“I’m very blessed,” says singer/songwriter Taylor Hicks in his signature southern gentleman drawl, “I got the biggest break in the business.”
I’d just asked the question, how has your life changed in the past five years, even though I imagine he’s been asked and answered it thousands of times since becoming the biggest winner in American Idol history, when on May 24, 2006, with 63.4 million votes, his devotees known as the Soul Patrol let the nation know that the Season Five winner was indeed, The Man.
Recently, Hicks took a few minutes out of his day to tell me about what he’s been up to lately, namely, touring, writing and recording songs, and doing his part to give back to his beloved home state of Alabama. Hicks is slated to perform Saturday, September 17th at the McKinney Performing Arts Center, with the McKinney Music Mash Up winner opening the show.
Like McKinney’s Mash Up contestants, Hicks began his career in music by singing and performing on the local level. Born in Birmingham, Alabama, Hicks began singing early on, and by his teen years, was performing around town.
“I spent 15 years playing in restaurants and bars,” says Hicks of his early career.
Touring throughout the southeast and building a loyal fan base of family and friends, it was actually his brother who convinced him to give American Idol a shot. After a series of events including a canceled flight in New Orleans, an airline voucher and Hurricane Katrina, Hicks landed in Las Vegas just in time to do just that.
With fate firmly on his side, and despite the less than enthusiastic support of judge Simon Cowell, Hicks went on to wow the other judges, and thrill millions of viewers with his raspy, soulful voice, his salt and pepper good looks, his southern charm, and the absolute joy he exudes while entertaining a crowd.
“Winning American Idol,” says Hicks, “has exposed me to a lot of different people, who I’ve been able to learn from.”
Since his win, Hicks has had the opportunity to perform with the likes of Willie Nelson, Snoop Dog, and everyone in between. His first post American Idol single, “Do I Make You Proud,” debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 Singles, and his self-titled album debuted shortly thereafter at No. 2 and was certified platinum.
The American Idol win has also allowed Hicks the opportunity to pursue other things he dreamed of doing in those early years, including, performing on Broadway, and creating his own record label. In 2009, Hicks released his first Indy album, “The Distance” through his record company, Modern Whomp Records. In that same year, Hicks headed to New York City to perform in the hit musical, Grease, where he played Teen Angel, even taking it on the road performing for 18 months in cities across the United States and Canada.
Post Broadway, Hicks has been spending time touring, as well as, working in Nashville, putting a new record together.
“I’ve been doing a lot of writing, and collecting for the new record,” says Hicks, “I’m pretty exciting to be putting another one out. This one will have songs I wrote while in New York, and in Nashville.”
Then, on April 27th, tragedy struck the nation. The United States experienced the deadliest tornado outbreak since 1925. Of the 346 fatalities, 249 of those occurred in Alabama when 53 tornadoes, 7 of which were EF4, and 2 EF5, roared through the state, leaving a devastating castastrophe in their wake.
“April 27th was a tough day for the people in the southeast,” says Hicks, “particularly in my home state of Alabama.”
On June 14th, Hicks performed with other notable Alabama born singers, songwriters and musicians in the Bama Rising Benefit Concert for Tornado Relief, which raised more than $2 million dollars toward the $4 billion dollars estimate in damages.
“There is still so much to do,” says Hicks, “As a voice for the state, I feel compelled to really try to bring this awareness to others. There is still such a need. We will be rebuilding for the next 10 years.”
To that end, Hicks is doing his part by spreading the word, and giving back and investing in the place he calls home. Recently, he opened his own restaurant in Birmingham.
“It’s called Ore Drink and Dine,” says Hicks who describes the cuisine as Southern Eclectic, “I spent 10 of my 15 years playing here. I am indebted to this area.”
–Michele Stevens Bernard, TownSquareBuzz.com
Photos, and video courtesy of TaylorHicks.com.
Taylor invites us to follow him on Twitter, and on Facebook, or visit him at http://taylorhicks.com.