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‘Idol’ Hicks gets role in ‘Grease’ production

By Jon Bream

Friday, January 2, 2009

By Jon Bream

Winning “American Idol” doesn’t guarantee a successful recording career. Taylor Hicks, the 2006 champ, can’t come close to matching the CD sales of either Chris Daughtry or Kellie Pickler, whom TV viewers rejected that season. But the “Idol” title does open doors, and Hicks is proving to be a careerist.

After parting company with J Records, he took a role in “Grease” on Broadway in June. This month, he began a six-month road tour as Teen Angel in ’Grease.’ During the tour, he will play an occasional club to promote his forthcoming album, ’The Distance,’ due in March on his own label, Modern Whomp. He is previewing his new, untitled single during “Grease” as sort of a curtain-call encore.

Q. Why are you performing on only the last two dates of the Minneapolis engagement of “Grease”?

A. I’m gearing up for my new record. I previously booked stuff (some gigs) and the mixing of the record.

Q. How have you Taylor-made the part of Teen Angel?

A. I took the song and made it fit my style more, with the arranging of some horn parts and also adding harmonica. The costume has a Taylor flair to it, to say the least.

Q. What does your famous hair look like in “Grease”?

A. Let’s just say it’s definitely a 1950s look.

Q. Tell me about your new album.

A. I’m really excited about it. There are some really great story songs on the record. I co-wrote most of the material. Doyle Bramhall plays guitar, Nathan East plays bass, Abe Laboriel Jr. plays drums. My producer is Simon Climie; he’s done a lot of Eric Clapton and J.J. Cale records. I wanted somebody who could help me create a timeless record. The album is a great representation of who I am as an artist right now, and that’s all I can ask for.

Q. Do you keep up with our “Idol” homegirl Paris Bennett?

A. I do. I think the world of her. I think she’s a wonderful singer. She has a natural ability to perform and sing. I hope I get to see her when I come there.

Q. Are you happy with your career path since “Idol”?

A. I couldn’t be happier. For me, this is a marathon, not a sprint. The longevity aspect to me is the most important. Doing Broadway theater and looking at movie roles and writing music and putting out CDs — you have to be well-rounded if you want longevity in a career.