Double Vision: DuPont Phillips Combines Catalogs and Influences to Release New “Big Sky Sessions” EP


Chris DuPont and Kylee Phillips each wear all black and sit next to each other.

Chris DuPont and Kylee Phillips' new DuPont Phillips EP, Big Sky Sessions, features stripped-down instrumentation, emotive duets, and lush harmonies. Photo by Misty Lyn Bergeron.

Ypsilanti’s Chris DuPont and Kylee Phillips decided a joint EP was long overdue.

After several years of performing and recording together, the singer-songwriters pooled their talents, catalogs, and influences to form DuPont Phillips and release Big Sky Sessions.

“This Big Sky Sessions EP was a very natural project. We used stuff that we have, and we used songs from our catalogs that have been out,” DuPont said.

“What feels good to me is that all of these interpretations of our songs that exist live now have a home. This project proved to me that putting out something doesn’t have to make you suffer. … We cut it in two days.”

During those two days at Ann Arbor’s Big Sky Recording, DuPont Phillips reimagined three tracks from prior solo releases and recorded two renditions of Sheryl Crow and Jason Isbell classics along with a new song.

“Sometimes it can be hard to explain to people what we’re doing because we’re playing things from our individual catalogs, but we’re supporting one another,” Phillips said. “For me, it’s fun to have something we can show people and say, ‘This is what it is. It’s this cross-pollination of what we both do.’”

Those collaborative efforts have resulted in an intimate folk-pop EP filled with stripped-down instrumentation, emotive duets, and lush harmonies. The six tracks featured on Big Sky Sessions offer vulnerable tales of love, growth, and change.

I recently spoke to the duo about revisiting and reworking older tracks, doing covers, recording a new song, spending time in the studio, preparing for an EP release show, and planning for the future.

Q: Chris, you released “Annie Lindbergh” on your Fragile Things EP in November. Now, you’ve renamed it “Carole King” and included a new version on Big Sky Sessions. Why did you decide to rename and rework the track since first releasing it last fall?
Chris DuPont (CD): “Carole King” / “Annie Lindbergh” has gone through so many titles, and I just decided to use the other title and see if people like it more. That tune went through rewrites and it had all sorts of names in it that were not singable. I wrote it thinking about [Once’s] Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, which are [hard] names to sing. 

To me, saying “Carole King and Baby James” in [the song], I just referenced two of my favorite people and I did a pop-culture reference that’s so much of who we are. We called it “Annie Lindbergh” for the [Fragile Things] EP, and I wondered, “What if we call it ‘Carole King?’ Let’s just see what happens if we put out the same song with a different name.” 

When we played it at Folk Alliance International [in February], I said, “This song is called ‘Carole King,’” and people responded with “Ooh!” I thought, “OK, we know the audience this is for.” Right after I wrote it, we thought it would be fun as a duet. People who’ve heard it in the band and those who go to Ann Arbor Summer Festival have heard it as a duet. That just became what the song is supposed to be.

I wanted a version for Fragile Things with male vocals so that I am saying all these things to the person I’m writing this love letter to. I wanted a version like that to exist, but then it felt like the duet had to happen [for this EP].

Q: Kylee, you first included “Long Time Coming” on your debut EP of the same name in October. What was it like to rework it as a stripped-down version with Chris for Big Sky Sessions?
Kylee Phillips (KP): When we recorded the Big Sky Sessions EP, we knew going into recording that version that we eventually wanted a version that was just me at the piano. It’s the most under-produced one on the EP, Long Time Coming, but it’s still quite produced. The songs we chose to revisit from our catalogs … we wanted them to be tonally similar. The studio version of “Long Time Coming” is this big whooshy, whirlwind where you’re in the midst of those feelings.

This [new] version of “Long Time Coming” feels more like your feet are back on the ground. It’s also a song that feels good to do alone on the piano. I don’t often feel that way about my songs. With this one, it felt good having a version of it that is a little closer to what we do live and a little closer to me at the piano and Chris with his guitar. It’s something that we could recreate in our living room.

We also like having a version of the song that lets it stand for itself. I wanted to have both versions out there. I love them so much, and I’m proud of them. I’m grateful that I don’t have to pick one or the other because they’re apples and oranges to me. As the person who wrote the song, both versions bring out different feelings in me.

QBig Sky Sessions features a duet rendition of Sheryl Crow’s “Strong Enough.” What’s significant to you about that song? Why did you decide to record it for the EP?
KP: “Strong Enough” is one of those songs that’s fun. Consistently, when I talk to other musicians, if that song comes up, we always say, “God, that’s a perfect song.” It’s so well-written, and I know several people who have dissected it in recording school. It’s held as this bastion of a song that's well done, and I’ve always loved it.

Part of why we became obsessed with it was because it’s a regular topic of conversation—the fact that I wish I had been pursuing my music in earnest for the past 10 or 15 years. And sometimes I feel discouraged that I didn’t and now I’m about to turn 35. In this day and age, a woman in her 30s is already losing [in a sense]. One day, we were driving home and listening to that song, and Chris said to me, “How old was she when this song came out?” And I Googled it, and she was 31 the year the album came out, and she won a [Grammy] for best new artist that year. Chris said this very pointedly, “Huh! You don’t say?”

