Published Thursday, 13 September 2012
On Thursday the singer-songwriter was given the prestigious award at the Ulster Tatler People of the Year Awards in Belfast in recognition of his many hits and collaborations with a host of famous names including the King of Rock and Roll Elvis.
He joined UTV to reflect on a lifetime of achievements.
Phil, the son of a policeman, said it was something to boast about as a child rather than be ashamed of.
"It was a different time, it was an innocent sort of time," he explained.
Despite his father's talent for the fiddle, Phil instead took up his musicianship with the piano at St Columb's College.
From his large back catalogue of hits, he credits "Scorn not his Simplicity" and "The Town I Loved So Well" as his favourites as when he wrote them he wasn't worried about how popular they might be.
"Those are the songs which have proved to have a long life span because they didn't have that sudden burst of chart activity and then fade away," he said.
"It took a lot longer for people to become aware of them so the roots went a lot deeper and that's why I think those songs will be around long after I am not."
But it was a different task altogether when he penned the anthem for the Irish rugby team, 'Ireland's Call'.
"I got terrible abuse, for even attempting to step into the ring with that," he said.
"When I was called into a meeting with the powers that be at the IRFU they were merely confronting what had been an elephant in the drawing room for a long time- that there wasn't a song or an anthem, that could be sung comfortably by both players from both North and South and supporters both North and South."
"I was very aware that I had to pick my words very carefully and I mean the key to that song was when I came up with the four proud provinces of Ireland," he explained.
"I thought, the four proud provinces of Ireland, nobody can quibble with that- rugby is a provincial sport so this my key into it."
He said despite outcries that it was a replacement for the Soldier's Call, he said that it finally became accepted as a parallel anthem.
"I think the breakthrough came on that famous occasion when the game was played in Croke Park and there was God Save the Queen in superb attention and silence, respectful silence through that," Phil explained.
"There was Amhrán na bhFiann, and then there was Ireland's Call and the decibel level went up through all three and when I heard that on that day I thought I think it's finally cracked it now."
He says he is eternally grateful for his lifetime in the music scene.
"I promise you there is not a day goes by that I don't thank God that I've made a living for more than 45 years now doing something that I love to do," he said.
"The great thing is that I am as busy as I ever was, I am heading off in a few weeks to Chicago where I am being honoured at a big cultural event there over a weekend and I am doing two performances. In the month of December I am taking my one man show off Broadway for a run."
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