The tiny South Georgia community of Leesburg has produced two musicians for whom 2012 proved to be a banner year: country superstar Luke Bryan and 11th-season "American Idol" winner Phillip Phillips. An accomplished guitarist and raspy-throated singer, Phillips began playing music when he was 14. After graduating high school, he studied industrial systems technology at Albany Technical College while working at his parents’ pawn shop and performing in an acoustic group with his musical mentor, brother-in-law Benjamin Neil.
In 2010, he won a local singing competition, “Albany Star,” and the following year, he took a break from the pawn shop to audition for the nationally televised "Idol" show. With his powerful interpretations of songs by artists like Creedence Clearwater Revival and Otis Redding (who was born in Dawson, near Leesburg), Phillips continued to advance in the auditions until he finally found himself in the Top 13. At the same time he was appearing on "Idol," however, he was suffering from kidney stones and endured eight surgeries during the show season. Overcoming the distraction, Phillips made it to the May 23, 2012, finale, where he beat out Jessica Sanchez and performed “Home,” written with Drew Pearson and Greg Holden, as his coronation song. The tune was also released that day as a single and debuted at No. 10 on "Billboard’s" Hot 100 after generating 278,000 download sales in the first week.
Since winning, Phillips has headlined the "American Idol" LIVE Tour, performed at numerous high-profile events and released his first album, "The World from the Side of the Moon," on Interscope Records. In January 2013, the album was certified gold, Phillips began a North American tour with rock act Matchbox Twenty and he announced a summer 2013 tour opening for John Mayer.