Farewell from Phillip

Six years ago I had some songs, a sound in my head, and a few cowboy chords. I still don’t know how I convinced Jonathan to move his family up from Virginia to start this thing! The memories we’ve made, and the friends we’ve met across the US is more than a lot of bands ever get the chance to experience. Before Jonathan and I started Phillip Fox Band, there was a lot I didn’t understand about the music business (hell, there was a lot I didn’t understand about music). I didn’t understand why my favorite bands would break up, how rare it was to find a band that could last a decade, or how hard it actually is to just keep your head above water as a musician. It all looks so easy on “Before They were Stars” and “American Idol”, right? So I want to spend some time in this letter addressing why PFB is disbanding, not because I’m upset about it or because I feel cheated (the opposite, in fact) but because you’re probably asking “Why?!” just like I used to, and I want to give an actual answer. I also want to combat the “10 minutes of struggle, lifetime of fame” story arch that has been pounded into our brains from rock documentaries and TV shows alike. Because to be honest, y’all, that’s horseshit and it’s not helpful. For anyone. 

But before we get into that I want to say that this was a long, hard decision for all of us and our families. We all invested so much time, energy, soul, sweat, blood, and tears into PFB and we really did have a very rare and very special musical synergy. We didn’t take any of that lightly, and we aren’t disbanding due to bad blood or emotions. After months of thinking, praying, talking, researching, and soul-searching, we all agreed individually and as a band that disbanding was really the only good option for everyone involved. It made it slightly easier to swallow knowing that we were all in agreement and all on good terms - but only slightly. 

We honestly should have made this announcement sooner. We cancelled some shows, we cleared our calendar, and we’ve been silent. Though it was the right decision, making it was one of the hardest things I’ve done in my life and it was just too painful to talk about all at once. I needed time to grieve and to process and to just get some damn rest. I feel like I’m moving toward wholeness and it feels good. 

One of the questions I get every time I’ve broken the news to somebody is “what are you going to do now?” And I get it. There is a part of me that wants to know too, but there’s another part of me that feels like someone I loved just died and I’m not in any shape to replace them yet. In time I will be, but there’s not an app to tell you when your heart is mended and grief can be a “two-steps-forward, one-step-backward” experience and I want to give myself and my family as much time as we need. I’m saying this as much for my own sake as for anyone else’s. I naturally like to be busy, I’m learning how to like resting. 

So for those who are interested in the nuts and bolts of “why”, feel free to read on. If you do stop here, we’ll keep you posted as we know more about where Jonathan and I will be making music next. 

I really want to strip away the “rock star” image the 70’s and 80’s gave us of musicians. For most of the full-time musicians out there, the “job” looks and feels very similar to a trade or “blue-collar” career (carpenter, electrician, mechanic, etc.). It’s very physical, and requires expensive, specialized equipment, and years of “on the job” training. For Phillip Fox Band nearly every show was a 12-16 hour physical commitment of loading gear, driving, fixing gear, and for a small percentage of the time – making music. Being a traveling musician can add the detachment and isolation costs of somewhere in between an off-shore rigger and a deployed soldier. Unlike any of those careers, though, as a musician there is no minimum expectation of income from putting ten years in on the job. This is especially true for those who write their own music. To play it is treated like a privilege and one that most artists pay heavily for. 

Whether you realize it or not, nearly all “successful” bands you’ve heard of have borrowed big money just like any other startup business would. From conversations I’ve had, it takes from $100,000 to $1,000,000 to establish a band. We were fortunate in that we were able to fund, through our touring income and the generous support of our fans, two albums independently, and by that I mean we didn’t borrow a cent. We reinvested much of our income and owned our van, our trailer, our sound system, and some recording equipment. There comes a point, though, with a band (as with any business) when you need to “level up” so to speak. Equipment ages (getting stranded on the side of the road states away from home is an adventure the first time, by the third time it’s something else), families grow, and you need to keep putting out music. Last year we realized we had some big decisions to make. We looked at every possible scenario of keeping PFB alive, but when it came down to it, we really didn’t have the momentum of support (both from a large enough fan base and from the industry) to justify borrowing the kind of investment capital it would have taken to simply stay mobile and gigging and put out new music. And the toll of being on the road wasn’t helping the matter. I’m not saying we didn’t have any support. We have some amazing fans that travel states to watch us play, but we had to embrace the reality that we were a niche band, a very niche band, the kind of niche band I love, but niche none the less – and not as “commercial” (that’s industry speak for “easy to sell”) as we would have needed to be. We did consider what it would look like to be more commercial, and honestly that would have just been a completely different band and it wasn’t something we were interested in. 

