Sunday, September 19, 2010

Taylor Hicks on Stage in Vermont

Taylor Hicks
Paramount Theatre, Rutland Vermont
September 18th, 2010
Photos by kcortez

sound check

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Taylor Hicks, Musician

I love watching Taylor Hicks perform music live. So when I recently moved to Canada, I sadly assumed those opportunities were behind me. He barely dipped his toe in Canadian waters in the past, only steering the tour bus over the Rainbow Bridge into Niagara Falls, Canada. (Now I'm distracted by an image of him sticking his foot in the rapids over the falls. Not exactly what I meant. ha. Anyhoo-)

Two years ago I got a "Save The Date" card in the mail from my nephew, who was getting married in New York in July 2010. So, of course we planned our yearly trip back home to coincide with the wedding. To my delight, Taylor very thoughtfully scheduled a show during that visit to Long Island.

You've all read the reviews and seen the videos from The Highline Ballroom in NYC on July 25. I doubt there's anything new to say. But today I came across my ticket from the show which I had printed out on letter-sized paper. All along the margins on the front and across the back were scribblings I had made during the show.

I never intended to write a review, take pictures or video. I just wanted to experience the music. But shortly after the show started, I found myself fumbling for a pen. It was too good to forget.

I believe that was the best Taylor Hicks show I've been to. I've seen him display skill, confidence, playfulness and joy in the past but not to this degree.

Maybe all those nights performing in Grease helped kick his stage presence up a notch. Maybe being away from the clubs gave him a new perspective. Maybe he was just damned good and ready to sing his own music again. When the music started up and Brian called out, "Give it up for Taylor Hicks!" he danced out. Yeah, he was ready.

Let's see if we can make some sense out of my scratchings on the back of my ticket:

Jeff Lopez got applause when he came out on stage.

Before Taylor sang "The Deal," he said it was an ode to Stephen Bishop and the movie, "Tootsie." *pause* Taylor added, "I know what you're thinking and that ain't it."

I think he's gonna have to be cut out of his pants.

Taylor: "This looks like a 'Storyteller's' room. You want a story? How much time you got?"

Taylor: "Because of you guys I don't have to work. This isn't work."

Where's his Ray Charles doll? (Do me a favor? Don't bring him another one. Let it go!)

Standing ovation for "Battlefield."

During "Soul Thing" I could swear he couldn't find his harmonica again. ("Play the piano," he quietly told Brian)

Taylor: "I'm breaking out some older songs that I hope you'll like. If not, I may be out of a job shortly. I may have to put that Teen Angel suit on again." *laughter* "Which wasn't such a bad gig, by the way. The other actors would come off stage with their tongues hanging out of their mouths and I'd be sitting there in my robe and slippers." He pantomimes smoking a cigarette. "What's that? You want me to sing a song for five minutes? Sure. I can do that."

Taylor: "Rob Shuter's here. The only journalist that likes me. And I'm not kidding about that." In a deep, gruff voice: "It's not about them. It's about us, right?" (Movie reference? It got laughs but I didn't get it.)

Taylor: "My good friend Mandisa's in the house! Give it up for Mandisa!"

He tried to do a New York accent at one point. "I got some weird looks up here. And I don't think it was because of my accent."

During "Seven Mile Breakdown" Taylor closed his eyes and sang, "Let me get right down to it..." A guy next to me yelled out, "Get down to it!!" Music played as we waited for Taylor to sing the next line. Eyes still closed, he slowly smiled and said, "OK." *laughter*

What a great night. Taylor Hicks has matured as an entertainer. There was a moment during "Hold On To Your Love" when I thought to myself, "this is brilliant." I remembered what it was about his performances that made my toes curl. Taylor Hicks, the musician. Man, I've missed you.

And now, if you're wondering about that Stephen Bishop reference, here ya go:

Sunday, May 23, 2010


Tonight is Taylor Hicks' last performance in his 18 month run as Teen Angel in Grease. He needs to make it memorable. Here are my top five suggestions towards that end. He should:

5. Grab one of the Beauty School Dropout dancers and take her back with him in the cone.

4. Do "Beauty School Dropout" as a rap number complete with expletives.

3. In the middle of his song, break into ‘Dancing Queen.’ (Let's make it a tradition. ha!)

2. Tell Frenchy he really doesn't give a crap what she does.

And now, the number one thing Taylor Hicks should do during his last performance in Grease:

1. The cone opens to reveal that, instead of wearing his trademark Nudie Suit, he's actually nude.

Well, if nothing else, it’ll get him in the papers! What do you think he should do to make his last performance memorable?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

NJKar/Harp/etc Karen

I don't remember 'meeting' Karen online. But I do know our friendship grew within the comment section of righthickssave. We bantered back and forth playfully until somewhere along the way we took it to e-mail. One night via e-mail, I invited her to my chat room. Turns out we had a lot of the same online friends. We may have even shared a few laughs in graycharles' chat room, but neither one of us could ever remember for sure.

