By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published March 15, 2012
Published: March 15, 2012
MARIETTA—Phillip ‘Pip’ Arnold finds people giving him a second look in places he’s known all his life.
It’s kind of strange to walk into a place where you have been countless times and people look at you as if for the first time, he said.
That recognition is something the 19-year-old is getting used to as he competes on a national stage in the NBC hit, “The Voice.”
“It’s been the best ride ever. You kind of wake up every day thinking, this isn’t real life. It’s very strange,” he said.
Phillip is competing on the show as it enters the “battle rounds,” the second stage of a three-part competition where he’ll face off against a teammate in a duet. The final prize is $100,000 and a recording contract. (The show was taped weeks ago so Arnold is tightlipped, as required, about who advances to the final stage, the live performances.) The battle rounds air all of March as the contestants fall from 48 starters to 24.
Phillip “Pip” Arnold auditions on “The Voice” where he was chosen for Adam Levine’s team. The 19-year-old is from Marietta and St. Joseph’s Church where he was part of Life Teen. (Photo courtesy of the Arnold family)
His early appearance made him a favorite. His rendition of “The House of the Rising Sun” has drawn more than 380,000 views on YouTube. And his Twitter fans have dubbed themselves “#teambowtie” for his fashion choice.
A native of Marietta, Phillip is the son of Jim and Chris Arnold. The family lives in his hometown and attends St. Joseph Church where Jim is the facility manager for the parish. Chris is one of the Sewing Sisters, who, with her sister, sews liturgical vestments and other items for churches and clergy in the Atlanta Archdiocese and beyond.
Phillip grew up in St. Joseph parish, where he was an altar server, started a teen band, and was a member of Life Teen.
Lisa Fiamingo, the former youth director at St. Catherine of Siena Church, Kennesaw, who has known him for the past three years, said the young man brought special energy when he led the singing for young people.
“He led worship, but in such a unique way. He was able to lead his peers to a place in their hearts and souls that most people can’t. He has an unusual quiet confidence that helps him to bypass any insecurities that would stifle his ability to lead others into a place of interior reflection,” she said.
Phillip was a leader with major fundraisers for “Gift of Water,” a division of ServeHAITI. The fundraisers combined raised $7,000 for the nonprofit, which originated at Sacred Heart Basilica, Atlanta.
During this lull in his appearances on “The Voice,” Phillip is focused on starting a charity to fund youth involvement in mission work around the world. His motivation comes from his mentor, missionary, and close family friend, the late Stewart Hay. He wears a black wristband marked with a silver fern, a symbol of New Zealand, to remember Hay, a New Zealand native.
In past summers, he traveled to poor neighborhoods in Charleston, S.C., and in Mississippi to repair homes and help communities hit by tornadoes.
“People are living in homes we would never consider. It was no place for people to live,” he said about his summer trips to the destitute places.
The charity’s goal is to develop scholarships so more young people can experience service with mission trips, he said.
“I don’t see why people who are as fortunate as us wouldn’t serve others,” he said.
For the teen, the road to national TV started as a toddler who was volunteered by his older sister, Eileen Johnson, to perform as a young child when needed at Marietta High School performances.
His stage name comes from his young nephew who got tongue tied with the name Phillip and instead out came Pip.
Church was a place for him to grow as a musician, along with fine arts programs at his high school, Kennesaw Mountain High School. At school, he was president of the chorus, started the school’s annual cabaret and performed in an award-winning quartet. He’s also an Eagle Scout.
During the summer of 2011, Phillip auditioned for the “The Voice.” It was his second tryout for a national talent program. He appeared on “The Glee Project” but left the show after a brief appearance.
Since then, Phillip changed his stage presence, adopting what he has said is a contemporary update of a Southern gentleman’s style, with a bowtie and flashy colors.
For now, he is splitting his time between Georgia and California, where he has an apartment.
As part of “The Voice,” he worked with Maroon 5 band front man Adam Levine. Phillip said he’s long been a fan of the group and it has paid off.
“It was just crazy. He is just a talented person,” he said.
Phillip said his experience has been a great one, but he remains grounded that he may not be America’s next great big thing. He is keeping the option open to return to pharmacy school.
People aspiring to the bright lights of fame should “follow your dreams, (but) do have a backup plan,” he said.