INTERVIEW: Taylor Hicks sets up his soulful roots at Paris Las Vegas
Taylor Hicks, the winner of American Idol’s fifth season, has always been a traveler. From his early days touring the Southeast, before winning the FOX reality competition, to his most recent years touring the world in support of his recent albums, the musician is a man of the road. Along the way, he’s earned a large pack of fans (dubbed the “Soul Patrol”) and reinvented his career with forays into country music and even a stint in Grease, both on Broadway and a national tour.
Now, Hicks is setting up roots in the entertainment capital of the world. After playing a successful residency at Bally’s Las Vegas, he’s moving up the block to Paris Las Vegas, where he will play throughout 2013 at Napoleon’s Lounge.
“I love it,” the musician said recently during a phone interview. “It’s a bigger venue, and it’s a testament to my live show, and I’m really proud of that.”
The working relationship between Hicks and Caesars, the company behind Bally’s and Paris, began after the musician found success playing casinos in the United States. “There was mutual interest,” he said. “I had always done really great on my casino shows, and … it really is a perfect fit for the Caesar’s demographic and then my demographic. It’s all different types of folks, and not only that. Caesar’s has 200 properties worldwide, so there was also an idea that I would tour Caesar’s properties as well.”
What Hicks finds interesting about his new residency is the makeup of the audience. He was always used to being the troubadour, pulling up into town for another gig, setting up his life one concert at a time. But now he’s the one at home, and the audience is the one on vacation. “Obviously everybody’s having a good time, and they’re definitely not thinking about working,” he said. “It’s just been a nice change of pace for me, after really touring hard for the last seven or eight years, and even further than that.”
Las Vegas also attracts an international crowd, and being that American Idol is internationally known, Hicks has a fan base that extends around the globe. The so-called “Soul Patrol” casts its net far and wide. “I have a lot of people from a lot of different countries come to see my show,” he said.
The singer admitted to being most recognized for winning the reality competition show. “The first impression is Idol, and I think it’s up to me to make as many impressions as I can, and different impressions and reinventions in my career as possible,” he said. “This is a career for me, and I’m looking to work as hard as I can and have a long career in this business.”
Playing nightly at Paris Las Vegas affords the musician a chance to work during the day on his new “soulful country record.”
“Hindsight is 20-20,” said the native of Birmingham, Ala. “Looking back on it, obviously growing up where I have, and being a part of a lot of country music as a child, the roadhouses that I played and the music that I studied were very roots-oriented, and it had a lot of different styles of music in it. … I think this particular soulful country record will be the one that I’m really looking forward to the most.”
Audience members at Paris may even be able to hear a few tracks off the upcoming release. Hicks said his set list includes original music, Vegas show tunes and songs from American Idol. “As many different venues as I’ve played all over the world, the intimate venue right now is perfect for me,” he said. “I couldn’t be happier.”
Settling into Vegas has taken some time for Hicks (he said he’s still living the “hotel life”), but he’s impressed by how the city embraces its performers. “I do love the city of Las Vegas,” he said. “The city really embraces its musicians that take up residency here, and I’m blessed to be a part of the history of it.”
The Las Vegas residency may one day rank near the top of his career highlights. Currently, the top spot is reserved for a jam session he had with Willie Nelson and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band in Red Rocks, Colo. “One of my favorite musical venues, and obviously one of my favorite musical legends that I grew up admiring so much, and that was just one of those moments that just really, it was awesome,” he said.
And for American Idol fans, yes, Hicks is still a huge admirer of the show. “I definitely still watch,” he said. “Idol changed my life for the better, and I’m ultimately interested in the talent that Idol creates. … I keep a close eye on it.”
By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com
Taylor Hicks is currently playing at Napoleon’s Lounge at Paris Las Vegas. Click here for more information.