But the thing that stuck with me and means a lot to me is when Chris said, “A kid couldn’t write that song; a grown-up wrote that song.” I relate to a lot of the lyrics on a personal level and part of it was because it's written by a woman in her late 20s or 30s. In addition to its being musically and lyrically well done, I like that it was written by a woman in my age range about things that I can relate to.

Seeing that as an advantage and not a disadvantage, having that experience … was meaningful to me. That’s part of the reason why we did it at my EP release show [in October], and then we would play it from time to time. We landed on this duet-ish version of it, which was ultimately what we put on the EP. That’s part of what initially drew us to it, and then it took on this life of its own.

Q: “Sandpaper Hymn” examines being haunted by your past, the choices and mistakes that you’ve made, and the relationships that you’ve had. How did writing this track help you come to terms with the past and accept who you’ve become today?
CD: Kylee often calls this song my manifesto, and it says a lot of things about who I am as a person. It’s full of little insights that are central to who I am, and it all got shoved into one song in a stream-of-consciousness format. It’s one of my favorites from my whole catalog.

Q: What was it like to revisit and rework “Sandpaper Hymn,” which was originally included on 2021’s Floodplains, for Big Sky Sessions?
CD: When we decided to make the record, we knew we both liked that one. I decided I’d love to do it again, and I’d love to have Kylee’s voice on it and have it get another moment. I actually couldn’t see the differences in the versions until I listened to them back-to-back. The early version is very sparse—it’s the guitar, and the opening intro is rubato and not to a click. It’s got a harmonica solo, which is like an inherently lonely cowboy-in-the-dark-thing. I was also in poor health when I sang it. It did some things to my voice that I like, but I can’t necessarily re-create.

The new version to me feels like you’re no longer in the thick of this thing. You’re now driving in the car bobbing your head and reflecting on it. I wanted to get another interpretation where you’re not in the throes of the darkness. Instead, you’re thinking, “This happened, this affected me, and I know about it, but I am a little bit older and grayer.” And now I can be a little bit more sober about these things instead of having the same urgency. I hope that comes across in the performance. … I love both versions—they’re just such different things to me.

Q: “Scared With You” explores taking a risk by loving and trusting another. How did writing this track encourage you to be more vulnerable and open with someone?
KP: It’s like what we were saying with [Jason Isbell’s] “If We Were Vampires,” in which you take this beautiful, big feeling, and you’re also saying, “But here’s the fear underneath it.” That’s what “Scared With You” was for me: It was acknowledging all of these wonderful, beautiful things and the inherent risk that comes with choosing to trust and be vulnerable with someone. I also like the hook of the song and acknowledging that “Yes, I am scared, and maybe I would rather just be scared with you.” It’s me saying to another person and myself, “It’s worth taking this risk for me.”

Q: “Scared With You” is also the newest track featured on Big Sky Sessions and feels like a response to “Carole King.” How do those two tracks pair well thematically and sonically on the EP?
KP: This is a newer one, and it was written around the time “Carole King” / “Annie Lindbergh” was written in the same six-month period. I wrote it in 2022, so this is the first time it’s ever been recorded. When we were deciding which songs we were going to record for this [EP], we wanted to have pairs of songs that make sense together.

Long Time Coming” and “Sandpaper Hymn” felt like they could live in the same world, and “Carole King” and “Scared With You” felt like they could live in the same world. I always joke that I write about negative situations with … “Well, here’s the positive,” and then I write about positive situations with … “But here’s the scary negative.”

Q: The EP also includes a rendition of Jason Isbell’s “If We Were Vampires.” What prompted you to include your own version of that song on the EP?
CD: I play at churches and weddings all the time, and there’s a family in Ann Arbor, and the dad has sort of “adopted me.” I call him “Ann Arbor Dad.” His son asked me to sing at his wedding reception, and I said, “Are you sure you want me at your wedding reception?” But it was what he wanted—indie-folk singer-songwriter—at the wedding reception. He said, “The only caveat is please learn ‘If We Were Vampires’ by Jason Isbell. That’s going to be our first dance.” 

I’ve learned a lot of songs for weddings, and when I heard that one, I thought, “Man, this is a great song.” Melodically, it’s just wonderful to sing, and it feels great to sing and play. And I love Jason’s take on the idea that “I don’t have forever with you.” I loved Jason’s imagining of finding someone and reveling in the now.

We arranged it as a duet for one of our “Ruin Your Valentine’s Day” shows. We thought, “This is a great love song that’s also very melancholy.” We learned it together and made a video of it on Instagram, and it just became part of our lexicon. On the album, it’s very stripped-down. … It’s just a guitar pass and the vocals. It’s just a song that feels close to us and has become something we can always dig out and feel great about. And it’s purposely unadorned on the record.

