It’s pretty weird for an enlisted man in the Navy to have commanding officers asking him for his autograph. Add that to the fringe benefits of being a finalist on “American Idol.”
“I’ve got commanding officers, admirals and captains and all these people — ‘Oh, can I get an autograph for my kid?’ ” Phil Stacey told TODAY’s Ann Curry and Natalie Morales on Monday.
One year ago, Stacey was eliminated from Season 6 of “Idol” after making it to the final six contestants. He was a musician third class at the time in the Navy, and when he went back to his day job playing for a Navy rock band, he remembers it as being an experience unlike any other.
“It was pretty exciting, especially since my job was to sing,” he said. “Everywhere I went to sing, people were flipping out.”
He was in New York to promote Tuesday’s release of his debut album, a country CD entitled “Phil Stacey.”
“The album is like a dream come true,” he said, wearing a smile that only someone whose world is opening up before him could wear. “For me, the most important thing is the messages in the songs. It’s all about love, and it’s encouraging. It’s positive and uplifting. I’m just really excited to get it out.”
After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Stacey went to a Navy recruiting station to join the war against terror. He had no idea his decision, motivated by patriotism, would lead to a career in the entertainment business.
“I was at a recruiting station. They saw that I had a college degree. They asked me what it was in. I said music,” he told Morales and Curry. “They were like, ‘You want to audition for the band?’ I was like, ‘I don’t really play trumpet that well.’ They said, ‘We have rock bands.’ ”
He took the audition, won the job and thoroughly enjoyed his enlistment, which ended last year (he is still in the reserves).
He moved to Nashville with his wife, Kendra, and daughters McKayla and Chloe, and last month made his debut at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry. He’s also shot a music video of “If You Didn’t Love Me,” directed by award-winning director Roman White, who’s worked with such country stars as Carrie Underwood, Reba McEntire and Kelly Clarkson. The single, co-written by Gary LeVox of Rascal Flatts, is climbing the country charts.
Other co-writers on the album include his producer, Wayne Kirkpatrick, Neil Thrasher, Rivers Rutherford and Wendell Mobley.
During his “Idol” run last year, Stacey’s renditions of the country hits “Where the Blacktop Ends,” “The Change” and “I Need You” were among his most praised performances of the season. Following his performance of “Where the Blacktop Ends,” judge Randy Jackson predicted, “You are going to have a career in country music. That was hot!”
Since his “Idol” run, he’s been on “Oprah,” “Life With Regis & Kelly,” “The Tonight Show,” “Ellen,” “Larry King Live,” Nickelodeon’s “MeTV” and, of course, TODAY.
Stacey, dressed in a white leather jacket, gave the impression that joining the Navy was as good a decision as he’s ever made.
“If you’re going to answer the call of duty, you might as well do it in rock. I ended up with a really cool job,” he said, in case somebody hadn’t noticed.