~ Like the ripples in a pond, the work of one man spreads out and touches the lives of others ~

From The Soul of One ~ To The Hearts Of Many
Taylor Hicks "The Distance"

Friday, May 16, 2008

It's Not All Black And White

Sometimes you gotta throw in some neon.

They say the neon lights are bright on Broadway
They say there's always magic in the air
Well we know wherever Taylor Hicks is ... magic happens!

I ran across the following article which was written a year ago tomorrow, and in light (neon that is) of Taylor's Big news that hit the wires last night, I thought it timely to take a look back at this interview that took place as Taylor was nearing the final leg of his Spring Tour.

Taylor Hicks sells out Atlantic City

By J.R. Taylor
May 17, 2007

I've interviewed many famous people, including several from my parents' generation.
Taylor Hicks, however, is the only celebrity who has ever prompted my mother to ask if I could get her an autograph.
That's pretty impressive.
I've interviewed William Shatner, and everybody wants William Shatner's autograph.
But my mother only cares for Taylor Hicks.

The problem—and I'm thinking about this on the drive from New York to Atlantic City—is that Taylor Hicks has every right to refuse the simplest favor for anyone who's ever covered the Birmingham music scene.
What did any of us ever do for him back when he was struggling to get an afternoon slot in a moldy City Stages tent?

If I were Taylor Hicks, I'd have set up this interview simply to exact bloody revenge on anybody from the South.
All I have to offer Hicks is the fun fact that I was at the Flora-Bama Bar last week, and it seems that he doesn't owe anybody there any money.
I'm hoping that'll put him in a good mood.

• • •

Taylor Hicks is taller than you'd expect.
He's also more handsome.
He looks like a heterosexual Jake Gyllenhaal.
I've never met anyone from Birmingham with such a perfect Elvis Presley drawl, but it doesn't matter if that's an affectation.
Hicks makes it sound perfectly natural.

“I was 30 years old and playing Wednesday nights at DanielGeorge restaurant, and everyone would come in with their business suits and their 401k plans and their aspirations, and I was stuck hoping that I’d be playing at a Steak and Ale on Thursday night.”

We're in the dressing room of the Music Box Theatre at the Borgata Hotel Casino.
Jet was using it last Saturday.
Wanda Sykes will be here the Saturday after this.
Hicks has finished his sound check, and he's dressed in an outfit that looks exactly like the one on the cover of his major-label debut.
It seems he casually poses in what is his actual casual wear.

Most important, Hicks is happy to talk to someone from Black and White.
"I ran some ads with you guys," he notes.

And yet, I reply, pre-"Idol", Black and White ignored him like every paper in Birmingham did.

"I wouldn't necessarily say that I was—well, yeah.
It wasn't just Birmingham.
I had my two albums out, and I was trying to get over to Atlanta to play, and I was doing anything and everything to be heard.
I went unnoticed, but I wasn't big enough.
You can't cover everybody.
If somebody is not making a buzz, you're sure not going to cover him."

So every thing is okay between us and Taylor Hicks.
That's a relief.

• • •

I arrived in Atlantic City thinking that Taylor Hicks was a likable guy who deserved respect for not making a crappy pop album in the wake of "American Idol".

Hicks' major-label debut is perfectly fine as major-label pop albums go, and has some strong playing.
But I'm still not expecting what I hear during the sound check.
It seems that a Taylor Hicks concert is surprisingly raw.
And impressive.
The guy has a great voice when he gets to take the top down.
It's a big difference from what we heard winning over the hearts and minds of teenagers and housewives voting via their cell phones.

I'm suddenly interested in hearing what he has planned for his next album.
He could really do justice to obscure blues-rock songs by acts such as Blodwyn Pig.
Hicks could make the kind of daring album that would either establish him an important artist or send him off to the jam-band circuit as a surprisingly entertaining oddity.
Huey Lewis does that a lot nowadays, and Hicks already has enough money to enjoy the same indulgence.
I ask Hicks what his income tax was like compared to last year's.