I let her know early on that I have no interest in fan gossip or fan wars and she respected that. She never brought any of that up with me. I still don't know why she didn't get along with everyone within the fanbase and please- don't tell me. I don't care. None of it has anything to do with me.

I guess she helped run a fansite? I never went there, either. So right about now you're thinking this is the most lame tribute you've ever read. It sounds as though I barely knew her.

But here's the thing. Here's the reason her absence hurts me so deeply. Our friendship wasn't wrapped up in trading gossip or commenting at length about a Taylor Hicks photo. (Please don't take offense, I'm trying to make a point.)

It was about US. Our lives, our families, our hopes and dreams. She listened to me. She supported me. And when the serious stuff was purged, she made me laugh. We laughed our ASSES off.

I was supposed to meet her face-to-face for the first time last Sunday. But my life intervened and I couldn't go. I told myself there would be plenty of time this summer to get in on one of her frau-fests. And now suddenly, unexpectedly, painfully, time is up. So instead of getting together in Pennsylvania on Sunday, I found myself driving through her state on Monday, on the very day she breathed her last.

I'm forever making lemonade out of lemons, but I gotta tell you, this is a tough one. I'd like to take those lemons and hurl them, one by one, at God. Karen would probably tell me it's OK to be sad, but somehow she'd find a way to take me away from my sorrow even if only for a little while.

She made every day a little brighter and I'll miss her more than she realized.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Taylor Hicks Talks Music

And Tells Us Why He'd Rather Not Break a Leg

Photo Credit: Will Thompson

As Taylor Hicks travels around the country with the touring production of Grease, he gets asked pretty much the same questions on every morning show. We fans could probably fill in for him sometime if he ever feels like sleeping late:

“No, I never in a million years thought I’d be starring on Broadway.”
“Yes, they gave me a lot of freedom in making the role of Teen Angel my own.”

When the CD “The Distance” is discussed, it’s usually a quick sentence or two, sometimes as an intro before Taylor sings a song.

That’s fine. It has to be done. But I wanted to know more about some of the songs on the CD. None of those morning people were asking the questions I had in my head, so I decided I just had to do it myself.

By phone from Charlotte, N.C.:

Caryl: I wanted to ask you some questions about “The Distance.”

Taylor Hicks: OK

C: You worked with some impressive musicians. I was wondering what that was like. Were you intimidated by them?

TH: I think it was more of an honor to work with them than it was intimidating. I think once you start working with somebody musically… I think it’s ultimately for the good of the music, you know? When you get into a situation like that where you have some great musicians you can learn a lot from them, too.

C: Did they make suggestions?

TH: They did, they made suggestions, they did have input. A lot of those players, depending on how seasoned they are can ultimately affect the overall sound of the record.

C: One of my favorite songs is ‘Woman's Got To Have It.” I turn that one up loud when it comes on. Did you and Elliot record your parts separately?

TH: We were in the studio the same night, coz it’s kind of a fun song and I knew that Elliot could sing it really well. And Bobby Womack is one of my favorite solo artists of all time. We just had one of those things, where we just got into the studio and had a good time with the song.

C: You can tell. Maybe that’s why I like it so much. Do you guys have any plans to perform the song together live?

TH: Yeah, we plan on that; once our schedules come together I definitely want to do that.

C: That would be fun. I read that you used the original arrangement for ‘Yes We Can,’ is that true? The Pointer Sisters arrangement-

TH: Actually that song was written by Allen Toussaint, who’s a New Orleans guy. It’s kind of an interesting story behind that. A friend of mine who’s a great writer in Nashville, Gary Nicholson, had an old copy of a version that he did with so many of those famous musicians on it back in the 80’s. Well, we pulled it out of the vault and I was able to throw my vocals on top of it.

C: Wow!

TH: It was really cool, kind of a throw back, but it added my vocals. It was one of those songs that he never released so we brought it out and put my vocals on top of it.

C: Oh, that’s so cool. That’s another one that I have to turn up loud.

TH: That’s good to hear.

C: “Indiscriminate Act of Kindness” doesn’t sound like your style of song, but I love it and a lot of your fans do, too. What attracted you to it?

TH: I think Foy Vance is a writer and a musician that has a great talent that the world should hear. And I think IAOK is one of those songs that grabs at your heartstrings. And once that happens you know that it’s a great song. The producer I was working with, Simon Climie, cut a version of ‘Hallelujah’ by Michael McDonald and he did it in 5/8 timing. The time signature for ‘Hallelujah’ is the same as ‘IAOK’. Very’re able to really convey emotion.

C: I think you executed it well, keeping your voice quiet in parts. I think your voice may be more powerful sometimes when it’s quiet. So, I read that the next CD will be country. Is that true?

