by Kellie Abrahamson
Back in 2006, over 63.4 million votes were cast to determine who would be the next American Idol. The winner was Alabama blues rocker Taylor Hicks, whose soulful singing and charming disposition made him a crowd favorite and earned him an army of fans known as the “Soul Patrol.” Since then, Taylor has released two studio albums, a compilation CD of some of his pre-Idol tunes and a DVD, but arguably his most interesting endeavor is his recent stint on Broadway as Grease’s winged crooner, Teen Angel. After a successful run in New York, Hicks and company are on the road with the show and will be in Jacksonville this month. We spoke with Taylor about the transition from Idol to Angel, why you should stay in your seat after the show and what his next move might be.
EU Jacksonville: How’d you jump from blues musician to musical theatre?
Taylor Hicks: It was interesting, I had some previous roles offered to me before Teen Angel and I wanted to take a role that I would be able to… get my feet wet so to speak and not just dive into a lead part… I think this is a great first step into the acting world…
EU: So you are planning on doing some more acting in the future? .
TH: . I am planning on doing some more acting in the future. I’ve got some TV and film ideas that have come along and the way the I think of it is that this career is one that’s a long one and I think taking small steps toward bigger things, especially something that I’m not familiar with like acting and musical theatre, I think the smaller the step the better for me.
EU: How is your Teen Angel different from other versions?
TH: With [the role] I wanted to make it as signature as possible. Having the harmonica added, also some R&B horn lines and… a midnight blue rhinestone [suit]. There’s 13,000 rhinestones. Its Elvis meets Johnny Cash. That whole idea, I was allowed to design my costume and also be able to really twist the part into a signature part for me.
EU: So you’re a costume designer too now? .
TH: . To be honest, I did design the suit, I’m not gonna lie. But I could design my suits, I don’t know if I could design anybody else’s. I’m not taking any gigs for the costume design on the new Lion King, trust me!
EU: I’ve read that you do something of an encore after your Grease performances. Tell us about that. .
TH: . It’s kind of a really cool way to release a record… I’m actually performing a single off of the record [2009’s The Distance] in the encore performance of Grease, so the fans get to see the Teen Angel role but then they also get to see the singer/songwriter role.
EU: What will you miss most when the tour ends in May? .
TH: . The rhinestones… I mean, not too many people get to wear 13,000 rhinestones every night, I get to do that. I think it’s the little things. I’ve spent a lot of years working to try to catch a break in the business and I caught one… I’ve been touring for four years; literally I have no apartment, no house, no home. I’ve toured since February of ’05.
EU: So is that the plan once the tour’s over- to get a house and settle down a little bit? .
TH: . I think I’m gonna have to get my stuff out of my parent’s basement at some point… I’m starting to get looks from my parents like, “You know, you’re going to have to do something with this stuff.” But you never know. To be honest with you in four days I was offered about six or seven roles… within a week and a half I was fitted for my suit and within two weeks I was in New York City doing Broadway and I toured for two years. It happened that quick… I got the part May 3rd, I started Broadway June 1st and I’ve been touring ever since.
EU: It’s a whirlwind. .
TH: . It really is, but I’m blessed. That’s the one thing that I can say is that you know how blessed you are to have all the fans and to have gigs.
EU: And you’re giving back too. I just read you did some work with Habitat for Humanity.
TH: . I did, I did help build a home for Habitat for Humanity. I’m kind of working with that charity right now to get the word out on just how great of an organization it is. It really does make a difference and it makes a difference from a local perspective. A community needs that and to be able to see a brand new housing community come up from the foundation up with help of volunteers, that’s a special thing
In addition to the role as Teen Angel, you may also get to see Hicks at one of our local venues. The performer has been known to do surprise concerts throughout the Grease tour and when asked about the possibility of a Jax “shadow show” he replied “I am looking to do that.” Fingers crossed, Soul Patrol! Locations of secret shows are usually announced on his website, www.taylorhicks.com.
Grease will be at the Times-Union Center’s Moran Theatre April 27th to May 2nd. Tickets are $24- $62. For more information or to purchase tickets call 632-3373 or visit www.artistseries.fccj.org.
From Idol to Angel
by Kellie Abrahamson