“Some people grew up in close-knit families. They could identify with the sugar-coated, new-wave music that was popular in the '80s and even now. My home life wasn't very supportive or comfortable - with divorce (among other misfortunes). I had to make life-changing choices at an early age, and the whole time, I was listening to soul music - music where you can actually hear a man's heart break. So it just really made sense to me, even at such a young age.” Taylor Hicks
Singer/songwriter and musician Taylor Hicks had been in the music industry for almost ten years before he became the “American Idol” season 5 winner in 2006, where he beat out runner-up Katharine McPhee. Known as Tay Tay, a nickname given to him by his American Idol finalists group, Hicks started his professional career in his late teens and released two independent albums in 1997 and 2005 named “In Your Time” and “Under the Radar,” respectively. After winning “American Idol,” he launched the eponymous major label debut album in December 2006 under Arista Records, which spawned the Top 20 Adult Contemporary hits “Just to Feel That Way” and “Heaven Know.” “Taylor Hicks” was certified platinum by RIAA on January 17, 2007.
However, Arista Records released Hicks in early 2008 because he had the lowest selling “American Idol” winners’ album. The gray-haired singer has continued to record albums under his own label, Modern Whomp Records. The compilation album “Early Works” hit the stores in August 2008. It will be followed by his new studio album, “The Distance,” in March 2009. The first single, “What's Right is Right,” was released on January 27, 2009.
Hicks, whose fans are known as the Soul Patrol, starred as Teen Angel in “Grease” on Broadway and on a national tour. In July 2007, he released an autobiography titled “Heart Full of Soul: An Inspirational Memoir About Finding Your Voice and Finding Your Way,” which was ghostwritten by Rolling Stone writer David Wild. The book was published by Random House.
Childhood and Family:
Son of Brad Hicks, a dentist, and Pamela Dickinson Hicks, Taylor Reuben Hicks was born on October 7, 1976, in Birmingham, Alabama. He moved with his family to suburban Hoover when he was eight years old, but his parents divorced shortly thereafter. Taylor went on to live with his dad and his stepmother Linda and later with his two half-siblings, Jeremy and Sean. It was Sean that later persuaded him to try out for “American Idol.”
While attending Hoover High School in Hoover, Alabama, Taylor was interested in both music and sports. He played varsity basketball, soccer and baseball, and used to bring a harmonica to play during class. Taylor bought his first harmonica at age 16 and soon taught himself how to play. He wrote his first song, “In Your Time,” at age 18 and started playing the guitar a year later.
“When I was about 16, I would play high school basketball and then I would put on this big white hat and go into particular restaurants and play harmonica with bands.” Taylor Hicks
After graduating high school in 1995, Taylor attended Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama, where he majored in business, communications and marketing. However, he later quit to pursue a career in music.
What's Right Is Right
Auburn University dropout Taylor Hicks played in a group called Passing Through in college, but later quit to form his own band. After leaving college, in 1997, he recorded “In Your Time,” an independently produced album that included both studio and live tracks. With the hope of gaining more opportunities, he headed to Nashville, Tennessee, three years later and teamed up with Percy Sledge and Billy Earl McClelland to make a three-track demo. Unfortunately for the Alabama native, the demo failed to attract a label and he decided to leave Nashville.
Back in Alabama, Hicks kicked off his professional career. He performed at various parties and venues around the southeastern United States and collaborated with such big names as Snoop Dogg, Jackson Browne, Tom Petty, James Brown, Drive-By Truckers, Keb Mo, and Robert Randolph. In 2004, he played at the Talladega Superspeedway during a NASCAR race weekend.
Hicks released his second independent album in 2005. “Under the Radar,” for which he did all of the music and lyrics. The album consisted of seven tracks, three of which (“The Deal,” “Soul Thing” and “Hell of a Day”) were later re-recorded for his first major label album.
After nearly a decade in the music industry, Hicks tried his luck on America's most popular talent show, “American Idol.” Auditioning in Las Vegas, Nevada, on October 10, 2005, he astonished Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson and was given a Golden Ticket to Hollywood. At the time, Simon Cowell stated that Hicks would never reach the final round, a harsh comment that forced the controversial judge to admit that he was wrong during Hicks' first performance for the voting public.
On May 9, 2006, Hicks sang the Elvis Presley songs “Jailhouse Rock” and “The Ghetto,” a brilliant performance that made the singer one of the Top 3 finalists, along with Katharine McPhee and Elliott Yamin. He continued to charm the public with his renditions of “Dancing in the Dark,” “You Are So Beautiful” and “Try A Little Tenderness” and was named one of the top two finalists, along with McPhee. On May 24, 2006, Hicks become the winner of the fifth season of “American Idol.” With the victory, nearly 30-year-old Hicks became the oldest contestant to win the competition.
Later that same year, Hicks appeared in TV commercials for Ford automobiles Model Year Clearance campaign. He also became the new spokesperson for Head & Shoulders and graced the cover of People magazine, which voted him “Hottest Bachelor of 2006.”
On the music front, Hicks signed a recording contract with 19 Recordings Limited/Arista Records right after his win and hit the road with his fellow Top 10 finalists on the “American Idols LIVE! Tour” from July to September 2006. He also appeared as a guest in concerts by artists like Widespread Panic, Snoop Dogg, and Willie Nelson, and infrequently made special guest appearances in the Little Memphis Blues Orchestra during the group's U.S.A. tour. The Little Memphis Blues Orchestra comprises of ex-members of Taylor Hicks Band, a band founded by Hicks in 2004.
Following the massive success of Hicks' first single, “Do I Make You Proud” (released in May 2006), which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and became his first Gold single, Hicks released a major label debut album, “Taylor Hicks,” on December 12, 2006. Produced by Matt Serletic, the album debuted at No. 2 on Billboard's Hot 200 and rose to the Top 50 on the Canadian album chart. It sold nearly 300,000 copies in the first week of its release and went platinum within one month. Despite the initial triumph, “Taylor Hicks” went on to become the lowest selling debut album by an “Idol” winner with only about 700,000 pieces sold after one year.
The first single from the album, “Just to Feel That Way,” a ballad written by Lindy Robbins, Jess Cates, and Emanuel Kiriakou, was released on February 5, 2007, and rose to the Top 20 on the Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks. The second single, “Heaven Knows,” followed on May 28, 2007. The song fared only slightly better than its predecessor by peaking at No. 19 on the U.S. Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks.
By January 2008, Hicks and Arista Records had parted ways. He also lost his record deal with J Records, a subsidiary of Sony BMG. Undaunted, Hicks kept on working and on August 12, 2008, he launched his first compilation album called “Early Works,” under Modern Whomp Records, his own record label. Also in 2008, he made his Broadway debut playing Teen Angel on a production of “Grease.” He reprised the role on the national tour.
“I love New York. I'm working on Broadway and it's a great way for me to get my feet wet in acting and a great way to season yourself as a performer. I've been able to breathe more as a songwriter, having the time and being able to find the right songs.” Taylor Hicks
Hicks' new studio album, “The Distance,” is set to be released on March 10, 2009, on Modern Whomp Records. The first single, “What's Right Is Right,” hit Adult Contemporary radio stations on January 27, 2009, and was released digitally that same day. The music video was directed by Jake Davis and filmed in Chicago on January 12, 2009.