Following back-to-back sold-out shows last month at Coos Bay, Oregon’s Mill Casino, an exhausted Taylor Hicks confessed, “I don’t even know where on the map I am right now.” That’s not to say Hicks is indifferent to his Oregon fans – far from it. It simply means that Hicks goes wherever the gigs take him. And for a musician with such a strong work ethic, that translate into a great deal of traveling.
While the rain-soaked Oregon audience may have been yearning for some sunny weather, Hicks was quick to point out how much worse it could be. Having seen his part of the country so mercilessly battered by severe storms, Hicks will be participating in fundraising concerts to help provide relief.
You’ve also been doing a lot for charity, especially fundraising for tornado recovery efforts.
I’m going to be playing Bama Rising [June 14th] with a lot of A-list country acts in Birmingham, my home town. I’m also doing a benefit show on Sunday, June 12th, at Birmingham’s Linn Park with Ruben Studdard. We’re collecting canned goods to replenish the food banks to provide relief for storm survivors.
Speaking of June 14th, you donated some signed items to be auctioned at a Gilda’s Club benefit, Songs for June, in Seattle on that date.
Yes. I just wanted to let people know how important an organization that Gilda’s Club is for people with cancer. I hope everyone gives as much as they can to a great cause.
It’s great that you’re willing and able to do that kind of work. Switching gears, how has your new restaurant in Birmingham, ORE Bar and Grill, been received?
Well, we opened in May and it has been going really well. We’ve had some nice reviews. The Birmingham News gave us a great four-star review, which is really cool.
I know this was awhile ago now, but I have to ask – how did you get involved with the Stephen Colbert rendition of Rebecca Black’s Friday on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon?
I spent some time with Jimmy Fallon at the Bob Hope Classic. We had some beers, had a good time. They [Late Night] sent me a script about a Yeti, a beekeeper, and Stephen Colbert – not to mention a hypercolor Soul Patrol sweatshirt. I couldn’t turn that down! It was done in 24 hours, and I knew it was going to be a viral thing.
It was a great way to do some audience building, for you to stay in the mainstream public consciousness. What else are you doing to reach new potential fans?
Doing things like Jam Cruise.
The footage I’ve seen online from that really show an even more unhinged side of your performance style. How do you approach different gigs, with possibly different core audiences?
All gigs are different than other gigs. When you’re around, say a Jam Cruise, and there are all these musicians on the boat, great musicians, it keeps you competitive. There is a competitive atmosphere that I try to be around because ultimately that pushes you creatively.
Any thoughts on this year’s American Idol winner?
I believe that Scotty McCreery has a great, recordable country voice. I think he can really crank out some hits. When you’re dealing with very young artists, like Scotty and also Lauren Alaina, you have to really put them out there. Put them on a bus and get them accustomed to playing. But I think America got it right. I believe there are a couple other contestants from this year that are going to have really great careers too.
You’re prepping a brand new album. Anything you can share about it at this early stage?
I think it’s going to be very roots-oriented. I’m thinking Brown versus Browne. By that I mean, Zac Brown versus Jackson Browne. Both those artists have great songs, and they’re both very roots-oriented. I come from a very roots-oriented part of the country. You can see that from a lot of the stuff that I’ve done previously; blues, country, a little bit of jazz.
Everybody wants to put you in a genre of music. But if you have time to make a great record, the sky is the limit. You can make a really crappy record, but if you happen to have ten million dollars worth of marketing you can have a hit with it. But for me, I just want to create a great record with a really organic sound.
When do you expect to actually begin laying down tracks?
This business and the way that it goes, as soon as you block out two or three months, like I’ve tried to do with June, July, and August, I get offers to play these great gigs. Gigs like Bama Rising you can’t turn down – first of all, for the cause, and secondly, when you get a chance to play with great artists, you have to take it.
Hopefully what I’m going to do at the end of June, find a place in Nashville, and really batten down the hatches. In July and August, we’ll really go at this record. I have to do a lot of juggling. It’s great in one hand, but it’s tough on the other.
Who are some contemporary artists that you would jump at the chance to work with?
I’d like to work with Amy Winehouse, if I ever had the chance. I think it would be cool to do a song with Phish, from a jam band perspective. Diana Krall would be someone I’d enjoy working with. I’m hoping to work with JJ Grey & Mofro. They are a great soul, contemporary band. I happened to run into Michael Franti, we watched Paul Simon together at the Hangout Music Festival. Trombone Shorty, I met him – well, I actually played with him a long time ago. So there’s a plethora of artists, at this point in time, that I’ve gained relationships with. They could possibly bleed some influences onto my next record.