The impressive array of people living in Nashville doing extraordinary things continues to astound me. Phil Thornton and his trajectory to being a successful music executive and television and film producer are one of those stories.
Jet setting around the country for movie premieres and music award shows to producing movies and podcasts is probably on many people’s bucket lists. For Phil, that is everyday life and he is grateful for it all. He knew by the age of 12 what he wanted to do when he grew up after his first life-changing opportunity. Now SVP for Capitol Christian Music Group in Nashville, Phil is charting a path that allows him to follow his passion and as he shares “keep a student’s mindset” while doing it all.
All Before Fifteen
Phil explains that his journey to creating music started as a twelve-year-old in his hometown of Norfolk Virginia where he received an internship with the local radio station. “I was 12 years old and I had secured an internship just by simply calling up the station and being just that persistent”, Phil shares. He was able to tour the studio, and check out the recording equipment and from there he was hooked. That’s really where the journey for Phil started and his love and fascination for the creative side of music was ignited. From interning at WOWI (an urban contemporary radio station in his hometown of Norfolk), Phil moved to Mad Rhythms right after entering his teenage years. “We would get in the car and go to these different concerts and write reviews and set up phone calls with different artists”, Phil remembers. “I was interviewing Old Dirty Bastard and Monica back then at the age of 13”. After gaining the type of real-world experience and cultivating what would turn out to be lasting relationships, Phil would move on to Arista Records at the age of 15. Arista was home to the greats, including Whitney Houston and Aretha Franklin. They were also the parent company for Bad Boy, where Phil explains he got to experience new sides of the music industry. “I’m literally on promotional tours and backstage at concert tours with artists while I am still in high school.”
Faith and Destiny
Phil would go on to land major roles at several labels including, RCA Inspiration, and eOne, to co-founding his own entertainment company, Ten2One Entertainment. In his roles, he led the management team for artists including Faith Evans, Kenny Lattimore, Tristan “Mack” Wilds, Michael B. Jordan, Christian Keyes, and Michelle Williams. Phil has also been the creative force behind many successful collaborations and partnerships from Mariah Carey’s “Fall in Love at Christmas” featuring Kirk Franklin and Khalid; To Lil Baby + Kirk Franklin’s “We Win” collab and partnering with Pharrell Williams for his Voices of Fire choir. Although Phil could not have anticipated the success he has attained, his appreciation for his experiences is evident. “I didn’t see me being at this place…I would’ve been happy if I had one of these careers like if I was just an employee at a record label, I would be pleased.”
Phil credits much of his success to his faith. As he shares, “my path was orchestrated just from being in this business and covered at such a young age. This is all definitely for a greater purpose.” With his, newest role at Capitol Christian Music Group, he is continuing to meld mainstream and Faith-based music. He can remember as he calls them bridge moments, where he brought the faith community and mainstream music together, including the collaboration with Michelle Williams on “Say Yes” with Kelly Rowland and Beyonce.
Charting a Multi-media career with Passion
Phil was named Senior Vice President of Capital Christian Music Group and he is still learning and growing. He has continued to create new opportunities and projects, including recently producing his first film “Never Would Have Made It: The Marvin Sapp Story” which premiered on TV One. Along with his newest venture, “We Sound Crazy”, a podcast with friends Tamone Bacone, Claude Kelley and Chuck Harmony where they give their coveted, comical opinions on today’s music, yesterday’s music, and the music of tomorrow in a fast-paced format. Phil and his cohosts have known each other for years, bonded over their love for music, and decided to record their conversations. The podcast brings on artists in the music industry and goes behind the scenes to tap into the unique stories of each guest. “We’ve had everybody on from Usher the kickoff for this season to Dr. Bobby Jones, one of our industry legends.”
Though Phil has lived all over the country from Virginia to New York to Los Angeles, he credits Nashville with being the best chapter of his life so far (which we will definitely take). “It’s been the most fruitful here”, he goes on to share. “I’ve been able to build my own community here of great friends that have become family.” As we chatted, I asked Phil about the kind of impact he wants to make. “I always want people to leave inspired…my goal in sharing these stories by way of releasing an album from an artist or releasing a TV show, film or speaking on a podcast is always for people to leave inspired.” He is gearing up to work with Amazon to tell more inspiring stories this year and he wants to explore creating more biopics.
With so many big plans, I wanted to know when he had time to sleep and as he shared, “I love what I do and I’m gonna make the best out of my 24 hours.”
Photography: Si Miller
Shoot location: OZ Arts
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