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Interview: Taylor Hicks – Keeping Musicianship Front and Center

Five years have passed since Taylor Hicks joined the elite group of American Idol winners. During those productive years Hicks released three albums, wrote an autobiography, starred on Broadway, and toured internationally. Considering Hicks’ pre-Idol background as a tireless working musician, there’s nothing surprising about his highly disciplined work ethic. Playing music is simply what Taylor Hicks does.

There are skeptics who bristle at the mere mention of anything American Idol-related. Some are proud music snobs who believe the insanely popular television competition churns out nothing but cookie-cutter pop automatons. The truth is far more interesting, though, as the past decade has seen the emergence of a varied group of talented performers. No one stands out more than Taylor Hicks, who continues to be at the center of endless debates among Idol fans.

Which brings me back to the earlier point: Taylor Hicks plays music. Whether alone with an acoustic guitar and harmonica or fronting a full band, Hicks is a consummate musical artist. Skeptics should turn their attention towards Whomp at the Warfield, the concert DVD that captured Hicks live in San Francisco. It’s the next best thing to seeing him in person, as it conveys the many sides of his musical personality. In the midst of ongoing touring and preparation for a new album, Hicks took some time to talk to me about about his recent activities.

I understand you’ve been dealing with bad allergies. Doesn’t sound like fun.

Well, when you sit in a doctor’s office receiving allergy shots you become quite introspective. With this introspection I believe there was a reason I developed a musical ear. When I was child growing up, my allergies were so severe I sometimes produced mucous from my tear ducts. I couldn’t see. There was a time of year growing up where my vision was not up to par. So I probably had to lean on other senses. I can probably attribute my musical ear, in part, to allergies. It seems logical.

Every cloud has a silver lining, I guess.

It’s all good. That’s what happens when you sit in an allergist’s office for three days, receiving shots. You start trying to figure out why this crap happens.

How does it affect your singing and performing ability?

You know, severe allergies affect the whole body. It really runs the body down because you’re trying to fight that allergic reaction. I’m trying to take care of myself. I’ve got some gigs coming up, doing some writing and recording.

I saw some footage of you jamming with Soulive from earlier this month. Looked like you had a blast.

I was honored to sit in with those musicians. Some of the best in the world. There’s no question what a big fan I am of their musicianship. I’m really blessed to have the best of both worlds, because I’m such a big fan plus I get to jam with them. I’m very honored to have that privilege. What they lay down is some of the best new soulful music around. It’s very serious playing. It’s real, it’s raw, it’s got feeling. They connect with the audience.

I’ve also really dug the clips I’ve seen from this year’s Jam Cruise. You were sitting in with everyone from Robert Randolph to Anders Osborne to Maceo Parker, among many others. What was the vibe like with that particular audience?

Having grown up being a part of live music, I know about that scene – the people who really support live, improvisational music. Not just one particular style or genre. I mean funk, soul, jazz, country, and blues. In that scene there’s all kinds of musical styles. As a music fan, this is where I like to hang. People are very respectful. They’re connoisseurs of the art of performing live. I consider myself one of those people. I come from live music. There’s nothing more to say than that.

You were blowing up a storm on your harmonica, just killing it. People don’t know the power of your performances if they haven’t seen you live.

You know it’s interesting, I’ve sat in with some of these musicians along the way. Some of these folks knew me before American Idol. The one thing those musicians always say is, “We wish that you were able to play your instruments on American Idol.” And to be honest, I wish I could have too. But I think in that arena, you really have to be accomplished. There’s not enough time.

About The Other Chad

Hi, I'm Chaz Lipp. An old co-worker of mine thought my name was Chad. Since we had two Chads working there at the time, I was "The Other Chad."
  • Diane

    You hit the nail on the head with this article, Other Chad. Nuff said.

  • indigo81067

    Wonderfully well-written article. You’ve captured.what I fell for when I first saw him on AI. I appreciate his muscianship and his work ethic Plus, he’s not too hard on the eyes!

  • Louise

    Thank you, Chad. Great questions and I love your writing. You’re right, the truth is more interesting about Taylor Hicks! CDs are great but Taylor Hicks is best seen live1

  • carole

    Thank you for writing such a wonderful article about Taylor Hicks. He is a fantastic muscian. Love his harp playing, and his voice. Thanks for the info on his web site too. Nice video.

  • Pat

    “…exciting, intense experience. Anyone who appreciates gritty, bluesy, soulful music played by great musicians…” Taylor Hicks is best enjoyed live! Never a dull moment and never the same show twice! Great article!

  • Pattie

    Great article…you hit it right!!! Everybody should see Taylor live…there’s nobody better!!!

  • http://nolamarimages.smugmug.com/ Mar

    Taylor has a great passion for live music, & he brings that passion to all of his performances. It is a joy to witness. Thanks for the interview.

  • Kathy

    I’ve seen him in concert twice and he is awesome. No auto tune or special effects needed to put on a fantastic show. Those who only know him from Idol only know a tiny part of this performer. In concert he is SO much more.

  • juliegr

    Great interview. You asked some unique questions (which is ALWAYS a plus) and you got some revealing answers from Taylor Hicks. Thanks for stepping outside the box on the subject of AI, contestants, and especially the career, background, and musical inspirations and connections of Taylor Hicks career.

  • Allison

    Taylor is the best performer I’ve ever seen! I’ve seen him live 88 times now, and every show is better than the last!

  • Judy

    Love your article on Taylor. You are SO correct that seeing Taylor live is a special experience! The passion he brings to his performance leaves the audience begging for MORE! He is one talented man.

  • medolark

    Very well done discerning interview. Thanks. Great questions and Taylor responded in kind. It takes me days to come down from the experience of attending a ‘live’ Taylor Hicks concert. If you get the opportunity to attend one of Taylor Hicks’ concerts I encourage you to do so. Ü

  • Gr8fulheart

    An article, impacted with nothing but the truth! You know what he’s about Chad, & I am grateful for this ‘spot on’ interview.
    Taylor always leaves us wanting more. Will be seeing him next month. Waiting in anticipation; & knowing it will take me a very long time to come back down to earth!?

  • Sam

    I agree…I’ve only seen Taylor live once. I’m not one of the group who never misses a live performance… Far from it, but he does have my admiration and respect as a musician, and an entertainer…I’m glad he’s continuing to do what he loves.

  • Dominique

    Great great interview!! Taylor LOVES music and he always pleases his fans and after every show continues to gain new fans! I have seen him three times now..seeing him 3 times in May! U cant just attend one show its not enough! Nice writeup!

  • Laurie

    I’ve always said; if you haven’t experienced Taylor Hicks live, you have no room to criticize. The man is one of the best live musicians around. Great article.

  • L.

    Always appreciate your write-ups on Taylor. Thanks for another great interview.

  • Runaround

    It is always nice when someone really “gets” Taylor. He is “killer” live – and he has a knack for making you see if/when you can go to the next show. Love his music!!

  • http://danthegardener.com/ Dan The Gardener

    Saw him in concert and he was great.This was a really good interview, thanks