Before he became nationally known, Taylor Hicks spent years in relative obscurity, sharing his music at any venue where he could get a booking.
“I would play everything from small venues to clubs to honky-tonks, to roadhouses to juke joints — you name it, I was playing it,” Hicks said.
Over the years, he played concerts and club dates with widely known musicians, but he didn’t get his big break until he won Season 5 of American Idol.
Hicks said he hadn’t really been planning to audition for the popular television show, now celebrating its farewell season.
He had gone to a wedding and was stranded by Hurricane Katrina, and he wound up getting a free ticket to fly anywhere in the country, he explained.
“So, I flew to Vegas on a whim,” he said. That just happened to be where American Idol was holding auditions, so Hicks decided to get in line.
That was the beginning of Hicks’ rise to national fame.
He went on to become America’s favorite.
“The season that I was on (American Idol) was their biggest season. With all of that attention, it was pretty amazing,” Hicks said.
After winning the title, doors opened for him, and he remains grateful.
“The Idol platform has set me up to be able to do a lot of different things,” he said.
Less than three weeks after winning Idol, his debut single, “Do I Make You Proud,” entered at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100, Pop 100, and Single Sales Charts.
He penned “Heart Full of Soul,” an autobiography published by Random House, and starred in the role of Teen Angel in the Broadway musical “Grease.”
Now, he also has a hand in barbecue, as co-owner of a barbecue restaurant in Birmingham.
“I keep busy,” Hicks said.
He also continues to tour, with upcoming concerts planned in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Missouri.
His Florida appearance will be at the Land O’ Lakes Spring Music Festival on March 11.
He’s looking forward to the concert, noting he enjoys a nice following from his Florida fans, who tend to travel.
“I love performing,” Hicks said. “I think that’s something I’ll always do. Entertaining and making people feel music, that’s something that I just really love doing.”
Hicks is the featured performer in a new event the Central Pasco Chamber of Commerce is launching, aimed at giving people an annual music festival they can enjoy, while area businesses showcase their goods and services.
The festival is a new take on the chamber’s annual business expo that has been held for two decades at the Land O’ Lakes Recreation Complex.
This festival runs for two days, March 11 and March 12, with Hicks performing on the opening night, following Solar Exposure, the opening act. The second day of the festival features a business expo and other musical acts.
Tickets for Hicks’ concert are still available, said David Gainer, co-chairman of the event. They cost $40 for reserved seating, and $25 for lawn seating.
Food and beverage will be available for purchase, and no coolers will be allowed.
Gainer also noted that all of the slots for the business vendors for the expo on March 12 have been sold.
Hicks said he is looking forward to the Land O’ Lakes event, and he hopes he’ll see some of his loyal fans.
He said his interest in music dates back to his teenage years, when he taught himself how to play the harmonica.
At 16, he taught himself acoustic guitar and then moved on to piano later on, and then began writing songs, he said.
“I think it was a natural progression,” Hicks said.
His early experience helped prepare him for life after winning American Idol, he said.
“I think a lot of the touring as a kid kind of help me set my own experience up,” he said.
“When it happened, the transition from obscurity to notoriety was kind of an easy transition because, I’d been doing it (touring) a lot, since I was a kid,” he said.
“Experience always helps,” he added.
“I think you just kind of get in a groove with notoriety. You start understanding your place in society as a public figure. And then, you just have to reinvent yourself and stay out there, and work as much as you can,” he said.
As American Idol concludes its television run this year, Hicks said the show is exiting on a high note.
“I think it’s bittersweet, but I think the way that Idol is ending its run is a pretty classy way to do it,” Hicks said. “I think 15 years of television is quite respectable.”
Spring Music Festival & Expo
Where: Fraternal Order of Police Pasco Lodge 29 property, 21735 YMCA Camp Road, in Land O’ Lakes.
When: March 11, gates open at 6 p.m.: Taylor Hicks is the featured act, following a performance by Solar Exposure. There will be food trucks, beer and wine. Reserved seating, $40; open lawn seating, $25.
And, on March 12 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.: Business expo featuring more than 100 local businesses, numerous musical acts and fun family activities. Admission to the expo is free.
For concert tickets or more information, call (813) 909-2722, or visit CentralPascoChamber.com.
Published March 2, 2016