Taylor Hicks: Talks Music, Food, & Travel

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“A very cool, intimate, stripped down acoustic set of music.” Taylor Hicks is bringing what he calls an “Idol up close” type of show to the Oxford Performing Arts Center on August 26.

Tickets are available starting at $19. Doors open at 6:45 pm for the 7:30 show.

“People have seen me on the tv show and they see me in different scenarios, but rarely do they see me just sit down with a guitar, and my guitarist, and really just kind of storytell,” explains Hicks.

The 2006 American Idol winner says he loves playing shows in his home state, “I’m really proud to be from the state of Alabama… I try to wave the Alabama flag everywhere I go.” Hicks says he would perform in every nook and cranny of the state if he could. “Being able to play Oxford, it’s just the perfect time of year and it’s going to be a really fun show for me.”

Hicks has a signature presence on stage, singing with his entire body and his voice erupting from way down deep. His thoughts on live music explain a lot about what we see as concert-goers. “I think it’s just a reciprocation of energy,” he explains. “It’s supposed to be about transferring energy to the audience, and the audience to the stage, and the stage back to the audience. I love that.”

Hicks believes that even sound and lighting technology influence the way people experience live music. He says, “Technology has created our sensories to be heightened like never before… and I really do think it creates an energy feel that you have to reciprocate if you’re on stage.”

One of the most influential voices in Hicks’ life was the “Father of Soul” himself, Ray Charles. “I got lucky and discovered Ray at an early age,” says Hicks. “Ray Charles is, in my opinion, the greatest emoter of song that’s ever lived. You could actually hear his pain in his voice, and I studied that.”

Hicks went through a type of apprenticeship of Charles, who he says is the “root of his musical tree” and a vocal mentor for him. Once Hicks discovered instruments, he added branches of Bob Seger and Van Morrison to his tree.

At 11 or 12 years old, Hicks picked up the harmonica. As an only child, he says he didn’t have anyone to play music with so he taught himself with a little help from airplanes.

“How I learned to play harmonica is non-conventional,” Hicks explains. “I lived by the Shelby County airport, and there would be planes that would take off, and each plane engine would be in a different key. So, I would actually find different keys to play in by the airplanes that would fly overhead.”

It wasn’t only airplanes that Hicks used to learn as he experimented with music. “Everything was in a key. Your car engine is in a key, your air conditioner is in a key.  All of these different sounds have a particular key that they’re in, a tone… It was kind of a real weird way to learn,” he admits.

When Hicks started playing guitar other people around him started playing music as well, and that’s when things really started rolling. “It kind of took off and it kind of helped me to start, you know, actually playing with instruments,” he says.

Although Hicks is most widely known for winning American Idol Season 5, that accomplishment is unable to cover the spectrum of his talents on and off the stage.

Hicks is described as a multi-faceted powerhouse. He starred as Teen Angel in the hit Broadway musical, Grease, and toured with the show for an 18-month national run. In 2012, Hicks began a residency at Bally’s Las Vegas and later moved to a larger venue at Paris Las Vegas, making him the first idol winner in history to secure a long-term residency in Vegas.

Hicks also guest-starred on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and he has performed with artists from Snoop Dogg to Willie Nelson to The Allman Brothers to Umphrey’s McGee. In addition, Hicks opened the restaurant Saw’s BBQ and Juke Joint in Birmingham, a BBQ restaurant and live music venue, which has earned accolades in ‘Best of BBQ’ lists from “NY Times Magazine”, “Men’s Journal”, “GQ”, and more.

Hicks is now the host of the food and travel show State Plate on INSP, and will be showcasing Alabama during season which premieres August 11. “I love talking about food, and to be able to go around to each state and put an iconic plate of food together is just a really, really cool experience for me,” he says. The show features foods most associated with each state, a perfect fit for Hicks who believes that, “If you live in the south you’re a bonafide foodie already.”

Between touring and filming for State Plate, Hicks is constantly on-the-go. Since January 1, 2017 Hicks has flown 74,291 miles. That’s nearly three trips around the world. “Thats a lot,” he says. “But I enjoy crawling up in a plane. I don’t talk on the phone. I get to listen to music. I get to email who I want to. I get to have a couple of beers. I find that [it’s] almost like an office space for me.”

Of course, Hicks uses the time he spends in the air to listen to music, and lately he’s had the opportunity to listen to a lot of his own music as he’s getting ready to release a new record.  

When it’s not sounds for Soul Patrol in his earbuds, Hicks listens to a wide variety of other music. Bassnectar; Theo Katzman, of Vulfpeck; and First Aid Kit can all be found on Hicks’ playlist.

At his upcoming show at the OPAC in Oxford, Hicks will bring a variety of new songs, old songs, and cover songs. He says, “The jokes will be funny too.” It’s a show you don’t want to miss.

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  1. This is the way I want to work with clients. No surprises, no squirreling away to design land, and actionable feedback. Working with them to execute awesome. Fantastic article, George.

    1. Thanks, Vlad! It took a while to come to these conclusions, but it definitely feels right now that we’re in it. Glad you agree!

  2. Enlightening post. One of the realities we’re finding with so many different desktop display settings out there is that some of what we used to be able to address with static comps is being further fleshed out in development we’ve handed the site over to the client for QA.

    On responsive, that’s been the expectation we set from the get go – show some wireframes, do a design comp, know that there will be at least a couple revision rounds once the template is built. I love the idea of doing a lo-fi static mock up. That would make the process clearer for the client and smoother for us all.

  3. I have found that simplifying terminology and dumbing things down for clients whilst judging their level of awareness works then educating them in the explaining each aspect in the correct terminology afterwards works well and helps it stick.

  4. I have found that simplifying terminology and dumbing things down for clients whilst judging their level of awareness works then educating them in the explaining each aspect in the correct terminology afterwards works well and helps it stick.

    1. That’s pretty neat, Laurentiu! In my experience, though, nothing beats a real device in their hands. If nothing else, every client should have a smart phone in their pocket. Just make sure you’ve spent time with device testing before you go that route! 🙂

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