For the latter half of 2016, we slowed our gigging schedule and focused on writing which was incredibly fun. If there’s a disservice anywhere in this, it’s that we have nearly an album worth of material that who knows what will happen to. If we could have gone the Beatles route and just been a studio band we would have jumped at the opportunity. However, the reality of music today is that no artists make their money back from recording. Records are considered marketing expenses for your live show and merch. We spent over $30,000 recording, printing, and releasing Heartland. We still get quarterly checks from Spotify for $2.27. We placed songs with licensing libraries, hoping to land a commercial, movie, or TV placement, but we just don’t sound enough like anyone else to get a request. A typical ad might read: “mid-tempo blues-rock song with the words ‘home’ or ‘away’ in the vein of Black Keys sung by a female lead. Can’t have specific location or name references”. You can see why our songs never came up in the database searches. 

In short, every band you’ve ever heard of had a “break”. We tried lots of things in our six years as Phillip Fox Band, but never found our place to break through. And while we didn’t try everything, we tried all the stuff that didn’t require a quarter of a million dollars. At some point you just have to look at what you were able to do and know you did all you could. We got to play around 600 concerts all over the US, we made two high-quality albums, we were a ridiculously tight band, and we got to make the music we wanted. That’s not a bad run. And while it might be the end for Phillip Fox Band, it’s not the end for Phillip Fox or the Band. There’s plenty of music to still be made and I’m starting to get excited again about making it!

Thanks for al your support over the years. We'll keep you posted on the future.

Much Love,

Phillip Fox

20 comments

  • Angi

    Angi Indy

    Beyond sad, but totally understand that you have to do what is best for Phillip, Jonathan and David. Best of wishes and can't wait to see what lies in path ahead.

    Beyond sad, but totally understand that you have to do what is best for Phillip, Jonathan and David. Best of wishes and can't wait to see what lies in path ahead.

  • Pete Vogel

    Pete Vogel

    I appreciate your honesty and candor on this subject. Perhaps I will make another documentary film and follow this theme? All the best, brother. Let's meet up for lunch soon. Peace

    I appreciate your honesty and candor on this subject. Perhaps I will make another documentary film and follow this theme? All the best, brother. Let's meet up for lunch soon. Peace

  • Shannon

    Shannon Maumee, OH

    Saddened to read this. Good luck in your future endeavors!

    Saddened to read this. Good luck in your future endeavors!

  • J. Feathers

    J. Feathers Everywhere

    Tears in my eyes. Thanks for the privalage of sharing the stage with you! I will always cherish the memories and good music we made together. Thank you for letting me be a part of that! Best of luck to you and the guys in your future endeavors.

    Tears in my eyes. Thanks for the privalage of sharing the stage with you! I will always cherish the memories and good music we made together. Thank you for letting me be a part of that! Best of luck to you and the guys in your future endeavors.

  • Danara

    Danara Toledo

    Thanks for sharing your music and talent with all of us. Enjoy this rest time with your family. Wishing you the best as you move forward.

    Thanks for sharing your music and talent with all of us. Enjoy this rest time with your family. Wishing you the best as you move forward.

  • Paul/Michelle Hughes

    Paul/Michelle Hughes Ashville

    You are/were true gentleman and always made our family feel so welcome at your shows from personal greeting and hugs to calling out a name in a song, you always made us feel like we were part of the show! Thank you all for your time and your music! You all definitely left an impression on our hearts and your music will forever be apart of us!

    You are/were true gentleman and always made our family feel so welcome at your shows from personal greeting and hugs to calling out a name in a song, you always made us feel like we were part of the show! Thank you all for your time and your music! You all definitely left an impression on our hearts and your music will forever be apart of us!

  • Kevin & Diane

    Kevin & Diane Ohio

    Sad news. Thank you for sharing your unique music. We really enjoyed your shows

    Sad news. Thank you for sharing your unique music. We really enjoyed your shows

  • Rocco

    Rocco Mansfield

    So Glad I know you and have seen you live!! Excited about your journey and looking forward to hearing about it in the future!

    So Glad I know you and have seen you live!! Excited about your journey and looking forward to hearing about it in the future!

  • Elaine

    Elaine Fairfield, OH

    So sad but excited to see what the future holds! God bless you all!

    So sad but excited to see what the future holds! God bless you all!

  • Jameson

    Jameson Columbus, OH

    Thanks for having the courage to go for it, and the courage to walk away. Every man dies, few ever live.

