American Idol is burning bright yet again, season five champion Taylor Hicks is releasing his latest CD, The Distance. Mr. Soul Patrol took a few minutes from touring the country in Grease to share insight into winning American Idol and life since the confetti flew on the Kodak Theatre stage.
Taylor Hicks, as all American Idol fans know, is a product of Alabama and he credits a challenging childhood with his passion for the blues.
Americans fell in love with Hicks as they voted him American Idol champ in 2006 over Katherine McPhee. Since then Hicks has hit number one with his debut single, Do I Make You Proud? and written a biography Heart Full of Soul: An Inspirational Memoir About Finding Your Voice and Finding Your Way.
Even though his 2007 self-titled album went platinum, Arista records dropped Hicks from the label in 2008. Hicks is putting out his own album on Modern Whomp Records that lands in stores today, Hicks is ready to once again go The Distance.
SheKnows: How are things in the world of Taylor Hicks today?
Taylor Hicks: Things are well. I’m in Baltimore Maryland and it’s supposed to be the coldest night of the year. I’m kind of looking forward to it, kind of not.
SheKnows: You’re performing in Grease, right?
Taylor Hicks: I sure am, it has been a blast.
SheKnows: That first performance in front of a crowd, even if it was three people, that got you hooked on the idea of performing. What was that?
Taylor Hicks: Oh boy. Wow. I think I was five or six years old. I was in Clanton, Alabama and they were having an open mike in this old country barn (and) there was a band. I remember the last person singing and they asked if there was anybody else. My granddad said, ‘we got one right here.’ He just looked at me and pointed at me. My eyes got as big as saucers and I think ended up singing All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight by Hank Williams Jr.
SheKnows: (laughs) That is great!
Taylor Hicks: At that point in time, I knew that was it.
SheKnows: I would say so, that would be hard to walk away from after singing Hank Williams Jr to an Alabama crowd at five years old!
Taylor Hicks: (laughs) Luckily, a few missed lines, the crowd still responded in a positive manner. I’m glad I did.
Playing the Teen Idol
SheKnows: How did your participation in Grease come about? You’re touring the country as the Teen Idol.
Taylor Hicks: It’s been a wonderful experience as an entertainer to be able to exercise a particular vein of entertaining that I in a million years never thought I’d get to do. It’s worked out wonderfully so far. Being on Broadway was a great experience for me. This role as Teen Angel has allowed me to really take a step back and explore role playing and acting. This is a fresh start for me.
SheKnows: For you as a performer and a fan of music, what numbers in Grease are you a fan of that you’re not a part of?
Taylor Hicks: I think about it, with the passing of Bo Diddley, I think the Hand Jive. Bo Diddley was such a pioneer of that particular rhythmic pattern of music. I think the Hand Jive is a homage to Bo Diddley every night that I hear it. Which is good, it carries his legacy.
The Distance delivered
SheKnows: When you are heading into a new project and you’re picking out the songs, I’m sure there are more than what ends up on what everyone hears. On this latest record, The Distance, was there a difficult process narrowing the songs down?
Taylor Hicks: The song choice has been – It’s been a yearlong process choosing the songs. I think once we got into the studio, I knew exactly which songs I wanted to sing. Having the time to be able to prepare for a new record is something that for me, was critical in the decision making of recording this record.
SheKnows: As a performer, particularly as singers do, you lay your soul out there – not to coin your classic Soul Patrol phrase – but you really do, are there ever songs you create that are a little too close to home that you hold back on. Or, are you more of an open book?
Taylor Hicks: I’m a little bit of both. I am an open book. But, there are some songs that I do sing that are difficult. If you’re living those lyrics and the music, it is very easy to connect with it, so there are a few songs that I particularly connect with because there are songs that force you to live in the present.
SheKnows: How did the pace of the American Idol tour help you for this Grease tour? You guys were playing every night somewhere with Idol.
Taylor Hicks: I do eight shows a week with Grease. I think we were doing six on the tour. I think you have to be in really good shape. Sometimes it’s physically exhausting.
SheKnows: Are you going to hit the road to support the new CD The Distance?
Taylor Hicks: In a way, I’ve already started to do that. What’s happening in these markets doing Grease, I’m performing my brand new single What’s Right is Right every night at the encore of every Grease performance.
SheKnows: What a great idea!
Taylor Hicks: Yeah, totally! Being in a market for an extended period of time, I’m allowed to bring the band for one night in a particular city and perform a small intimate show for the fans in that particular city. I’m almost a shadow tour.
SheKnows: Sounds like a treat for the audience.
Taylor Hicks: I think it is! It’s really cool being on the road and being an entertainer and performing music. Also, being able to perform a role too within the same hour of entertainment, I think it’s a very cutting edge way — and blue collar mind you — of getting your music out there to the people.