It’s no secret that, for months now, American Idol season 11 winner Phillip Phillips has been weathering some significant pain due to issues with his kidneys. He’s scheduled to undergo surgery to remedy the matter, in fact, within the next few weeks. So no one was about to begrudge Phillips the five-minute breather he took backstage after Wednesday night’s finale, during a brief lull in his gauntlet of post-show press. Once he was done, though, I swooped in to steal some more of his time, but the 21-year-old Georgian betrayed zero discomfort as he talked about the moment just after he’d won when he cut short his performance of “Home” to quietly weep into his guitar.

“I didn’t even want to sing, honestly,” he said, smiling. “I started thinking about how long the journey was, how far all of us had come — me and Jessica, Hollie [Cavanagh] and Josh [Ledet] and everybody. It’s insane, man. It’s not as easy as you think.”

Check out the rest of our video interview below, including how Phillips did endure all that pain, what it was like to duet with John Fogerty, his thoughts on his well-reviewed Idol “coronation” song, and what he thinks sets him apart from the four previous male guitarists who’ve taken home the top Idol prize:

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