Woman's Gotta Have It
Filmed at The Workplay Theater in Birmingham, AL 9-26-09 with Ona Watson.
Song available on Taylor's new album, The Distance.
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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Taylor Hicks on Pinoys, Gray Hair, & Simon Cowell

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year Everyone!

Next year promises to be a great year for Taylor with lots of goodies in store for his fans (a HOT new DVD: "Whomp At The Warfield", A New Album and a New Tour - for starters). Thanks Taylor for a fun and successful year and here's to more good times & good music ahead!

Be sure to catch HDNet's rebroadcast of the Taylor's DVD concert from the Warfield Theater, tonight, Sunday, December 23!

I'd like to rap up 2007 with a video from another one of my heros, John Lennon - a message that is as relevant today as the day it was made. See y'all next year!


Taylor Hicks on Pinoys, Gray Hair & Simon Cowell
CULTURE VULTURE By Therese Jamora-Garceau
Sunday, December 23, 2007

Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, Taylor Hicks has got the feeling he’s not in Kansas anymore. Having flown overseas for the first time to perform a series of concerts at Ayala’s Glorietta, Greenbelt and TriNoma malls, the American Idol is a long way from home (in his case, Birmingham, Alabama), and don’t he know it.

I can tell he’s well out of his comfort zone when I meet him at the Ascott Makati Hotel, where he laid his head for five days. I was expecting the Taylor Hicks I saw on American Idol — the exceptionally warm, friendly, down-to-earth Southerner who recruited millions into his Soul Patrol — not just because he could sing so well but also because he was so dang endearing.

The Taylor Hicks I shake hands with doesn’t smile immediately. He seems wary, guarded, and not quite warmed up yet for the first interview of the day.

But a similar scenario played out at his Glorietta 4 concert the night before. About a thousand fans turned out to watch him sing songs like Just to Feel that Way and The Maze from his Idol-produced album, “Taylor Hicks.”

When Hicks emerged, looking much leaner than his Idol days but still sporting the same George Clooney-esque salt-and-pepper hair, he was moving around and singing well, but where was the frenzied, quirky dancing? Where was the harmonica playing?

Backed by all-Filipino musicians culled from Louie Ocampo’s band (Ayala reps say Hicks was extremely impressed and happy with his Pinoy backup, with whom he bonded tightly), by the time the 30- to 50-something Makati crowd had started to clap and sing along, Hicks had warmed to them as well. After a show-stopping rendition of Taking it to the Streets, Hicks ended the set by finally whipping out his harmonica and letting ’er rip. Do I Make You Proud hit the right “senti” note with Pinoys, and during the danceable Heaven Knows, Hicks started twirling his arms frenetically, shouted, “Soul Patrol!” and did his trademark Ray Charles side bend with matching “Whoo!”

Now, that’s the Taylor Hicks we know and love.

What did you know about the Philippines before you came here?

A little bit from my friend Sway Penala. Sway was on the American Idol finale with me. And he told me how cool it is and how musical of a country it is. And I told him one day I’d get a chance to go and so here I am, and I’m excited about it.

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve found out since you arrived?

The traffic isn’t nearly as bad as Jakarta, Indonesia (where he went to judge Asian Idol), so I was pretty excited about getting from the airport to the hotel so quickly.

Are Filipinos similar to Southerners in any way?

Yeah, we both kind of live in very humid climates. So the weather here is similar to the weather back home.

Are you still carrying your statue of Ray Charles with you?

I’ve got Ray. He’s upstairs in my room, actually.

Why is gospel music so important to you?

I think it connects with spirituality. And I think there should be a certain element of spirituality in music, period. So I think that’s a key.

Did you have a religious upbringing?

No, not really. But I did listen to some gospel music and music has definitely helped me through some tough times. So the gospel sound is an influential part of my music.

You said before you had a troubled childhood. What kind of trouble did you get yourself into?

I think all kinds. Well, you know, with (my parents’) divorce and moving around a lot as a kid and stuff, I think the constant variable for me was music. It was more uplifting. Starting to play music and perform music — it started to take me away.

How small is your hometown, Birmingham, Alabama? Are you friends with Bo Bice?

Actually, I’ve met Bo a couple times. Yeah, Birmingham’s a small town, so everybody knows everybody.