Q: The recording of the six tracks for your EP came together quickly at Big Sky Recording. What was it like to take such an expeditious approach to recording it?
KP: We did it all in those two days during the first week of December. Chris added some additional programming [for drums and percussion]. All the vocals and instrumental takes … we would just do a few takes in the studio and say, “It’s in there somewhere. Let’s move on.”

CD: It wasn’t [recorded] live—it was just quick. Normally, I hate doing my vocals in a real studio. I’m quite fragile about the whole thing, and I like being alone and being able to explore. Geoff Michael was a great person to work with and he’s an excellent listener. And I had Kylee, who’s an excellent vocalist. For me, it was nice to do vocal takes on expensive mics quickly and trust that we had what we needed. I think the time parameter helped the record.

Q: How did you fit in a photo and video shoot during your recording session as well?
CD: We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the photography, which was done by Misty Lyn Bergeron.

KP: We did a “Carole King” video with the Exterior Night folks who did the videos for [our solo EPs]. They came to the studio and shot some stuff while we were there. Most of the photos are candid, but we did a handful of posed shots. We finished up those shots as the video folks arrived, and we kept the train rolling. We crammed a lot into two days … but it felt good to walk away and think, “This feels like a sustainable rhythm. If the result of this is good, we could do more of this.” It’s special to have this release rhythm of having a duo thing and then having a solo thing.

Q: Who did you collaborate with on Big Sky Sessions? How did they shape those respective tracks?
CDBrad Phillips played violin on “Carole King” and “Sandpaper Hymn,” and he did it remotely in one afternoon. “Sandpaper Hymn” has this harmonica solo in the original recording, and we thought, “Let’s do something different this time.” Brad did a warm-up take on “Sandpaper Hymn,” and he said, “Chris, I love my warm-up take. I’m just sending it to you.” And he sent it to me, and I thought, “Well, it’s done.” He just felt through the song for one pass, which was great because it was in the spirit of the [EP] anyway. … It was supposed to be made quickly.

KP: Geoff Michael has great input, and he’s more of a collaborator and more than just an engineer in that setting. We only had those couple days, and we were trying to track the vocal for “Long Time Coming” on the first day. I said, “I just don’t feel like I’m in a great voice. I think I might want to come back to this tomorrow.” Geoff kept saying, “I don’t know what you’re talking about—it sounds great.” Then the next day, we came back and tracked it again, and he came over the mic and said, “Yeah, you’re right; this is better.”

The fact that he shows up to every project ready to be invested with you says a lot. He’s very ready and willing to be a part of the project. That’s above and beyond, and that’s why so many of us keep coming back there.

Q: You’re celebrating the release of Big Sky Sessions during an April 20 show with Jackamo at The Penn Theatre in Plymouth. What’s special to you about performing at that venue?  
KP: [The Penn Theatre] did their first concert last fall, and they’re trying to do these concerts twice a year. They came to us asking if we would ever be interested in doing that, and that was back in the fall. And we said, “Actually, we’re putting out this duo EP in the spring.” It’s fun to step into other spaces and think, “How will it go in this room, and what will our fans think about coming to a show here?”

It was fun for me when we announced the show, the number of people in my circle who said, “The Penn Theater?” We play music at this Presbyterian church right down the street from The Penn, and when we told them we’re doing this show [there], they said, “Oh, great!” I literally scraped gum off of the chairs in that theater, and my brother worked there when he was in high school. It’s fun to have a space that you have history in, and then to get to come back and play a show there is really special.

Q: Who will be joining you on stage? What do you have planned for your set that night?
KP: As for our band, Johannes Stauffer is going to be there on keys; Nate Veldhoff is going to be on bass and vocals; Nate Zuellig, who drummed at Chris’ release show, is drumming with us; Tony Pace is going to be on guitar; and Mike Harrington is also going to do some guitar and pedal steel.

We’re doing a little of everything. I just recorded another solo EP, and we’re going to do some of the songs from that. We’ve got some older stuff, and Chris’ catalog is so sprawling that there’s an embarrassment of riches to choose from. It’s always a matter of what direction we want to go in this time. We’re also roping Jackamo in to do a few songs with us, and I’m excited because they have those blood harmonies.

Q: What’s up next for you two later this year?
KP: My new EP will be out either late summer or early fall.

CD: I’ve been working and sitting on some reimaginings of the whole Fragile Things EP. All those songs, even though they’re big production-wise and have a lot of electric guitar exploring, they started with just fingerpicking. I’m going to do folkier reimaginings of the songs, and that’s sitting on my hard drive ready to be released. Other than that, I’m just writing, and I’m sitting on a couple of songs that I’m excited about. I probably won’t release another record until 2025.

Lori Stratton is a library technician, writer for Pulp, and writer and editor of

DuPont Phillips performs April 20 with Jackamo at The Penn Theatre in Plymouth and April 26 with Max Lockwood at Midtown GR in Grand Rapids. For details, visit the duo’s website.