In a few short years in the 1990s, Toad the Wet Sprocket went from obscure alternative-rock band in Santa Barbara, Calif., to national stardom and a string of Top 40 hits, including “Walk on the Ocean” and “All I Want.”
Then it broke up and got back together a couple of times, most recently to release its first new studio album in 16 years in 2013.
All the while, singer Glen Phillips – who will play a solo acoustic show at Neighborhood Theatre Thursday – never stopped making music. He’s released six solo albums and worked with members of Nickel Creek and Benmont Tench of Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers.
But the kind of success that Toad experienced has eluded him.
“When you go from selling a million records to selling 5,000, it can make you feel like a bit of a failure,” says Phillips, who is candid about his lifelong struggle with depression that was exacerbated by a roller-coaster career. “The only time I believed in an Old Testament God was this (thought) that I’d been given this success only to be slammed down on the ground and (told) how pathetic I was. I was caught up in that for a long time.”
Now 44, the father of three girls (two in college, one in middle school) has come to terms with his career and his depression.
“I feel lucky I got to raise my kids by making music,” he says. “That job has gone from major labels – not even thinking about a lot of things – to having to learn every detail of the business. I do my own website and social media and hotels and advancing of shows. It’s interesting going back to it from Toad, where there’s a management team, infrastructure and moving parts.”
As an independent solo artist, he can decide when and what to release. His newest album, “Options,” is a collection of B-sides and unreleased material he decided to unearth when he realized it had been two years since he’d put out an album.
Growing up as a shy kid in Santa Barbara, Phillips had never planned for fame.
“When I was 14,” he says, “I remember (my theater teacher) talking about why he was a teacher. He was a theater major and looked at what it would take out of his soul to go to L.A. or New York and audition and have that rejection constantly. He chose to be a teacher. I remember at 14 thinking, ‘Yes, I’m going to be a teacher.’ ”
But life had other plans for him and his band mates.
“The summer Toad got signed, we were planning to break up,” he says. “I figured we’d get dropped in a few years and I’d go back to life as planned. When the band broke up, I remember realizing I was right at 14. I’ve been in a period of trying to not worry about that anymore. It’s been interesting to look at the career and realize it’s not about a destination anymore. I’m not going to have what I had. I just need to focus on that part that feeds my soul and start to diversify a little.”