How important is it to have a gimmick on American Idol?

What do you mean by “gimmick”?

I mean to have your own style. Like Sanjaya with the hair? Something to set yourself apart from the other contestants.

Well, I think you want to do that musically, to begin with. For me, the music and the performance come first. I think it’s second when you have to differentiate yourself between the other contestants. But I think the choices of songs can help you differ yourself from the other contestants.

So when did you know you had won over Simon Cowell?

I don’t think I’ve won him over yet. I’m still trying. (Laughs)

He never threw you a bone?

Not at all.

How different is it being a local celebrity in your home state to being a national idol?

Well, you know, the pressures are greater. The pressures on being a celebrity, it’s pretty big, ’cause everybody’s looking at you.

Since you won, has there been any pressure to change your image, from dyeing your hair to losing weight?

You know, not really. I think the gray will stay.

I thought the best songs on the album were the ones you wrote, Soul Thing and The Deal. What’s your songwriting process?

I think it’s just whenever it hits you. You know, whenever you get inspired, you should try to act on it. Basically, when the muses hit, then that’s when you take off.

Do you start with music or lyrics first?

It depends on where the inspiration comes from.

Do you keep a notebook with you?

Sometimes I do. If you look at my house back home, you’ll see little notes scribbled everywhere. It’s not just one main notebook, I think it’s a lot of different papers spread all over the room.

With “Taylor Hicks,” your solo album, are you still in touch with the authentic sound you started out with?

Yeah, yeah, I think I am. I think it’s been a fine line that you have to walk between pop sensibilities and authenticity of the older styles — so that’s the kind of sound that you want to create, you know.

How do you feel performing genres other than soul, R&B, and gospel?

I love all styles of music, so, you know, I’ll perform anything at any time.

How do you inject soul into other people’s music?

I think it has to have feeling, you know. You have to connect with your lyrics.

How much creative control did Clive Davis give you in recording your album?

I think, for every artist in that situation, not as much as you want, to begin with. But, you know, some of the songs that I was given for the album were great songs. So I had a lot of great music to pick from.

Did he give you the producer you wanted?

Yeah, we came to an agreement about the producer. I think Matt Serletic was a good choice for that first album.

They also just give you the songs?

I get to pick what songs. They give me 500, and I get to choose. I chose the best songs that fit my voice and my style.

Did you accomplish everything you dreamed of musically with this album?

I definitely think that there’s more music to be made. I’ve released two albums previous to American Idol: one is “Under the Radar,” and “In Your Time,” with my own band before AI, and you know, this is my third album I’ve created, basically. But this fourth one will probably sum up all the work I’ve done on the previous three albums.

Do you still play with your band?

Some of the members I do have in the band, some of the members I auditioned for. You know, you try to make the best music possible. That’s your goal as a musician.

When you won, did it spike the sales of your previous albums?

Yes. A lot.

Do you hope to win over with your performances anything you didn’t get across in the album?

You know, I want to try to take what I learned in the studio and what I learned from a live setting and combine them together to create the sound, whether it’s an album or whether it’s live. I think the more I can learn how to record and play, the better off I’ll be as a recording artist.

Do you plan to record a follow-up soon?

This year sometime. This coming year.

What’s next for you?

Well, the DVD’s coming out — it’s called Whomp at the Warfield, and that’s a theater in San Francisco — and a brand-new album and a brand-new tour. And hopefully, I’ll be back in the Philippines playing for you guys soon.

You had a lot of really enthusiastic fans at your Glorietta 4 Park concert last night.

Yeah, it’s really cool. Ayala Malls have been really nice to bring me over here and let me perform, and hopefully I can come back, not only to perform but to vacation, too.

Were you at all nervous about what sort of reception you’d get?

Um … a little bit, yeah. (Laughs) You know, I’m a long way from Alabama. So, you know, you definitely get a little nervous, but I think music is a universal language and I’m learning: it does cross barriers.

How was your experience judging Asian Idol?

I thought it was really cool. You know, there’s so many great singers that were on the show from each country. It’s amazing that all the countries in Asia can come together and perform on a show like that. It was a really neat thing to see.

What song on your album do you consider essential Taylor Hicks?

Soul Thing. That song has really come alive as far as the live concert goes.

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