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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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Taylor Hicks Has Control Over His Own Career - Birmingham Magazine

Thanks to everyone who gave me ordering info for the July '09 issue of Birmingham Magazine! I ordered one from Barnes and Noble in Birmingham (205) 298-0665. Anyone who still wants a copy, can order through them.

Meanwhile on their website, the article is posted. Enjoy!

A sense of destiny, and his drive to control it, has made taylor Hicks more than a former American Idol. It has made him an entertainer and businessman with an eye on the future.

By Joe O’Donnell

Taylor Hicks has to be tired. Who wouldn’t be? Here’s the itinerary: Red-eye from Los Angeles; golf at the Regions Charity Classic; interviews. And it is still early in the afternoon. There is practically a whole day yet to come.

Hicks doesn’t seem to mind though. In fact, when he talks about the music business that has been his life since he was a kid, Hicks seems about as energized as a teen.

“I can remember at 17 saying I was going to be a successful entertainer. I had this sense of destiny about it, like it was going to come true. There was this great moment when I realized destiny had to be at work because I just felt it so strongly. Ray Charles brought his band to City Stages and I sat in the bushes and cried the whole show. I knew this is what I wanted,” Hicks says.

“It is a demanding business, 24/7. I’m not tired of it, though, because I know this is what I am supposed to be doing.”

The risk inherent in believing in a destiny has been a companion to Hicks since the very beginning of his forays into the entertainment world. Out there on a stage, reaching out to an audience that may applaud or may look back at you stone-faced or just keep on talking to the rest of the people at their table, that was Hicks’ early life on the road. Then, of course, there was always the risk you might not get paid.

“The risk I took at an early age helped me to get used to the risk at this stage in my career. The biggest risk of all was taking that initial step to do what you imagine yourself doing,” he says.

In the three years since Hicks became the fifth-season winner of American Idol, Taylor Hicks has seen his debut album certified platinum, performed with the likes of Earth, Wind & Fire, The Allman Brothers and Willie Nelson, toured through Asia, penned a briskselling Random House memoir and made his Broadway debut in Grease.

Currently Hicks is promoting his new album The Distance, which came out in March. The platinum- selling singersongwriter has complete control of direction and ownership of his masters on his solely owned and operated, Modern Whomp Records label via Artist To Market.

Produced by Simon Climie (Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana, Faith Hill), and tapping the talents of guitarist Doyle Bramhall II, bassist Nathan East and drummer Abe Laboriel Jr., The Distance features 11 tracks, including the first single “What’s Right Is Right.” “‘What’s Right Is Right’ is the soulful love song of the album,” says Hicks. “I think its wonderful message about love that people can relate to. The saxophone subtones as they are called, is where you can actually hear the breath from the instrumentalist before he actually plays the next note. Capturing the sound is almost like a music lesson within a soulful love song. Subtones are a lost art in music today. These musical nuances do not limit themselves only to ‘What’s Right Is Right,’ but are heard throughout the whole album.”

While the entire economy has been in flux for the past year or more, no industry has seen as much change as the music business. When he won American Idol, Taylor Hicks found himself at the heart of a changing business, a new shiny cog in a publicity machine and American phenomenon. But there are very few rules left and very little protection or care for an artist searching for an audience.

So instead of being tethered to the American Idol machine, Hicks changed the direction and went his own way—and with a little help from his Birmingham friends—took control of his career his destiny.

Mike Douglas is an attorney at the Birmingham law firm of Friedman Leak. “Taylor and I met in college at Auburn. He was recommended to me through a couple of friends to sing in the band I was in. He came to the house one day when he was a freshman.

We were juniors at the time. He sang ‘The Thrill Is Gone’ and it was an amazing vocal performance. I recognized immediately he had immense musical talent,” Douglas says.

They played together in a band, Passing Through, touring the college circuit throughout the South. Douglas graduated and went on to law school.

“Taylor and I were still very close. He was still playing the local circuit. It was difficult and tough to watch sometimes. He is very talented, but he did not have much negotiation power. He moved to Nashville and recorded an album. We were keeping up with each other, and I was helping with some legal work then on a pro bono basis,” Douglas says.

“He called me from Las Vegas to tell me about American Idol. I went out to one of the taping of the shows. It is amazing how big and how much of a machine that all is.”

Once Hicks won American Idol, he fulfilled all of the obligations he had under the original agreement and then he went out in search of a new destiny. “We met with [record industry legend] Clive Davis to discuss future deals and we made a mutual decision to part ways with American Idol,” Douglas says.

“At that point we had our own touring company set up for Taylor. We set up two national tours for Taylor as a solo artist,” Douglas says.

“It was a good-size national theatre tour so that he could keep developing as a national touring artist, but under Taylor’s control as a business entity.

Both tours were profitable. In 2007 he had the 27th highest grossing tour.

That gave us the financial lift to start our own company.” Modern Whomp Records was born, along with a touring and merchandising company, all controlled by Taylor Hicks.

Taking advantage of new tools in the entertainment industry and new developments in the way artists reach audiences, Taylor Hicks took control. “Taylor is instrumental in all of this. He is very attentive to detail.

He wants to be totally in control of the artistic side—having more control over what comes out,” Douglas explains. “Gaining total control was important, and this way made the most sense.”

The music has always been paramount to Hicks. The latest album is being supported nationwide by Hicks’ role in the national touring company of Grease. In city after city, he plays the role of Teen Angel singing “Beauty School Dropout” on stage. Then he will play club dates late in the evening, playing the music he loves to a totally different audience.

Add in the regular media interviews and you have a potent marketing mix to build an audience. The goal is to sell his album steadily for the next 18 months, releasing two or three singles, while performing on the stage. “He stays very, very busy,” Douglas says.

“My management has really kept up with the cutting edge of how an artist gains an audience. That’s not easy because it is an ever changing mode of business in the recording industry. My antenna is always up for wisdom after all these years on the road,” Hicks says.


Trixi said...

Nice article. I always knew Taylor was smart and had a lifetime plan.

Anonymous said...

Today's B'ham news (7/5/09) has a story on Taylor Hicks. Section C pages 1 & 2C. It is similar to the Birmingham Magazine article. You can go online to B'ham News and click on the Business Section which will lead you to the TH article. I think the site has it listed as a 7/4/09 article, but it is in 7/5/09 paper. JIRO