Sam Phillips was born to a family that loved doling out nicknames. She was called “Sam” growing up in a house that was filled with readers. She nurtured her love of philosophy and spirituality by exploring different religions and devouring works by authors like C.S. Lewis and Thomas Merton. Early in her career, she found success as a Christian musician under her real name: Leslie Phillips. She made several albums, but became uncomfortable with her label marketing her as “the Christian Cyndi Lauper.” She also had a desire to write songs that didn’t reinforce people’s religious beliefs. For her final Leslie Phillips album, she worked with future spouse/ex-spouse, T-Bone Burnett, “a fellow Christian with a maverick approach to songs about faith and morality,” and found a kindred spirit. She decided to rebrand and start recording as Sam Phillips. Sam and T-Bone worked together from 1988’s The Indescribable Wow to 2004’s A Boot and a Shoe.
In our conversation, we talk about Sam’s writing process, which she is always changing up. She comes up with her best ideas when she “turns off the trying part of her brain,” but at the same time, she strongly believes in the power of editing. Sam’s probably best known for composing and performing the score for the beloved Amy Sherman-Palladino series Gilmore Girls, for which she also made a brief appearance on the season finale in 2006. You remember those “La la la’s” while Lorelei and Rory carried around their armpit purses, and drank coffee while wearing those horrible boot cut jeans? That was Sam Phillips! Currently, Sam is working on a new album and she’s taking her time, so don’t rush her, OK?
Photo Credit: Eric Gorfain