It's been quite a year for Taylor Hicks. After mutually splitting with his record company, Arista, in January, the former American Idol champ took his career into his own hands by starting his own label, Modern Whomp Records, and taking a little music breather to get into acting. And no, there was no From Justin to Kelly monstrosity. Hicks made his Broadway debut in Grease as Teen Angel, the one (role) that he wanted and loved so much that he's joining the musical on a nationwide tour. Before the festivities kick off Dec. 2, the man behind the Soul Patrol chatted with TVGuide.com about jump-starting his acting career, his upcoming, as-yet-untitled album and why he loves working overtime.
TVGuide.com: Let's start at the beginning. How'd you land the role of Teen Angel?
Taylor Hicks: I've been offered to do some parts on Broadway before I took it, but I didn't really want to dive into the theater and acting without starting from a really good point. I wanted to get my feet wet in the acting field and the theatrical field and we wanted to find a role where I'd be able to learn about the process for future acting jobs and this is a great start. Being musical, I'm starting to understand the little nuances and stuff about acting because it's very similar to playing music with its rhythm. It's just in an acting sense instead of musical sense. I'm still learning.
TVGuide.com: How nervous were you about not only making your acting debut, but having it be on Broadway?
Hicks: Oh, yes, I was so nervous! Not only was my first acting gig of [my] life on Broadway, but I was suspended 40 feet in the air, so I wasn't actually on the stage! [Laughs] So, I was definitely feeling a little queasy before I actually opened the cone. To say the least, it was a grand entrance.
TVGuide.com: And now you're gonna be suspended across America. Are you nervous about the tour? It's different going on the same stage every night as opposed to traveling across the country.
Hicks: A little bit, but there are a lot of things I'm excited about. Being able to be with the cast, to do Grease on the road and take it to the different places — places I've never been before — I'm very blessed to have that opportunity to do that.
TVGuide.com: You obviously took a break from music to do this. Was that a conscious choice?
Hicks: I knew that I had to reinvent myself. I think reinvention is key. Being an entertainer, you have to cover all your bases, so to speak. That's something that's allowed to write music for the next record. It allowed me to do a lot of things that wasn't the norm for a standard musician or entertainer. I had the time to write, reflect and obviously try a new venture out.
TVGuide.com: And you started your own label —
Hicks: Yeah, I started Modern Whomp Records. I'm aligned with a distribution company, A2M. It's just a learning process. The inner workings of a label — I'm understanding them. Every label has the standard procedure and practices, so I'm just now learning. I'm excited about that process. Hopefully, it'll allow me to sign other acts in the future too.
TVGuide.com: After you left Arista, did you decide right away you would start your own label or were you looking at other homes?
Hicks: I'd been offered traditional record deals and I just felt like it was best for me to be able to start my own label and partner with distribution. Having your own label really allows you to be out there and have total control of your art and how you want to sell it and how it best fits you. You really live and die by the sword, which I think really makes the artist drive a lot more — drive to succeed.
TVGuide.com: What's the update on your new album?
Hicks: It's coming out Feb. 10. I should have a single the first of the new year. I can honestly say that some of the instincts that I had picking songs on Idol, I was able to use picking songs for this album, which has really been a great experience. I've been able to wrap my artistic expression around these songs and I've had some time to live with these songs and be able to visualize what I want for each of them. I'm really excited about the record because I feel like from the style aspect, nowadays you listen to records that sound very similar on each track, but this album, I wanted to take the listener on a musical journey and touch on the stylings that are reflective of who I am as an artist.
TVGuide.com: How different is it from your first one?
Hicks: There's definitely soul. I think it all starts with soul, but this time around, I think the songs are touching on a lot of different styles that reflect me, so that's different in a way. On the last record, it was kind of an R&B influence. This is my journey as a songwriter. But what's really interesting and cool about it is I'm gonna be able to play my single within the Grease show. It's a very unique aspect. It's like I'm gonna be performing as Teen Angel, but then I'll also be performing my single to the record, so everybody who comes and sees me as Teen Angel can also experience me as a musician.
TVGuide.com: Really?! How is it gonna be incorporated?
Hicks: It's gonna be a big surprise! [Laughs] We're still working the details out. What's even cooler than that is I'll be doing an intimate club tour in each market, hopefully, to be able to start working on this record from a live aspect.
TVGuide.com: When will you start that? After the Grease tour?
Hicks: No, actually, that's gonna be during the Grease tour, like after the shows.
TVGuide.com: Aren't you gonna be exhausted?
Hicks: This business isn't for the faint of heart! [Laughs] Yeah, it's a lot of work, but at the same time, it's very fulfilling from a creative aspect. It's like the time is now.