Taylor Hicks captivated viewers with his fifth season win on American Idol in 2006 with his blue-eyed soul stylings. Hicks takes a lot of pride in his music – and all things Alabama. He says whether you’re in his native Birmingham, the Hank Williams region of Montgomery, or Muscle Shoals in the northwestern part of the state, there’s something about his home state’s musical legacy to be excited about. In discussing the latter, Hicks says the town — which has attracted artists such as The Rolling Stones, Cher, The Staples Singers and Gregg Allman, who cut his last album Southern Blood at the iconic Fame studios — easily lives up to its musical reputation.
“It amazes not only folks in the state, but also all over the world that such a small town in Alabama could be so important in rock n’ roll history. It’s all pretty amazing stuff. Luckily, for all of us that love music, it’s captured on tape, and that’s something that we’ll always be grateful for as music fans, and the Muscle Shoals documentary was amazing too.”
After releasing his self-titled million-selling debut the year of his Idol win, and the follow-up, 2009’s The Distance, Hicks has been absent from releasing new music – until now. On Friday (Sept. 29), Hicks will issue a new single, “Six Strings and Diamond Rings.” Get an exclusive first listen to “Six Strings and Diamond Rings” here, and be on the lookout for a full album from Hicks in early 2018.
He says that even though he hasn’t been releasing music, he has been far from idle. “I haven’t released new music in about seven years. Living in Nashville and being in and out of there, I had been in studios writing with different people, and had recorded music that hasn’t been released. I’ve been in and out of studios in Los Angeles. But I always wanted the timing to be right to release my next project. There’s a lot of soul searching that you have to do, a lot of digging deep from a songwriter perspective to try to represent yourself as best you can as an artist. For the last seven or eight years, I’ve been writing and recording, but it took until this point for the stars to align. It’s time to release the new single, and I’m excited.”
What made him decide that this song – written by Jason Deer, Jo-Smith and Don Rollins – was the one to re-launch his career as a recording artist? He says the message is one that rings true – to him and others.
“I’ve been waiting on a song like this my whole life,” he beamed to Billboard. “I’ve had people tell me that you want to get behind a song that completely embellishes and is reflective of what you are doing at the moment, and how you are feeling at the present. This song embodies that. It’s my version of ‘Turn The Page.’ It’s a song that I think as all entertainers and musicians travel for their work and for their job as much as we do, I feel that this is the song for them. Six strings are hard on diamond rings. It’s not an easy gig, but it’s a song that signifies my life, and the road. It’s an undeniably great song.”
Hicks has maintained a high level of visibility over the past couple of years, hosting State Plate, a food and travel series that has just started its second season on the INSP Network. He says he is having a blast. “State Plate kind of draws from all of the food shows. It is a little bit of Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe meets Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. We go into a state and fill a plate up with food that is iconic to that state. We’re going from the farm to the table, we’re milking the cows, and I love it. If I’m being educated on state foods, I also know that the viewer is. It’s been a totally great experience.”
What has he learned from hosting the show that he can take away and apply to his own eatery, Saw’s Juke Joint, in Birmingham? “I’ve learned that everything takes a lot of love, and if you’ve got a lot of love to give, you need to do that – especially when you’re talking about food. A lot of these people I meet along the way embody the American food culture. They are the small farmer, or are the local restaurant owner. I love promoting that and educating people on that.” If a reader decides to make a trip to Alabama to visit his eatery, what would he recommend? “I would have to say the Sweet Tea Fried Chicken Sandwich. That’s chicken brined in sweet tea and pickle juice deep fried with pickles and Alabama white barbecue sauce.”