Taylor Hicks, <EM>American Idol</EM> Taylor Hicks, American Idol

It may have taken a full hour for Taylor Hicks to make his way from the Kodak Theatre stage where he had been christened the new American Idol to the press room, but the soulful singer made it worth the wait. Surrounded by network handlers, his very arrival led the press area to double in population, as reporters came from out of the woodwork (or at least their auditorium seats) to pepper the champ with questions.

And to think that kind words from none other than Simon Cowell, who had forecasted Taylor's victory just days prior, almost torpedoed the gray wonder's bid for Idol-dom. As Taylor told TVGuide.com backstage, "Yes, when he said that, I was thinking I might get jinxed. But luckily, it didn't happen, and I'm very grateful for that."

Taylor is also thankful that he didn't downright faint on stage upon hearing Ryan Seacrest pronounce him the winner. "I was telling myself, 'Don't fall to the floor. Don't let your knees buckle,'" he shares, "This is the American dream and it's come true for me. I want to thank all the people who voted for me."

Taylor hopes to show his "Soul Patrol" his appreciation by coming forth with an album, "one with soul," he promises. "It's got to have feeling." The timetable? "As quickly as I can," he avows. "I'm probably going to take a few days off to clear my head, and then I'll start working on it."

In response to questions from the throngs of reporters, Taylor also had this to say about...

... fellow finalist Katharine McPhee:
"She congratulated me and I congratulated her [after the show]. She's such a beautiful young lady, and a wonderful entertainer. She's going to have a bright future in any endeavor she chooses."

... gray matters:
"I had no idea that America would embrace gray hair as much as they have. [The message that sends is] 'Do what you want to do, be happy and be proud.'"

... deeming a purple jacket required:
"I saw that jacket [I wore for Tuesday's performances] about eight weeks ago in a store, and I thought to myself, 'If I'm in the top two, I'm buying that jacket!' And it happened. I got the purple jacket and let Simon critique it."

... his sweet home, Alabama:
"I'll be traveling back home as soon as I can. All the people in Birmingham are awesome, and the state is awesome. The stars do fall on Alabama."

... showing his love for the fans who made him the American Idol he is today:
"I shake hands, sign autographs, kiss babies, smile and say, 'Soul Patrol!'"

Additional reporting by Michael Maloney