Hicks Anxious To Hit The Road In February

Reigning "American Idol" Taylor Hicks sang in front of millions each week on the TV show. But when he hits the road in February to support his self-titled debut album, the Alabama singer and songwrite

Reigning "American Idol" Taylor Hicks sang in front of millions each week on the TV show. But when he hits the road in February to support his self-titled debut album, the Alabama singer and songwriter says he'll settle for just a few thousand each night.

"I'm gonna travel across the nation," Hicks tells Billboard.com, "and I'm gonna play small, intimate venues and theaters where I feel like my art can evolve and be more close to the people."

Following up his chart-topping debut single, "Do I Make You Proud," the R&B/pop-leaning "Taylor Hicks" was produced by Matt Serletic and features songs by Thomas, Diane Warren and Paul Pena, as well as a cover of Marvin Gaye's "Wherever I Lay My Hat (That's My Home)." A pair of Hicks-written songs from his independent releases were re-recorded for the album, and the Bryan Adams-Jim Vallance track "The Right Place" was written for Ray Charles, who died before he could record it.

"I wanted to record that song in Ray Charles' studio," Hicks says, "but time was of the essence, so I really couldn't. But it worked out, and it was done with Ray in mind, for sure."

Hicks acknowledges that he took "a stubborn kind of approach" during the recording and that there were "possibly" some arguments while making the album -- mostly over differences between his creative vision and the "Idol" formula. But he says Serletic proved to be the right fit to produce it.

"He understood me as an artist," Hicks says. "I think it was a great give-and-take on both ends, from producer to artist. And I think we really did a good job of bridging the gap between old and modern soul music."

Now, Hicks says, he's anxious to get on with his post-"Idol" career, though he discounts recent reports that he wants to distance himself from the show. "You have to understand where 'Idol' took you," he says. If it wasn't for that show, then you wouldn't be able to be in this particular place. I'll be forever grateful for the 'Idol' show."