When 2003 "American Idol" winner Ruben Studdard returns to the show this week (March 26), he will perform his new song, "Together." The Stargate-produced track is also the lead single from Studdard's fourth album, "Love Is." The set will be released May 19 through Hickory Records/19 Recordings Ltd. and distributed through RED.
Featuring additional production by veteran hitmakers Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis -- and writing by the "Velvet Teddy Bear" himself -- the album repairs what Studdard calls a "big disconnect" with his fans.
"All of my fans aren't solely in the urban AC arena," Studdard tells Billboard.com. "People can be quick to put you in a box and then market you that way. But the beauty of 'American Idol' is everybody watches and votes for you; it has such broad appeal. And that's what we wanted to do with this album: record an album of songs that people will remember and has broader appeal. Jimmy and Terry have a knack for connecting with an artist and bringing that artist's personality to the record."
Studdard is currently on tour with a revival of the Fats Waller Broadway musical "Ain't Misbehavin'." Co-starring "American Idol" finalist Frenchie Davis, the musical will wrap its run May 17 at the Forum Theatre in Binghamton, New York. Upcoming stops include Boston (April 10-12); Lincoln, Nebraska (April 18) and Milwaukee (April 24-25).
"I can't lie and say it wasn't a difficult transition," says Studdard of his shift from the concert stage to the theatrical stage. "It's full throttle with eight shows a week. But it's fun and a blessing; I've grown accustomed to it."
Since winning the "American Idol" crown, the Grammy-nominated singer has weathered the bad (financial and health issues) and the good (he married last year). Studdard says the hardest part of his journey was the realization that "everybody you think has your best interests at heart don't. And that's a hard pill to swallow. But it's taught me some valuable lessons. I have a new lease on life."
Studdard released three albums during his tenure with J Records: 2003's "Soulful," 2004's "I Need an Angel" and 2006's "The Return." According to Nielsen SoundScan, the albums have sold 1.8 million, 483,000 and 238,000 units, respectively.