Retrieved May 26, 2016.
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  21. "Artist: Sam Phillips". The Recording Academy. 1994.
  22. "Levertov Award Recipients". Image Journal. 2011.
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  25. "Rock Digital Song Sales". Billboard. Retrieved December 7, 2016.