    Thanks for having the courage to go for it, and the courage to walk away. Every man dies, few ever live.

  • Michele/Bob

    Michele/Bob Bethlehem Pa

    Wishing all of you the best. Enjoyed seeing you all play at musikfest the last 2 years and i just had heartland playing in the car the other day! Hope to hear your playing again one day. Lots of happiness and peace to all✌

    Wishing all of you the best. Enjoyed seeing you all play at musikfest the last 2 years and i just had heartland playing in the car the other day! Hope to hear your playing again one day. Lots of happiness and peace to all✌

  • James/Allison

    James/Allison Columbus, Ohio

    Walking by the Boat House at Put in Bay, your voice drew my wife and I in, and from that moment, we were instantly PFB fans. We watched and listened, and then you and Jonathan took a break and we met and chatted from the bar. We discovered you were living in the Columbus area and you invited us to a show a few months later at the Harvest Moon cafe, we arrived at the show, which rocked, but it was much more than that, not only did you remember us, you actually remembered our names, which I thought was pretty cool, considering how many people you guys meet at all of your shows. You asked us that night if your wife and son could set at the table with us, and then we learned even more about you guys. You guys are true artists, in the sense that you truly appreciate your music and fans. So My wife Allison and I would like to wish you all the best of luck in all of life, and say "thank you"! We'll look forward to whatever the future brings with "you and your music".

    Walking by the Boat House at Put in Bay, your voice drew my wife and I in, and from that moment, we were instantly PFB fans. We watched and listened, and then you and Jonathan took a break and we met and chatted from the bar. We discovered you were living in the Columbus area and you invited us to a show a few months later at the Harvest Moon cafe, we arrived at the show, which rocked, but it was much more than that, not only did you remember us, you actually remembered our names, which I thought was pretty cool, considering how many people you guys meet at all of your shows. You asked us that night if your wife and son could set at the table with us, and then we learned even more about you guys. You guys are true artists, in the sense that you truly appreciate your music and fans. So My wife Allison and I would like to wish you all the best of luck in all of life, and say "thank you"! We'll look forward to whatever the future brings with "you and your music".

  • Larry Davis

    Larry Davis Columbus

    PFB sure made us proud of the bands that come out of Columbus. Extremely enjoyable and high energy performance each and every time. An incredible life accomplishment even if time ran out on commercial success this time around. The music your band created lives forever, and not too many people can say that in any vocation. Life if full of transitions and doors are going to open for such talented people. No one can ever take away your music and song writing. I'm sure the end of the band is extremely hard. Recharge with families and best wishes for what !m sure will be a very bright future. Thanks for the realistic insights of life on the road and struggle to carve out a living. Really sad as fans our money goes to name brand bands that someone else tells us are great. Lesson really is that as fans we need to better support emerging talent.

    PFB sure made us proud of the bands that come out of Columbus. Extremely enjoyable and high energy performance each and every time. An incredible life accomplishment even if time ran out on commercial success this time around. The music your band created lives forever, and not too many people can say that in any vocation. Life if full of transitions and doors are going to open for such talented people. No one can ever take away your music and song writing. I'm sure the end of the band is extremely hard. Recharge with families and best wishes for what !m sure will be a very bright future.

    Thanks for the realistic insights of life on the road and struggle to carve out a living. Really sad as fans our money goes to name brand bands that someone else tells us are great. Lesson really is that as fans we need to better support emerging talent.

  • Bill Bassett & Family (Bassett Promotions)

    Bill Bassett & Family (Bassett Promotions) Tallahassee, FL

    I remember meeting you at the Ohio Fair Managers Convention and having the opportunity to get to know you and Jonathan as well. Not only were you both wonderfully talented artists and the front men for a great band -- you are outstanding folks with tremendous passion for your craft. Your comments are spot on and relative Phillip. It is nothing short of a grueling struggle to get to some semblance of success in the industry. There are never any guarantees regardless of the talent and all the hard work and efforts given. You do it for the love of what you are giving to others and pursue your path forward the best way you can. Those that have had the privilege to meet you, see you perform, or just be around you along the way have certainly reaped benefits from the experience. No doubt Phillip Fox Band is one all of us will remember -- and also all will truly miss. Wishing you and all of the PFB family nothing but great times ahead and success in all you do.

