At 47, Glen Phillips is both startled by and pleased with his career longevity. When the Santa Barbara native formed alt-rock outfit Toad the Wet Sprocket in 1986, he was 15, and was 17 when the group signed to major imprint Columbia. He had no idea it would last. But Toad is as vital as ever. The band is on a sprawling tour even as its leader pursues a parallel solo career (he released “Swallowed By the Now” in 2016) that includes musical collaborations and film and TV soundtrack assignments. “Plus, I’ve been living through a pretty wild couple of years, too,” he says.
So what happened these past two years?
There was a divorce, my kids leaving home for school, me moving away, having another big breakup, coming back to Santa Barbara. I mean, I might have this swell life, because it kind of slowly moved forward in one direction for a long time. But then everything that I thought was permanent and took for granted shifted. I even moved to Nashville for a minute and had a relationship explode upon arrival. So then I came back to Santa Barbara because I’d grown up in this town, but when I got back, there were all the fires and the floods. So the last two years have taken many unexpected turns. Plus, I’ve been downsizing my life, getting rid of extraneous stuff. And I’m living in a tent.
A yurt. An actual yurt. It’s on some friends’ property, and it’s a really beautiful, tranquil setting.
But what if you wake up thirsty for a cup of Keurig coffee?
I think Keurig is one of those satanic plots, where they tried to figure out how to make the most despicable, environmentally-damaging cups of coffee possible. And it really is a terrible cup of coffee. But I have my own coffee press, so I can make coffee, and my yurt is equipped with an electric kettle. The big problem is that the yurt isn’t soundproof, and there’s a yurt next door with somebody else in it.
Do songs still occur to you in the yurt?
Yeah. But there’s less impetus to work on them, just because I feel a little exposed. So I’ve been renting a music room downtown. And I’ve started doing community singing choir leading, with easily teachable songs. It’s like a small church gathering without the religion. We’re just getting people to sing together. My creative focus has been on that for the past year, and it’s been delightful to get out of the pretentiousness of being an artist and working through my own so-called “really important drama.”
IF YOU GO
Toad the Wet Sprocket
Where: Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Saturday July 21
Tickets: $45 to $75
Contact: (415) 885-0750, www.slimpresents.com