On Soul Patrol with Taylor Hicks (Relix Revisited)
Prior to last season and this most recent one, I never really watched American Idol. But in all honesty, you and Bo Bice turned my head a little bit with your musical selection.
You know what? I don’t watch it either! [laughs] You can write that.
I think a lot of music fans were impressed by your decision to cover Ray LaMontagne’s “Trouble.”
“Trouble” is a great fucking song. Not only that, that’s a great fucking album. Somebody said I should listen to Ray LaMontagne right before Trouble came out and I was a definite fan and I got to meet him at The Roxy in Atlanta. I was just a big huge fan of that album and I’m glad that that album got the respect it deserved. Anything I did on the show, I have the utmost respect for. And having some idea that if that song gets on national television in front of 40 million people, then the odds are that people are going to go out and buy that music… I really wanted to pick music that would open up the eyes of the masses.
Every song I wrote on that show, I wrote half of the endings to. They gave me the first minute of the song—the second minute of the song I arranged and wrote all of the endings and melodies. I said, “Look you’re going to give me the first minute of the song. You can clear “Taking it to the Streets” but I want to be able arrange the last 30 seconds. So all the endings that you’ve seen me do on American Idol were arranged and written by me.
I doubt many people realize that.
Nobody knows. Nobody has any idea, but that’s cool, man. It gave me an opportunity to create more good music. Being a performer in Lowell, AL, opportunities are pretty slim.
Having been a performer for some time now, what’s the biggest difference between the television stage versus the traditional live one?
The visual aspect of that show [American Idol]is equally important as the musical aspect. I knew that. Let’s face it—it’s a television show. You’ve got 40 million watching you, you have to be the most visual performer that you can because it’s television.
I’m curious about post-Idol performances… that there are now certain expectations that you have to deal with versus prior to the show, where you could really just do what you want. And I would assume having a magnifying glass hovering above you at all times is probably not the most fun, either.
Getting to this level in this business, you kind of take it with a grain of salt: You know who your friends are, you know who your family is and you know who your fans are. The magnifying glass gets a little old at times but I want to get my music out there and this is what I have to do to do that. That’s the ultimate goal for me—spread good music.
I guess part of my question had to do with audience—that you were performing to a core group of music fans and now it’s a bit more of a pop-culture audience that wouldn’t have come to see you prior.
American Idol, for me, is fizzling out. I want to take that opportunity and that exposure… You either come to see me, come buy my album or you don’t. I’m not trying to meet expectations. I’m trying to expose my music to people who might like it, come see it and come buy it. That’s me. If pop culture doesn’t like it… If you can say you’re a working musician, then you’re doing something good. I’m just glad to be a working musician because that’s what I’ve always been.
You’ve talked a little about your upbringing: that it wasn’t always easy and that you were forced to make some tough decisions early on. Do you believe that in order to sing the blues or soul, you need to experience it?
I agree, 100 percent. You’ve got to connect emotionally with your audience. I do agree that you would have to have lived a little in whatever part of your life it may be. I lived a little more than others in a really early part of my life. Those experiences and those things that happened, I believe that gets you deeper into who you are as a person.
What was your first gig?
I was about 15. I had this great, wonderful family—not my own—but a family that cultivated and pushed my talents a little bit. I was learning to play harmonica on my own. I was repeating “Take the Long Way Home” from the Supertramp album [Breakfast in America]. I was starting to learn riffs and stuff. I remember this vividly. They were a pretty rambunctious bunch and they put this big-ass white hat on me and took me to this biker bar where this blues band was playing, Corey’s Sports Bar. It was off the beaten path. I just remember playing harp and trying to hang with this band that was performing in front of all these bikers. I’ve been in the bars, man.
What’s the story with your lucky dime?
I carry it with me. And I’m not going to lie: I’ve lost it a couple of times, but they’re replaceable.
Does any part of you sense a soul/traditional R&B revival going on as seen in artists like James Hunter, Joss Stone or Little Barrie? Granted, they’re all British. Do you think, perhaps, you’re part of the American answer to that? And why now?
Soul performing is a lost art. Watch Sam and Dave sing “Soul Man” and you’ll want to watch it more. It’s a whole a different monster. You can hear “Soul Man,” but what’s so funny is that the whole thing… I have this video tape of the Stax Soul Revue from 1969 in Denmark. It was a T.V. show and it was the first time the Stax Soul Revue had gone overseas and it had Booker T. & The MGs, Eddie Floyd, Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, all of these people. I started studying that as a kid, the way they moved, the way they danced. It was during the James Brown era. There’s so much footage that you couldn’t capture because technology didn’t lend itself for you to be able to just pick up and watch Sam Cooke. Some of the remarks I get on my dancing, Otis Redding could have gotten on his. They just didn’t have T.V. back then. This whole idea, this whole movement toward soul revival so to speak, I think it’s a lost art and I hope that I’ve helped spark that interest. That’s a genre of music that’s powerful in everyday music whether it be… It was just such an integral part of music that I think got lost somewhere along the way.
You were named People Magazine’s Bachelor of the Year. It seems pretty cool but is there a downside or am I trying too hard here?
I was very flattered to be called that. It’s an honor, I guess you could say, but I wouldn’t really know because I’m in the bottom of an arena in the official’s dressing room at the Pepsi Arena [in Colorado]. I’m in the darkest bowels of an arena right now, so I haven’t had much of a chance to find out.
And, finally, if you could see one person get hit in the nuts with a football, who would it be?
Probably one of those promoters that used to stiff me. The door guys at the club that knew they were screwing me on money but were ten times bigger than me. Or, after Rosanne Barr sang the “National Anthem” real bad. I don’t know if she has nuts, you might want to check.
In honor of Umphrey’s McGee’s return to Summer Camp this weekend, we present the group’s Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger performing this version of “The Pequod” from UM’s Anchor Drops.
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The Milk Carton Kids share the first song from their new album, The Ash & Clay.
Here is the new video from Serbian guitar ace Ana Popovic. “Object Of Obsession” appears on her latest album Can You Stand The Heat.
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