By Bobbie Katz
If you’re looking for a great evening that’s “Taylor-ed” to the soul, then the musical act to take in is the only American Idol winner to have sewn up a residency contract in Las Vegas -- Taylor Hicks.
Hicks, whose blues, classic rock and R&B stylings have earned him a legion of fans dubbed the “Soul Patrol,” appears in Napoleon’s Lounge at Paris Las Vegas, having moved there in the beginning of 2013 from the Indigo Lounge at Bally’s Las Vegas where he began his residency in June 2012. The Season 5 (2006) Idol winner performs mostly his own original music with his talented five-piece band. Hicks has his own record label called Modern Whomp Records, which he started in 2008.
Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn
“As a roadhouse artist, all different kinds of styles have influenced my music,” Hicks says. “I like all genres of music, from Ravi Shankar to Karen Carpenter but I always carry my R&B and blues roots with me and I’m always glad to carry soul. It’s important to be authentic. I love creating the greatest music I can, whether I’m writing or performing.
“All I can do is make the best music possible and let it fall where it may,” he continues, talking about the fact that he feels he doesn’t have to be categorized in any specific musical genre. “I look at longevity. Willie Nelson, for example, is just Willie Nelson. He’s in no particular genre. Neither were Ray Charles or Elvis. They weren’t pegged – great singers can sing anything. That’s the way I picture the ark of my career.”
Admitting that, to him, the key to success is continually coming up with fresh material, Hicks notes that he is currently working on a soulful country album. He is proud of the reinventions in his career since winning American Idol, from doing Broadway and the national tour of Grease, in which he played the Teen Angel character, to book author, restaurateur, Las Vegas headliner and everything in between.
The Alabama-born Hicks, who will be 37 in October and was the oldest male to ever win American Idol, began his career at 17. .He feels very blessed to have been on the show and to have won, especially because it was the only show of its kind at that time.
“The platform for new artists was as big at that time as it’s ever been,” he acknowledges. “To get that break at that moment was incredible. I was awarded a record deal with Aeista Records and toured the world with my first album (Taylor Hicks) and I wrote my book Heart Full of Soul: An Inspirational Mission About Finding Your Voice and Finding Your Way, -- the list of accomplishments is extensive and I’m very proud.”
In terms of the whirlwind that swirled around him following his win, Hicks admits that he didn’t really know what was going to happen but that he just rode the wave. He does reveal that navigating the waters of show business on that level is tricky and that it’s important to be very aware of one’s surroundings.
“Idol put a team around me,” he explains, “but it was up to me to work as hard as possible and to make good decisions about my career. You want to rely on instinct and use experience to navigate all that. The older you are, the more experience you have and the better able you are to capitalize on that.”
Insofar as his composing is concerned, Hicks notes that he is influenced by many different things, such as a newspaper clipping, an event, or the breakup of a relationship. He says that whatever comes to him first – the lyrics or the music – is what the song is built around. He just has to be inspired, with most of his songs hitting him off the cuff, and he will sometimes carry a notebook in which to write down an idea. He also likes writing with his band and enjoys doing jam sessions with them as well.
Stating that the essence of him is loyalty and hardworking fun, Hicks is thrilled to be performing in Las Vegas because people come here ftom all over to be entertained. He cites that he thinks of himself as a national entertainer. He’s also a restaurant owner. In May 2011, he opened up a venue in his hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, called ORE Drink and Dine, which was named “Best New Restaurant of the Year” by the readers of Birmingham Magazine. Then, in October 2012, the restaurant reopened as Saw’s Juke Joint, a barbeque and blues bar concept, with Hicks as co-owner
Still, he has to come up for air sometime and he says that on the hobby side, he’s a pretty fair scuba diver. He does emphasize that it’s important to keep his public and private life separate. However, he also enjoys going to shows and attending events in Las Vegas, finding the town fascinating. With it all, Hicks is very excited about the future.
“Ultimately, I just want to keep working and use my talents on many levels,” he reveals. “Persistence and hard work are the keys. I’ve been auditioning for some TV and film roles and if the right one came along, I would definitely look at it”
And what would he like to be doing five years from now?
“Playing the Colosseum at Caesars Palace,” he responds without blinking an eye.
It would be a gig Taylor-made for him.
This article appears by courtesy of Vegas Insider Daily.com.