The last couple of years have been big for both Britton Buchanan and Taylor Phillips. So big that — if you’re from Sanford anyway — you’d have to have been living under a rock to have missed the success each has experienced in the music business.
For Buchanan, it all started in the late winter of 2018, when the young singer got on a stage in Los Angeles and absolutely blew away the judges for NBC’s “The Voice” with a rendition of Ray LaMontagne’s 2014 hit “Trouble.” That performance led to a roller coaster ride that ended with Buchanan, then a senior at Lee County High School, being named the runner up on the show’s 14th season, eventually moving to Los Angeles, and beginning a career as a singer.
For Nashville-based Phillips, who also hails from Sanford, it goes back to 2016. That’s when country singer Luke Combs released “Hurricane,” a song which Phillips had co-written and which eventually reached number one on the Billboard Country Music charts, launching Phillips onto a path which has since seen the 2018 release of his Six Strings Attached EP.
On Dec. 20, both Buchanan and Phillips will be home to perform together at The Mann Center. And while the two operate in different spheres of the musical world, it’s not the first time they’ve shared the stage. That happened in early 2019, and the duo promises a show full of originals, special arrangements of popular favorites, and even some “extra special musical presents” just before Christmas.
Buchanan says the show is more of a “round,” in which he and Phillips will take turns telling stories and then playing songs, than a collaboration.
“I don’t see (Phillips) a whole lot because every time I’m in Nashville, he’s somewhere else,” Buchanan explained. “But we do keep in touch and I think we share a lot because we’re both from the same place. We never plan much really, but it still always comes together. I think that’s the Sanford in us.”
Buchanan spent several months throughout late 2018 recording and mixing an album he now says “will probably never see the light of day.”
“We got to sit with it for about a month, and I realized – man, this just doesn’t feel right,” he said. “It’s an album I feel insanely good about, but it was a very niche record. It was only for a certain audience, and I realized I could do something that was still me but would also be more accessible.”
It was a realization Buchanan said he’s thankful for, since it gave him the opportunity to write some new songs and take new approaches to older ones. He said a single is definitely forthcoming in January (it has since been announced), and he hopes to follow it with two more in February and March.
“The album for me is the ultimate art form, but singles are back in full force. That’s really the main way people are consuming music now,” he said. “I think people think they want a record, but this is a time now where you can put out singles and get attention and build a buzz – and then putting out a record is the way to go. I still feel like we’re writing for a record that will come out at some point.”
Buchanan spent a good part of 2019 touring with comedy duo Rhett and Link, the latter of whom is his cousin. That experience, he said, was different every night.
“When you’re opening up for a musical act, you’re probably going to be in the same genre,” he said. “These were comedy audiences, not music audiences. They might have been into EDM, or classic rock, or metal. But I feel like I was able to connect with them every night. Some people came up to me and said ‘we don’t really listen to country, but we loved you!’ Which I thought was funny, because I don’t play country.”
It’s been about a year since Buchanan played his hometown, and he said he’s excited to bring lots of new material with him.
“It’s a bunch of new songs that I’m very excited to play,” he said. “Being in front of an audience in your hometown is very comforting.”
Doors open at 6 p.m. and the show begins at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at www.manncenternc.org.