Optical frequency combs based on solitons in nonlinear microresonators open up new regimes for optical metrology and signal processing across a range of expanding and emerging applications. In this work, we advance these combs toward applications by demonstrating protected single-soliton formation and operation in a Kerr-nonlinear microresonator using a phase-modulated pump laser. Phase modulation gives rise to spatially/temporally varying effective loss and detuning parameters, leading to an operation regime in which multi-soliton degeneracy is lifted and a single soliton is the only observable behavior. We achieve direct, on-demand excitation of single solitons as indicated by reversal of the characteristic &\#x201C;soliton step.&\#x201D; Phase modulation also enables precise, high bandwidth control of the soliton pulse train&\#x2019;s properties, and we measure dynamics that agree closely with simulations. We show that the technique can be extended to high-repetition-frequency Kerr solitons through subharmonic phase modulation. These results will facilitate straightforward generation and control of Kerr-soliton microcombs for integrated photonics systems.