"Financially," he says, "it's better right now, but I'm dealing with The Man—as opposed to having never really had to deal with him.
You know, I was 30 years old and playing Wednesday nights at DanielGeorge [restaurant], and everyone would come in with their business suits and their 401k plans and their aspirations, and I was stuck hoping that I'd be playing at a Steak & Ale on Thursday night.
Terrell Owens once said that the only person who could cover him is the IRS.
I know what he's talking about now."

As for that aggressive live sound—well, Hicks isn't afraid of scaring an audience that might include my mother.

"There are so many preconceived notions about me.
The only thing I have is my live show and my songs.
That's it.
I have to be booked.
I'll always hang my hat on being a live performer, because that's my bread and butter.
My shows will always have that edge that comes from years of performing.
There's room for me to play around as an instrumentalist, and I'm working with an incredible caliber of musicians.
Tonight's audience is going to hear the best live music that I've played in my whole life."

• • •

Hicks appreciates his own good fortune.
Even better, he isn't kidding himself about his strange career.

"I know that I may not be as hot as I am in two or three years," he says.
"I understand the business.
I'm having to re-establish myself having just been established.
There aren't too many artists in the world who can say that.
Billy Earl McClelland was Delbert McClinton's old guitar player, and he was my sideman when I was 18.
That's still amazing to me.
He once said to me, 'It's not how you get there; it's if you get there.' That's stuck with me for a long time.
It's always going to be an uphill battle for me, and that's okay."

• • •

Atlantic City on a Saturday night in April can be kind of slow.
Many resorts aren't even booking headliners for their theaters.
George Carlin is in town, and there's something called The Sammy Davis, Jr., Revue.
Otherwise, Taylor Hicks doesn't have much competition.

That's not why his show at the Borgata is sold out.
He won't just be playing to big spenders who got handed free tickets.
Hicks has drawn a group of hard-core fans.
There are already lots of Taylor Hicks T-shirts visible in the casinos — "Drink until he's Taylor Hicks," proclaims one — and plenty of enthused females who are clearly here for more than a spin of the slots.

Most of these women have likely driven in from Philadelphia.
They're the types that I like to call Philbillies, but that's no reflection on Hicks.
He'll be playing New York City in a few weeks, and that shows also on the way to selling out.
I tell Hicks that he's going to really enjoy doing a show in Manhattan's Beacon Theater.
It turns out that he already has.

"I played with the Allman Brothers there," he explains, "on their last night when they did a lot of shows.
I played some harmonica.
That's definitely one of the pluses of having this kind of opportunity.
I started out in a Widespread Panic cover band, and I just sat in with those guys in Cleveland.
I've exceeded every expectation I ever had for my career.
If you had told me a year and a half ago that I'd ever sell 700,000 units, I would've looked at you like you were crazy.
I'm really enjoying this."

• • •

The big Taylor Hicks show is over.
It went very well.
He had the fans hooked.
It makes sense.
You're some suburban gal goofing on being part of a Soul Patrol, and then you get the Taylor Hicks live experience and realize that he's the real deal.
I bet many of his older fans were into Bonnie Raitt and thought of Taylor as their transition into easy listening.
Instead, they discover that they're still capable of tapping into some rough rhythm 'n' blues.

Now I'm sitting at a bar in the Borgata next to a woman from Asbury Park who's asks, "Where do you think Taylor Hicks lives now?"
I'd asked Hicks that question a few hours before — although it seemed to me that the guy must have been homeless for the past year.

"Yeah," said Hicks, "I have no permanent address.
I have an alias.
I don't have a home."

Then he leaned in close: "If you think about it, it's really cool."

• • •

This, incidentally, is how Hicks autographs the CD for my mother:
"Soul Patrol! Taylor Hicks"
That's no good.
He doesn't have to cover Blodwyn Pig, but Hicks should really take my advice on this one.
The entire Soul Patrol thing has to go.
I won't let my mother be part of it.

