NEW YORK — Phillip Phillips says he wasn't that excited about performing his debut single, "Home," when he won "American Idol" this year. That's because he didn't have any creative control over the tune.
"I was trying to fight to get my song (I wrote) on there, but it just wasn't happening," said Phillips, who tried to persuade "Idol" producers to let him sing the song "Drive Me," which he co-wrote with his brother-in-law.
"It was hard for me at first because I didn't really have any input with the song," he said in an interview Thursday from Baltimore.
But now, the 21-year-old says he's "starting to grow a connection" to the song, thanks to its use in the 2012 Olympics.
"Home" has been used in commercials for the "Fab 5," the five American female gymnasts who scored gold in the all-around team competition last week. As a result, the song's digital sales have jumped, selling 228,000 in the last week, according to Nielsen Soundscan. "Home" also leaped 80 spots to No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart this week. It's sold 844,215 tracks since its June release.
Phillips said he's delighted to have his song played on millions of TV screens via the London Olympics. He says initially he didn't want to get his hopes up about the song's potential, but that the sales boost is "exciting."
"I just tried to let the song go about its business. I'm not trying to make people buy it if they don't want to," he said.
The song's reach doesn't end there: "Home" is also in Clint Eastwood's upcoming film "Trouble with the Curve," which stars Justin Timberlake and Amy Adams. It's in theaters on Sept. 21 and is about a retiring baseball scout and his daughter.
Phillips, who said the song is played after a "dramatic" scene, says getting it in the film is "awesome."
Despite all the song's success, he said he doesn't feel the pressure as he's recording his debut album, though others may feel it: "Not for me, I think for some other people."
His album, which he calls "jazz-rock," does not have a release date. He says he hopes it will include "Drive Me."
"I just want to give my all on the songs on the album," he said. "I'd rather sell 10,000 copies of something I'm proud of than 20 million copies of something that's not really me."
"Idol," which returns in January, has an open judge seat since Jennifer Lopez and Steve Tyler announced their exits last month. Phillips said Stevie Wonder would be best to join Mariah Carey on the judging panel.
"I think he can really help out with the show," he said. "I really respect him as an artist."