Nashville, TN—Taylor Hicks, American Idol season five winner will be performing in Nashville this weekend for a series of shows at City Winery, November 16 – 20.
From the start, Hicks’ material on the mega-hit show set him apart, with a unique take on Southern soul, R&B, country and blues. 64 million votes were cast when Hicks won. Over 37 million Americans- 200 million viewers worldwide, tuned in to crown Hicks the Season 5 winner of AMERICAN IDOL, making it one of the most-watched TV events of the last decade.Hicks launched his career as one of the most popular AMERICAN IDOL winners of all time, going on to prove himself a multi-faceted powerhouse, dominating in music, on Broadway, Las Vegas, an author, entrepreneur and actor. Taylor’s love for good down home food was turned into a successful restaurant when he opened Saw’s BBQ and Juke Joint, a BBQ restaurant and live music venue, in his hometown of Birmingham, AL. Saw has earned praise from top praise in ‘Best of BBQ’ lists from NY Times Magazine, Men’s Journal, GQ and more.
But it’s the music that Taylor’s known for. He’s currently in the latter part of a tour that will soon end for a holiday break before resuming. Hicks had music on his mind from childhood. As a young adult, he was a fixture in the Southeast music scene, performing with stars like James Brown, Tom Petty, Jackson Browne, Robert Randolph, Keb’ Mo’ and Widespread Panic. While in Nashville this week he’s in the studio working on his next album, which should be out sometime early next year. Taylor took a few minutes of break from the studio to chat with The Tribune about food, music, his new television show and Alabama football.
TRIBUNE: Recording a new album in Nashville…should be out by the spring of 2017. Are you collaborating, duets with anybody?
HICKS: “There’s the collaboration process going on. I wished I could tell you who they are right now but I can’t. The music style for this album is kind of like if Jackson Browne and Zac Brown had a baby—that would be me and the music style of this project. We all come from a very ‘rootsy’ place in music—the blues, the country, the soul sounds.”
TRIBUNE: So I guess it’s a Browne plus Brown equals Hicks kinda sound?
HICKS: (LoL) “Yes, that’s a great way of putting it!”
TRIBUNE: What is it like to attend a Taylor Hicks concert as a fan?
HICKS: “It’s just really great live music. Songs from some of my previous records. Fan favorites from the American Idol show. Some great cover songs. Plenty of special guests stopping by. I’ve been doing music all of my life, so doing live music is a part of the business that I feel like I can excel in doing.”
TRIBUNE: So tell me about your new television show (State Plate) that you’re hosting on the Inspiration Network?
HICKS: “It’s a wonderful food and travel show concept. It’s call State Plate. There’s really nothing like it on TV. I love it because we go into a specific state and fill up a plate of food that’s indigenous to that state only. It’s quite educational for me to host this show… I’ve learned so much about the agriculture of this country and what makes up the great cuisine of America. The show doesn’t just go to the restaurants. We also visit the farms of where these iconic foods come from…We’ve been to several cities and sampled many great dishes. But one of my favorites so far, has been the crawfish etoufee at this restaurant in New Orleans call Mother’s. It’s just unbelievably delicious!”
TRIBUNE: So have you gained any weight from hosting this show?
HICKS: (LoL)“ Yeah, I must admit that it’s not been easy to keep the weight off. But when you’re hosting these food TV shows you really have to dig in, indulge and experience the food. You can’t be a picky eater.”
TRIBUNE: You seem to now be one of the “go-to guys” when it comes to food. Your restaurant in Birmingham (Saw’sBBQ) has racked up several top awards for your BBQ.
HICKS: “Well being from Bama’ it’s almost second nature to be able to cook pork. People in Alabama will quickly let you know if you can do three things, and that’s – throw a football, cook and sing. ..Food is love. It reminds me of good music. I’m very blessed to have Saw’s BBQ. It’s good food and great people.”
TRIBUNE: Before American Idol fame, were you that uncle in the family who was a BBQ-meister?
HICKS: “Well yeah, that was kind of me. Usually the struggling musician in the family has to cook. So that kinda goes hand in hand, if you’re not the ultimate bread winner, you get grill duties.”
TRIBUNE: Any personal favorite entrees at Saw’s?
HICKS: “We have a ‘Sweet Tea Fried Chicken Sandwich’ that’s awesome. And we have another one called ‘Pork N’Greens.’ It’s stone ground grits, turnip greens, pulled pork, topped with red and white BBQ sauce and onion rings. That’s kinda one of our signature dishes.”
TRIBUNE: I’m looking for my car keys now. On my way to Birmingham for a sample!
HICKS: (laughs) “It’s a doozy of a dish.”
TRIBUNE: Since you are a native of Alabama, I must ask, who’s your pick to win the 2016 Iron Bowl game between Alabama and Auburn?
HICKS: “I would like to say that if Auburn had beaten Georgia last weekend, it would be a toss up. But I’m going with Alabama to win…I truly don’t think there’s a better pageantry in college football than the Alabama vs Auburn game. Alabama is a rather quiet, kind of prideful southern state but when it comes to college football, don’t mess with us!”