Country living isn’t exactly in Phillip Fox’s blood, but he spent a good chunk of his childhood on the farm after his parents fled from city life to live off the land.
“They moved us out of the Detroit metro area and into the middle of nowhere,” Fox said.
A couple decades later, as the frontman of Phillip Fox Band, the former folkie is embracing those rural roots. The foursome’s debut EP, “Motor City Blood,” is a leap into country sounds marked by traces of pop and Southern rock. But don’t confuse it for a Taylor Swift crossover bid or the down-home party boy sounds that are all the rage in Nashville these days.
“Just the word ‘country’ is really pregnant with innuendo,” Fox said. “It means so many things to people.”
To Fox, the word inspires visions of open fields and dirt roads. And while “Motor Blood” isn’t quite that bucolic, its rambling rockers and twanging ballads take an old-fashioned approach to country-rock that would fit in alongside Alan Jackson or John Fogerty.
Fox, who got his start in Columbus playing solo material reminiscent of Mumford & Sons and The Lumineers, wasn’t aiming to react against trends in modern country so much as to be true to his inspiration.
“It was about honesty,” Fox said. “I’m really more of a muse writer. When I started not trying to alter my music to fit what I think people want to hear, this is what came out.”
The band plays Kobo this Friday to celebrate the EP’s release; one of nearly 200 shows they’ve played since forming last February. And though they plan to do some regional weekend runs to promote the EP, most of those concerts have been in the Columbus area. They’ve developed a fertile circuit playing multiple gigs a week around the Columbus outerbelt; apparently you can play Gahanna, Dublin and Grove City in a week and rarely draw the same crowd.
“It’s kind of like touring,” Fox said, “but we’ve figured out a way to sleep in our beds every night.”