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Body and More : Spokane , Washington 12/31/15

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Posted on: December 31, 2015
Southern Comfort: ‘American Idol’ Alum, Taylor Hicks

By Lisa Iannucci
CTW Features

Taylor Hicks is a singer, musician and self-professed foodie. “Being from the south you have to grow up as a foodie,” says the Birmingham, Alabama native. “I’ve also traveled a lot and played in many venues that have made me very intrigued about food.”

Today, he’s a partner in Saw’s Juke Joint in the Birmingham, Alabama area, a restaurant that serves down home southern food, including pulled pork smoked chicken and a Carolina Dog, which is a hot dog doused with chili and slaw. For those new to Southern cooking, Hicks laughs that the draw of the cuisine is its abundant use of butter in the recipes. “But it’s especially in the love and the taste,” he says.

It was almost a decade ago when America was introduced to the then-29-year-old gray-haired soul singer who stood in front of the “American Idol” judges and earned his ticket to the big stage. That season, he went all the way and was crowned the reality show champion. Since then, he has had a certified platinum debut album, worked with some of the biggest names in the business, and appeared on Broadway and in his own one-year Las Vegas residency. Last year, he made Forbes’ Top 10 list of highest-earning “American Idol” contestants. This season, he returns to the “Idol” stage one last time to say goodbye to the show that catapulted his career.

“The show is a great family show and it’s one of a kind,” says the now 39-year-old who, looking back on his post-Idol career, says that he wouldn’t do anything differently. “I feel like I did the best that I could with all of the opportunities and I was blessed to have them,” he said. “There aren’t a lot of people who get to have a break that’s viewed by millions, so you really have to take the bull by the horns when you get it. I hope I did that.”

Hicks’ resume since leaving the Idol stage is extensive. His debut album went certified RIAA Platinum and his career has included stints on Broadway, a national tour with a hit musical, a book and headlining Paris, Las Vegas and other Caesars Entertainment properties all over the United States.

As successful as Hicks has been, his career hasn’t been without its critics who have compared his accomplishments and sales figures to fellow Idol contestant but runner-up Chris Daughtry, but Hicks pays no mind. “When you get an opportunity like the one I had, you measure success by how many lives you’ve touched with your music and not by album sales,” he said. “We’re talking about radio and there are different mediums than just radio in which artists can perform nowadays.”

Although they were both contestants, Hicks never saw the comparison between himself and Daughtry. “We’re two totally different artists, but you have to take those comparisons with a grain of salt,” he said. “My success is about the charity and giving back and touching lives.”

Although the reality show put Hicks on the musical map, he was far from an overnight success. Hicks had been performing since way before his TV audition when he sang, “A Change is Gonna Come.” Soul Patrol fans are excited that Hicks is finally releasing new music this year. “It’s a roots album,” he said. “Musically it’s just my own.”

Speaking of change, Hicks turns 40 next year and reflects on his career since being crowned the winner. “I’ve gotten to perform with and play with some of the greatest musicians,” he said.

He has performed with a variety of artists such as Willie Nelson, Snoop Dogg, Gladys Knight, Earth Wind and Fire and The Allman Brothers, and was the first male “Idol” winner to be featured on a Grammy Award-winning album, Jimmy Fallon’s “Blow Your Pants Off,” which took home the 2013 Grammy for Best Comedy Album.

But what would he tell his younger self now that he has more experience. “Think about really putting a lot more thought into the music, whether it’s a solo on a harmonica or a song,” he said.

When he’s not busy, and he’ll tell you even when he is, he’s a sports nut, often tweeting his opinions about college football and the NFL. ... mA.twitter