There was magic in the air and neon lights too, when Taylor Hicks performed in Atlantic City @ The Music Box Theater.
Here are two videos that captured a taste of his magic!

Borgata Hotel Casino, Atlantic City, NJ
April 14, 2007

video capture by dg90001
(Thank you!)

video capture by Azgoddess
(Thank you!)

One year later ...

Taylor Hicks: I'm Bringing the Soul Patrol to Broadway
By Ivory Clinton and Christina Tapper
Friday May 16, 2008

Taylor Hicks is following in the footsteps of Fantasia and Clay Aiken:
The American Idol winner will make his Broadway debut June 6.

Hicks tells PEOPLE he can't wait to perform in Grease.
"I'm truly honored to have a role in such an American institution," says Hicks, who made the announcement Friday on the Today Show.
"I'm going to Broadway shows and just watching and learning."

While in New York City, the Alabama native will also record his country-influenced second album.

"I've been spending a lot of time with songwriters in Nashville," Hicks tells PEOPLE.
"I can really breathe creatively without the constraints of a post-Idol album."

He also plans to tackle some serious issues.
"It's an election year so there will be some political undertones.
I've become a sponge while creating each song, soaking up what's going on whether it's political or about love."

Since he was recently dropped from his record label, he's considering releasing the upcoming album himself.
"It's motivation," says Hicks.
"This is a marathon for me, not a sprint.

But he'll make time for some N.Y.C. fun as well.
"I need to go to the Statue of Liberty for the first time," he says, adding that he knows one way he'll try to fit in with the natives.

Says Hicks: "I'll have to figure out what fan I should be, Yankees or Mets!"

May 16th, 2008
Taylor Hicks Heads To Broadway

A performer at heart, with the world his stage,
there is no pigeon holing Taylor Hicks ...
he goes where the music leads him.

On that musical note, I'll finish today's blog with this thought!

Today's cup:
When you go in search of honey, you must expect to be stung by bees.

1 comment:

KarinP said...

Kudos to J.R. Taylor who wrote an outstanding and in-depth article about Taylor. I am not sure if I have seen this article before but I was thoroughly hooked on the article from the very beginning.

There were a couple of quotes that stood out for me.

"I know that I may not be as hot as I am in two or three years," he says.
"I understand the business.
I'm having to re-establish myself having just been established.

This quote clearly shows that Taylor "understands" the business and perhaps this is one of the reasons that he has chosen the Broadway route. He could very well realize that this may help him "re-establish" himself by having a broader base of fans in the audience.

When referring to Billy Earl McClelland:

He once said to me, 'It's not how you get there; it's if you get there. That's stuck with me for a long time.
It's always going to be an uphill battle for me, and that's okay."

I guess that sometimes words of advice that others may give us go in one ear and out the other BUT this particular piece of advice is one that Taylor has not forgotten.

Even more curious, it seems to me, is Taylor's perception that "it will always be an uphill battle for him" and I have to wonder why he feels that way. While he has performed many concerts since his AI win and since that interview, I can't help but wonder what it must feel like to realize that there is going to always be a "uphill battle" to face.

He continued to persevere; his concert tours were very successful and he displayed dignity and grace during his interview with the gals from the Today Show. Hindsight being 20/20, it has been a battle of sorts given that there were only two singles released from his album. For me, I still feel that there are many songs on that CD that could still find their way to a #1 slot if only they had been given the chance to be heard.

The speed with which he has travelled over the past couple of years must seem like a "blur" for him. How many of us would give up the comfort of our own beds for a bus for two years? Perhaps it is the "life" that seems to be embedded in his blood and this continues to drive him to achieve his goals.

I am anxiously waiting to hear some of the new songs that will be on the new CD. Maybe they will tell us all the story of what life on the road has been like for him. It might be very interesting to know about these experiences. They very well could give us insight to some of those moments that can only be "told" when a songwriter can really tap into where he has been and where he is going by putting pen to paper.

Thanks, Bloom! I really enjoyed the videos you included too!