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'American Idol' Taylor Hicks Releases Major Label Debut

Blues-rock singer Taylor Hicks worked hard with little recognition for more than a decade before coming to national attention on U.S. television's popular talent series, "American Idol." Taylor won the 2006 competition and its top prize of a recording deal with Arista Records. VOA's Mary Morningstar has more on Taylor Hicks and his new self-titled album.

Taylor Hicks' debut single, "Do I Make You Proud," sold more than 500,000 copies and entered Billboard's Hot 100 chart at Number One. This accomplishment was not surprising, given the huge number of fans Taylor attracted during his reign on last season's American Idol. His fans, which include U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and President Bush, became known as the "Soul Patrol." During the American Idol competition, Taylor received more than 63 million votes. He explains the connection he feels with his many fans.

"They're the reason why you're here, and the reason why I'm here, and the reason why I was given this amazing opportunity," he said. "It's all about the people. The music that you perform as a musician is about the people, and obviously the people on the show voting for me. You have to connect with them and you have to be thankful for what they do for you."

"Soul Thing" is one of two songs Taylor wrote long before his American Idol days. His major label debut also includes a remake of Marvin Gaye's "Wherever I Lay My Hat," Rob Thomas's "Dream Myself Awake," and "The Right Place," which Bryan Adams co-wrote for Ray Charles shortly before his death. Taylor recorded the album in only seven weeks, putting in 18-hour days with producer Matt Serletic.

When asked about the diversity of his music, Taylor says:

"It's what I like to call 'modern whomp' music, which is a combination of Cajun, jazz, funk, soul and blues. It's been a long time coming for me to be on a major label, and I've had so much help getting this album out. If you like funky soul music, that's me."

Vibe magazine calls Taylor "the embodiment of the last 50 years of popular music." His love for soul and blues music evolved while growing up in Birmingham, Alabama. At the age of 14, Taylor was playing harmonica in local blues clubs.

Now 30, he's working on a book about the trials and tribulations he experienced before finding fame on American Idol. Rolling Stone magazine writer David Wild will ghostwrite his story.

Taylor's other plans for the near future include an appearance at this year's Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Then, in late-February, he'll kick off a North American concert tour.

Taylor Hicks' first single from his self-titled debut album will be "Just To Feel That Way."