Taylor Hicks, the Season 5 winner of “American Idol,” realizes that it’s been a long time between singles. Seven years, in fact. But the wait is over for the popular “Idol” alum with the release of his new single, “Six Strings and Diamond Rings.” The song also marks Hicks’ maiden leap into the country genre after several years on the pop scene.
“I think I was patient about waiting for the right song to come along,” says Hicks, when asked about the seven-year gap. “And obviously, I was waiting for the right time to release it. I felt that this was a good time to do that.”
His early sound combined elements of soul and R&B, and he dazzled the “Idol” judges during his 2006 stint with covers of classic hits like “Takin’ It to the Streets,” “Jailhouse Rock,” and “Try a Little Tenderness.” His hottest singles, including “Do I Make You Proud?” and “Heaven Knows,” which sampled Ray Charles’ “What’d I Say” and Marvin Gaye’s “Ain’t That Peculiar,” all landed in pop territory.
Hicks hasn’t abandoned his trademark soulful sound, just transitioning it to a different genre. He feels that “Six Strings and Diamond Rings” is the perfect vehicle for country success. “My goal was to find a great song that creates a great picture,” he says. “This song really tells a good story. Emotionally, it strikes a chord and rings true to life. It takes a long time to find songs with those storylines that can play out and be able to touch people in their own lives.” Hicks adds that the production strikes the right sonic balance “I wanted it to sound a little old school and a little modern at the same time,” he explains. “I think we accomplished that.”
The single is part of a more expansive album project, which Hicks hopes to release in the early part of 2018. “It’s getting there. I still have some work to do,” he says, smiling. “I’m still in the process of looking for a few more songs. But most of the record is done.” What he has “in the can” so far comes from his own creative mind. “I have written a lot on this record,” Hicks says. “What’s great about this project is that it is a true representation of who I am as an artist.”
Hicks has called Nashville home for the past 10 years and has made enough of the Music Row rounds to establish the right songwriter contacts. For the upcoming album, he’s collaborated with some of the Row’s finest, while also writing solo. “Luckily, I have been able to corral some of the really top writers here,” he laughs. “I always pick up things from them.” Above all, he’s learned the basic No. 1 rule that all aspiring writers in Nashville eventually grasp: don’t come to a writing session with an empty slate.
“The most disrespectful thing you can do is not have a song idea,” he says with a notable respectful air. “It can be a bad idea, but that’s all right. I was shown that by writers in this town. You don’t necessarily have to have a title or the complete outline of the song. But come in at least with an idea.”
As Hicks puts the final touches on the album, he stays engaged with fans as host of the popular INSP food-centric TV series, “State Plate.” The show follows Hicks as he treks across the U.S. seeking out iconic, unique, and savory cuisine from every state. “It’s always fun traveling the country,” says the Alabama native, “but this is a pretty interesting way to do it. I mean, I never thought I’d milk a cow in Wisconsin, or anywhere for that matter. It’s a very educational show and very family-friendly.” You can treat your taste buds to “State Plate” Fridays at 8 p.m. [ET] on INSP.
Hicks hasn’t exactly been idle since his “Idol” win, even with the lengthy hiatus between albums. In between recording and the TV series, he still manages to work in road dates and concerts. A full plate, for certain, but that’s what he prefers.
“This is what I always thought I ought to be doing,” he says with conviction. “When you have a calling, it’s not work, it’s your duty. Now, there have been some instances where the calling has been tested. But I find that just when you start questioning the calling, something’s always happened where there has been this opportunity that kept the train rolling down the tracks. It’s not been easy, but you work as hard as you can.”