October 28, 2006
HAPPILY EVER ‘IDOL’
Hicks, Serletic Racing To Meet Deadline For Arista Debut
BY MICHAEL PAOLETTA
Taylor Hicks is more than ready for his major label close-up. In fact, the winner of the fifth season of “American Idol” has been preparing himself for just such a moment. On this early-October day, Hicks is ensconced in a Los Angeles recording studio with producer Matt Serletic. It is the pair’s second recording session together. Hicks and Serletic have a major mission ahead—to create and complete an album in time for a Dec. 5 release. The as-yet-untitled disc, at this point without a confirmed lead single, is surely a priority for the powers that be at Arista. However, the label declined to comment on specifics of the marketing and promotional campaign for it.
Hicks isn’t exactly starting from scratch; he already has a No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 hit to his credit with the double-A-sided single “Do I Make You Proud”/”Takin’ It to the Streets.” But having held off recording until the completion an extensive run with the American Idols Live! Tour 2006, Hicks knows time is now of the essence. “I want this record to be a stocking stuffer, which is why we’re putting in 13-hour days,” he says. Serletic admits the work schedule is intense, but he adds that the project is moving quickly forward. He credits this to Hicks’ natural talent, as well as that of the crack musicians onboard, which include drummer Curt Bisquera, bassist Lee Sklar and guitarist James Harrah.
With Serletic overseeing the project, Hicks acknowledges that he is learning to let go. Of course, this in itself is a learning process for Hicks, who released two independent albums (1997’s “In Your Time” and 2005’s “Under the Radar”) prior to his “American Idol” engagement.”Matt has stepped in so I can stop worrying about every little detail, which is very helpful,” Hicks says. “Fortunately, we are on the same page creatively and musically.”
According to Hicks—who can currently be seen and heard in Ford’s “Drive on Us” ad campaign—the album’s sound will be his take on modern soul music. “I wanted brass with ass, and that’s what will be on the album,” he says. Although Ray Charles is the base root of Hicks’ influences, artists like Al Stewart, Steve Winwood, Eddie Hinton, Gerry Rafferty, Sam Cooke and Marvin Gaye have also played roles in the 30-year-old’s life. Hicks says one song on the album—which will focus on original material penned by himself and others—will be a cover of an obscure Charles song, recorded in Charles’ studio. “It’s my way of saying ‘thanks,’ ” he says.
Serletic calls Hicks a connection to past masters. “I don’t hear him phoning [the vocals] in. Take after take, he’s bringing it,” he says.
A major challenge for Hicks is trying to make a good record within months of winning the “American Idol” title. “I’m not trying to capture a moment, but I am using time to my fullest advantage,” he says. “Dealing with fame in such a short period of time is a challenge. It’s amazing the amount of exposure ‘American Idol’ can give an artist—especially for someone like me who’s been working in bars and clubs for 10 years.”
While Hicks is glad to be out of the “Idol” spotlight, he fully recognizes its power as a launching pad for an entertainer today. In fact, he is aware he would likely not be in the situation he’s currently in without the help of the hit TV show. One of the goals now, says Hicks’ manager John Leshay of the Firm, is to have his client come out of his “American Idol” shell to become “Taylor Hicks the performer.”
“He won a singing contest. In the process, he almost turned into a puppet, which is the antithesis to his past 10 years,” Leshay says. “He is psyched to get this opportunity, but he’s not starting from ground zero. He’s the anti-Idol in many ways.” Leshay says he keeps reminding Hicks that he’s now on the road he’s always wanted to be on and that there is no need to rush. “He has time to make left and right turns, and to speed up and slow down,” he says.
Leshay points to Kelly Clarkson as a perfect example. “It took time for her to come into her own,” he says. “She knew she wanted to rock, but she also knew she couldn’t make that record first . . . With Taylor, we get him off the ‘American Idol’ platform and onto his own platform.”
Hicks, meanwhile, is keeping his eyes squarely on the target. “I’m just glad to now be moving forward with another phase of my career.”
Thanks to Tee for the article.