In the band's early years, the musicians (McConnell, bassist Mike Gordon, drummer Jon Fishman and guitar wonder Trey Anastasio) played mostly covers of songs that blended jazz, country, bluegrass and rock. As the band developed and the members wrote more songs, there were many nights "where we wouldn't play any covers and just played original music," McConnell says. "Everybody brought something different and everybody always had suggestions of songs that we would try." When pressed, McConnell will list Phish's "You Enjoy Myself" as his favorite band song and a sure listing for his own personal playlist.
While Phish and its devoted fan base pioneered distribution on the Internet that now seems revolutionary in an era of downloads, it didn't start that way. When the band started in the early 1980s, the Internet was in its infancy. "Our focus at that point was really to be a live touring band," McConnell explains. "Curiously, it's that business model which is one of the few which works for a band today. If you can play live and support yourself, it's one of the few ways you're going to actually get paid in this business these days."
As the band and its popularity grew, the Internet was also growing exponentially. The band's fans began trading recordings of live performances and formed a community online. "That allowed us to do the things that we did and be pioneering in the digital space that we were with distribution and feeds," McConnell says. "I really have to credit the fans for laying the groundwork for us to be able to make all those things happen."
Even before Phish disbanded after a series of farewell concerts in 2004, McConnell showed his versatility as a musician, leading his own projects like Vida Blue and providing a keyboard constancy for Jack Black's Tenacious D.
McConnell's solo album is a big label release: Sony/BMG-Legacy Recordings. It showcases his personal style with gentle vocals and the kind of original compositions that inhabit a listener's memory. The album is the product of rigorous and solitary work: just Page McConnell, a piano and a tape recorder. But it also echoes with the playlist sounds of Dixieland, bluegrass and rock.
Page McConnell's Playlist
Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans? LOUIS ARMSTRONG
Amoreena ELTON JOHN
Lady Madonna THE BEATLES
Getting In Tune THE WHO
Bold As Love JIMI HENDRIX
Jessica THE ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND
You Enjoy Myself PHISH