    I remember meeting you at the Ohio Fair Managers Convention and having the opportunity to get to know you and Jonathan as well. Not only were you both wonderfully talented artists and the front men for a great band -- you are outstanding folks with tremendous passion for your craft. Your comments are spot on and relative Phillip. It is nothing short of a grueling struggle to get to some semblance of success in the industry. There are never any guarantees regardless of the talent and all the hard work and efforts given. You do it for the love of what you are giving to others and pursue your path forward the best way you can. Those that have had the privilege to meet you, see you perform, or just be around you along the way have certainly reaped benefits from the experience. No doubt Phillip Fox Band is one all of us will remember -- and also all will truly miss. Wishing you and all of the PFB family nothing but great times ahead and success in all you do.

  • Tom Krouse

    Tom Krouse Cbus

    You are one solid individual whom I admire for your music, your principles and your openness. Thanks for all you have given music fans over the years. Peace, Tom

    You are one solid individual whom I admire for your music, your principles and your openness. Thanks for all you have given music fans over the years. Peace, Tom

  • Chris

    Chris Shaw

    Sad stuff, do what you need to do, I appreciate the insight and I feel the struggle! Keep those songs in your heart, no one can take those away!

    Sad stuff, do what you need to do, I appreciate the insight and I feel the struggle! Keep those songs in your heart, no one can take those away!

  • Kenny Bott

    Kenny Bott MidWest

    I have had the privilege to meet and work with PhillipFox Band on many occasions. While the band was professional in every way (I mean I wish all bands had the same passion and Drive this bands has) I am even more fortunate to have made a friendship with these guys that will last a lifetime. While they are fantastic musicians... They ARE even better people. Keep the passion alive. Kenny

    I have had the privilege to meet and work with PhillipFox Band on many occasions. While the band was professional in every way (I mean I wish all bands had the same passion and Drive this bands has) I am even more fortunate to have made a friendship with these guys that will last a lifetime. While they are fantastic musicians... They ARE even better people. Keep the passion alive. Kenny

  • Andrew Catanese

    Andrew Catanese Columbus

    Started serving at Mudflats when I was 19 and had the pleasure of meeting you all one night when Jane had me taking care of the band. By the time I was 21 and tending the bar I had a lot of great memories watching everyone enjoy your music. Always loved spending time listening to the music and watching people enjoy themselves and forget about their busy lives for a while. It's been a pleasure to see you all every chance I could even after leaving the flats. Still have the CD's signed by you all after the many nights helping move equipment in and out of the bar. Pains me to hear about the disbanding but I understand all to well about needing to do what's in your own best interests. I will never forget those few years of getting to take care of you all and wish nothing but the best for your future endeavors. I sincerely hope our paths cross again at some point in the future. Best wishes, Andrew

    Started serving at Mudflats when I was 19 and had the pleasure of meeting you all one night when Jane had me taking care of the band. By the time I was 21 and tending the bar I had a lot of great memories watching everyone enjoy your music. Always loved spending time listening to the music and watching people enjoy themselves and forget about their busy lives for a while. It's been a pleasure to see you all every chance I could even after leaving the flats. Still have the CD's signed by you all after the many nights helping move equipment in and out of the bar. Pains me to hear about the disbanding but I understand all to well about needing to do what's in your own best interests. I will never forget those few years of getting to take care of you all and wish nothing but the best for your future endeavors. I sincerely hope our paths cross again at some point in the future.

    Best wishes,
    Andrew

  • Rachael Collins

    Rachael Collins Grove City

    So many great memories with you guys, your talent, and music. From my Bachelorette Party (the first time I heard you all) to following to any local gig you guys played. Thank you for sharing your lives with us, take care and best of luck on your future endeavors!

    So many great memories with you guys, your talent, and music. From my Bachelorette Party (the first time I heard you all) to following to any local gig you guys played. Thank you for sharing your lives with us, take care and best of luck on your future endeavors!

  • jim poeppelman

    jim poeppelman minster

    saw you a few times at 33 rhythm & brews ,absolutely loved it.having been a business owner myself i fully understand how tough this decision had to be. thanks so much for showing everyone your talent,know that your efforts were greatly enjoyed & appreciated by many. you guys have lived what many of us only dream about and dont have . thanks again and in the words of the late warren zevon "enjoy every sandwich" you never know when its over.

    saw you a few times at 33 rhythm & brews ,absolutely loved it.having been a business owner myself i fully understand how tough this decision had to be. thanks so much for showing everyone your talent,know that your efforts were greatly enjoyed & appreciated by many. you guys have lived what many of us only dream about and dont have . thanks again and in the words of the late warren zevon "enjoy every sandwich" you never know when its over.

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