Fans will get a chance to hear "the organic Bo Bice " when the 2005 "American Idol" runner-up releases his next album, "3," on May 18.
Bice tells Billboard.com that the new set is "somewhere right in the middle" of the polished pop sound of his post-"Idol" debut, "The Real Thing," and the Southern rock flavor of 2007's "See the Light." "It's got more of a country/Americana vibe to the music, which is right down my alley, man," Bice explains. "It's the kind of music I love -- a Jim Croce , James Taylor , John Prine  kind of thing. I'm not trying to be anything on the album; it's just a different side of what I actually do and have been doing for years."
Bice says he went into the project last April planning to make an EP, but when the Saguaro Road label (Patty Loveless, Lonestar, Blind Boys of Alabama) came on board, he was encouraged to do a full-length album. "So I started writing," Bice says, teaming with collaborators such as Greg Barnhill, Buffy Lawson, Daryl Burgess and Todd Cerney among others. He wound up with more than 20 songs, from which he chose the 10 for "Different Shades of Blue," which he recorded with co-producer D. Scott Miller as well as Black Crowes  drummer Steve Gorman and A.J. Croce, who plays keyboards on six tracks.
"A.J. and I got to be friends through the 'Idol' experience," says Bice, who performed his father's "Time in a Bottle" during the show. "He lives in Nashville now so we've had time to really get to be friends and spend time together aside from just the writing sessions. He's a sweetheart of a person...I feel like you surround yourself with people who are better than you, and they make you step up to the next level. As much as everybody gets to see my face on the album cover, it truly was a team effort."
Bice says a first single is currently being determined, with the title track being the leading contender. Other song titles include "Keep on Rollin'," "Long Road Back," "Who Knows What" and "Wild Roses," the latter of which Bice has previewed for fans at his acoustic shows. Bice maintains a regular schedule of live dates, which he says will intensify after "Different Shades..." is released.
Bice is also keeping up with "Idol" doings, though he says his wife is his primary conduit for news. He gives new judge Ellen DeGeneres a thumbs-up so far; "She's critiquing but she's not a critic. I think she brings a new texture to it where she doesn't throw out terminology and stuff. She's more straight-ahead, like, 'Look, this wasn't your best night. Try to do better next week.' " As for Simon Cowell's upcoming departure, Bice cracks that he's in line for the job ("I think I'd do great," he says) but adds, "You're never going to replace Simon; you'll just find someone to sit in his seat."
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