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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Friday, April 24, 2009

Taylor Hicks: 'American Idol' winner loves musicals, envisions TV and film roles, too!

By Paul Hodgins, The Orange County Register
Taylor Hicks sees "Grease's" Teen Angel as a character with training wheels.

A word or two of explanation: Hicks wanted to ease from "American Idol" fame into musical theater with a role that would fit his abilities and wouldn't present him with Shakespearean-sized challenges.

"I'd been offered some roles previously, but I wanted to make sure the part was right for me," said Hicks from somewhere on the road between engagements. Hicks and the rest of the "Grease" cast arrive in Orange County next week; the show opens Tuesday at the Performing Arts Center for a two-week run. Hicks will perform every show except April 29, when he's slated to appear on "American Idol."

"From an observer's standpoint I saw him as kind of an introductory character – that's the best way I can describe it," Hicks said. "I wanted a role that was a great way to introduce myself to the stage and observe what musical theater is all about. It's a small but flashy role that I can really understand and have a great time with."

Hicks has never shied away from challenges. After auditioning for "American Idol" on a lark in 2005 – his brother put him up to it – he met some stiff opposition. Judges Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul liked the Birmingham, Ala., native's down-home singing style and folksy persona well enough, but Simon Cowell didn't. The imperious Brit said Hicks would never survive to the final round.

As Hicks sailed to the top ranks, Cowell publicly conceded his error. Hicks became a Top 3 finalist on May 10, 2006 and won on May 24 (at 29, the oldest contestant to win) in a broadcast that was seen by 200 million viewers worldwide.

"I think from the beginning I took his comments with a grain of salt," Hicks said of Cowell's criticism. "I think with Simon you have to."

Hicks felt vindicated by the public's overwhelming support. "Ultimately, I think this was a great instance of where Simon was proved wrong by the American people. That disconnect is part of what makes the show go round."

By the time "American Idol" made him famous, Hicks had worked for more than a decade in the trenches of pop-music performance, including endless road gigs and a stint in Nashville, which he found frustrating.

"If you really want to make a living playing music, that's not the town to do that. If you want to starve for ten years and then possibly make it in country (music), well, it's fine for that. I was living in Nashville and driving five hours to Alabama, where there was a demand. It was hard just to stay afloat."


Despite years of toiling in obscurity, Hicks insists he never doubted that some day he would break through as a performer.

"I kind of always had this intuitive feeling, even from when I started traveling at 17, that if I did keep with it I would have a chance – an opportunity to break through."

The hard knocks and challenges of life on the road prepared him for the rough-and-tumble music business, Hicks said.

"I spent ten years cold-calling people and knocking on doors. I know how to persevere. With all those years on the road I learned about the business and who I am as a person. Being basically a nobody, it really teaches you a lot about how to handle things when you're finally a somebody. So I was ready for (fame) – I'd had a lot of preparation."

Hicks also believes in fate. "I got into one of the last taxicabs out of New Orleans before (Hurricane) Katrina (struck). I somehow got a plane ticket to the ('American Idol') audition in Las Vegas. It feels like it was meant to be."

Questions about marriage, kids and commitment draw a vague response – Hicks is still single, living on the road and loving it. (He was named People magazine's Hottest Bachelor for 2006.) "Marriage and kids would be nice and fun and demanding at the same time. But I'm not ready to settle down yet. I left my apartment in February of 2005 and never went back. I haven't had a permanent place of dwelling since then."

Hicks' career plans include more musical theater – he was thrilled to do "Grease" on Broadway for three months before he joined the tour – and perhaps the kinds of roles that draw even bigger audiences.

"Broadway was one of the most amazing things I've ever done as a performer. But I think at some point I want to break into TV and film. I want to learn as much as I can first, though – start kind of small. A career is a marathon, not a sprint. Every morning I get up and remember that the opportunities I've been given are a blessing."


Trixi said...

That all sounds great Taylor... but don't forget your music!!

Anonymous said...

I totally believe that Taylor can do it all - he's a triple threat -Sing, Act, Write songs, and a musician that can dance like nobody's watchin! And then there is that SMILE! By the sound of this article, the media is ready for him - and yeah, if they want to they can call it a "comeback"! Just wait till they see how hot he looks these days!It really feels like this time on Idol he will be given props for being such a success in Grease, and still get the publicity he needs for the CD. I think the show will love his new single, and it will get radio play the next morning, and download sales the same day.
I bet Paula will be up dancing!