TH: It’s a possibility, yes. I think anything’s possible. I just want to make sure that I have great songs on the record.

C: Will it be released next summer?

TH: I think once the Grease tour ends, I’ll hustle back into the studio and create another album for the fans as quickly as possible.

C: You said something about doing the next CD half indie, half major label. I don’t understand how that works.

TH: It depends on the deal. Obviously I’ve been able to sell records on my own. With that being said, that allows you leverage for the next deal. The main thing for the next record is to have success artistically and also to a certain degree commercially.

C: Sure. I also had some questions about the shadow shows. I saw you at Warehouse Live in Houston and ever since you sang "Saint Dominic’s Preview", I’ve been listening to a lot of Van Morrison. The lyrics to that song in particular drive me crazy because I don’t understand what he’s talking about. I did a little research and came across an old Rolling Stone interview and even Van Morrison doesn’t know what they mean. What do you think about that? Do you think there should be some meaning…

TH: I think we all know that Van Morrison is kind of loony.

C: ha!

TH: But I think that can be said for all of the great songwriters of the world. I think you have to be loony to a certain degree to be able to write great songs. But sometimes the music is just so good that you just wanna... when you get going with the song, there just isn’t time to go back and refine it as much as you want to. And I think that might be the case with "St Dominic’s Preview." I do think that it has an underlying protest message, though.

C: Why do you like the song? Does it speak to you in some way?

TH: It’s just one of my favorite Van tunes. The production on it The music is rich.

C: When do find time to rehearse for these shadow shows? You’re so busy.

TH: You just make time.

C: The songs are very polished, that’s why I was wondering. For the Houston show, I wondered if you just rehearsed the day of the show.

TH: Anything can happen with great musicians, you know?

C: You work with some great people, that’s for sure. Brian Less really impressed me at that show.

TH: He’s a good player.

C: Some of your fans were wondering what you think about making Birmingham an annual event because they had such a good time at those shows.

TH: I think I’ll always, I’ll probably play Birmingham each year for the rest of my life. But you have to be smart about how long you go before you play a market. That goes with the entertainment business in general. You don’t want to over-saturate it.

C: Yeah, that’s true. Just for fun, I was wondering if the cast of Grease has any superstitions, because theater actors are notoriously superstitious.

TH: You know...I’ll have to get back to you on that.

C: *laugh* You know what I mean... for instance, it’s considered bad luck to say "good luck,” so people say "break a leg," instead.

TH: I’ve never heard that. If someone says "break a leg" I don’t really want to physically do it. People say that to me all the time and I’m like, Hey!

C: *laugh* So Ace is joining the cast. I assume he’s been rehearsing already.

TH: Yeah, he’s been rehearsing.

C: How’s that been going, having him around?

TH: It’s cool. I enjoy it. I think it's good for the show. The cast in general is great. We just have a good time.

C: This is my last question. I was just wondering what you think about this. Do you think being creative is a gift or a curse?

TH: Both.

C: Yeah?

TH: I think it’s both. It depends on how you use it. I’ll tell you what, it’s definitely mentally draining.

C: Well, being creative has given you a lot of interesting opportunities and experiences.

TH: Yeah. Creativity is uh...kinda like breaking a leg in theater sometimes.

C: *laugh* Thanks for talking with me.

TH: Oh, no problem.

C: Looking forward to the next show.

TH: Thank you, take care.

Well, you guys, I wanted to let you know that this is my last blog post. I'm not taking the blog down but I won't be doing any more updates. I need to focus that energy on more productive pursuits. Overall, it's been a positive experience for me and I've made some dear friends. Keep in touch. Be kind to one another.

From Hallelujah, oddly fitting for my departure:

I did my best, it wasn't much
I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you
And even though
It all went wrong
I'll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

I Can't Stop!

You guys! I can't stop designing Taylor Hicks T-shirts! I'm not selling anything here, I want to be clear about that. But I keep getting ideas for more feminine shirts. Check it out:

One shirt for those fangirls out there:

Haha! (Sorry, I couldn't resist!)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Taylor Hicks T-Shirts

Taylor Hicks merchandise has been for sale on the Grease tour at the theater and at the clubs where we're all getting intimate with him. I realize the new T-shirts were produced quickly. Under the circumstances, they're fine. The problem is I don't want to wear any of them:

When you're a grown woman who dresses like she's twelve, it's hard to feel cute in a big ole T-shirt. I need a shirt that shows off my boyish figure. Something that screams, "That's right, I'm old enough to be your Mom, but I'm in denial!" Something fitted, feminine and far too young for me. (Don't judge me!)

Joking aside, wouldn't you like to see something at the old merch table that makes you look like a woman? T-shirts that people actually wear are free advertising, let's not forget. Here are some quicky suggestions I whipped up:

More ideas here.