Reigning American Idol winner Taylor Hicks is high on life these days. The champ sat down with EW last week and talked about working with John Mayer, keeping the Soul Patrol happy, his new album, and his aspirations of becoming a legend -- all, of course, in the span of half a year. The full transcript of the modern-day Soul Man's interview appears below.
EW: So you're on the American Idol tour right now, but what's going on with your new album?
TAYLOR HICKS: I'm collecting and writing music. I'm starting to put ideas together for the record to have a similar thread, and I'm using one producer as opposed to 50. It's going to be soulful, very old-school-R&B-flavored, but it's also going to have a new-wave edge to it. I'm trying to fuse both of those sounds.
EW: New-wave sounds, eh?
TAYLOR HICKS: I'm gonna leave that up to Matt Serleti [the producer]. He was able to incorporate that with [Carlos Santana's] "Smooth" [with] his effects and stuff like that. We just really have to get into the laboratory and make it work.
EW: And are you writing some of the songs?
TAYLOR HICKS: I've got a song that I'm writing that's going to go on the album, and I'm working with a couple of people. You can write with the greatest songwriter in the world, but the formula for writing a hit is different no matter who you're writing it with.
EW: It's all about chemistry, right?
TAYLOR HICKS: Exactly â€” the chemistry of the song. I could write with famous people until I'm blue in the face 'cause of their track records with hits, but it doesn't lend itself to being a hit.
TAYLOR HICKS: [It's about] having the mentality to write something catchy and simple and understandable and not too intricate. It helps on the screening process for the songs that are being pitched to me by anybody and everybody right now.
EW: Who's been pitching you songs? Anybody noteworthy?
TAYLOR HICKS: [Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter] Michael McDonald sent me some music. John Mayer. I have co-written a song with him.
EW: I heard â€” that's exciting! How's that going?
TAYLOR HICKS: We're just in the early stages. I've got the lyrics and he's got the music. I'm really trying to make that come together. I'm hoping I can write with [famed blues writer] Delbert McClinton soon, because I believe Delbert's phrasing in music [is] wonderful and uncommon in popular music.
EW: Is your sound going to be a huge departure from what you did on Idol?
TAYLOR HICKS: Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.
EW: Okay, I get it.
TAYLOR HICKS: I mean, yeah. I'm not so much selling television anymore as I'm selling my true art form. Hopefully I can put good songs on the record and make it my own.
EW: But on Idol you were pretty soulful. You're not giving that up, are you?
TAYLOR HICKS: I'm never gonna stop being soulful. Luckily for me, having 10 years of having to find my own musical direction means the record is going to have a similar thread. And I think that's really important for me right now, to have that tunnel vision.
EW: Tunnel vision?
TAYLOR HICKS: Yeah. Just having some common ground. I'm not gonna do a country song and then do something that sounds like Perry Como. Every direction that I've gone in with each album is kind of a similar soulful, earthy, organic, kind of hip sound. And I'm just gonna carry that off into hopefully the next couple of records. And then who knows â€” then I'll do the ''Chris Gaines'' album. [Laughs] Just kidding.
EW: Oh, goodness. Don't do that. What kind of artists do you admire, or think you share qualities with?
TAYLOR HICKS: Stage qualities are Van Morrison, Bob Seger, a little bit of Bruce Springsteen â€” those great performers who've worked in clubs and made their way up. James Brown, and obviously a little bit of Elvis. I've completely submerged myself in legendary music from legendary performers â€” that's what my schooling is and that's what I aspire to be.
EW: You're aspiring to be a legend?
TAYLOR HICKS: Yeah, we all are to a certain degree.
EW: Will the Soul Patrol be on board for the new album?
TAYLOR HICKS: Yeah, they're on the soul train. My hope is that the Soul Patrol will be as large and as fun and as vibrant and as cool as [Jimmy Buffett's] Parrotheads.
EW: Will you be doing many covers on the album? Or is it all new material?
TAYLOR HICKS: There's some great, great, great secrets that I can't release.
EW: Just give me a hint!
TAYLOR HICKS: There's a certain room that I'm going to be recording in that nobody's recorded in in quite some time.
EW: That's all you're going to tell me? Come on! But anyway... We've been chewing the fat about the album for a long time. When are we going to see something?!
TAYLOR HICKS: I definitely want to have it out toward Christmas. Even then, the quality of the album and the work has to be really good before I release it.
EW: As for song themes, what do they touch on?
TAYLOR HICKS: I'm hoping that the backbone is a positive, upbeat, boogie-woogie kind of feel.
EW: No, I'm asking what they'll be about â€” the themes, ideas, lyrics.
TAYLOR HICKS: Just everyday life, because I'm an everyday kind of dude.
EW: Right. But what the heck does that mean?
TAYLOR HICKS: Real. Some of this stuff that's been written people can relate to every day, and that's what I'm about. I don't want to touch Hollywood. I want to touch America.