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Aiken Celebrates Holidays, Preps New Album

Aiken Celebrates Holidays, Preps New Album

November 03, 2005, 11:15 AM ET

John Benson, Cleveland

Not that he became bored on last year's Joyful Noise Tour, but Clay Aiken made a discovery during his 2004 holiday outing that he hopes has improved this year's seasonal run, which visits Portland, Ore., tonight (Nov. 3).

"As you begin to do 20 or 30 shows, they start to become rote in a way and you're able to step out of your body sometimes and take a look," Aiken tells Billboard.com. "And I thought, 'This is beautiful but it's Christmas music. What are we going to do with Christmas music that is original?' So [then] I thought, 'What if we can figure out a way to make all of these songs mean something?'"

Aiken's show remains the same as last year's run in support of the RCA album "Merry Christmas with Love," in the sense it is divided between secular material in the first half and religious songs in the second. But this year, the 2003 "American Idol" runner-up decided to replace the full orchestra with actors and dancers performing a holiday narrative during the first portion. He even hired his former high school choir teacher, Alison Lawrence, to play the lead role.

Once the holiday tour wraps up, the 26-year-old artist will finish up recording the follow-up to his multi-platinum 2003 debut disc, "Measure of a Man." With some songs already recorded, "Just You" and "Back for More" were previewed by Aiken during his summer tour. He says the new album should be out in the first half of 2006.

"The first album was really rushed," he says. "[That was] not really anybody's fault, but it was kind of intended to be because of the nature of what it was. And this time, we've had extra time to try to make sure we find the right songs. We're in position now where we have a lot of good stuff and we're going to get a chance to pick the best of the best."

Aiken admits that while he's been encouraged to do a little songwriting on his own, he's conflicted with the entire process.

"I feel differently about it than I think most people do," Aiken says. "Honestly, a lot of artists that you see -- I'm going to get people mad at me but I've been doing that a lot lately so I might as well keep on -- who have written songs on their album, the truth is they probably just went in changed a word here or there. And if they are big enough artists, they get credit for writing the song. I'm not going to do that. If you see my name on it, I've had at least some type of real role in writing it."

He adds, "And that said, I'm not as good at writing songs as Alicia Keys or those people who are just really great at doing that. So, why not take advantage of what they do and really just get really great songs from people who can write for me?"

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Just in time for Thanksgiving...two great articles about Clay and JNT2005:

Reading Eagle

Christmas Clay's way

Clay Aiken puts together a holiday showcase called “Joyful Noise” that is based on his own writing and features performers from his hometown. The end product is everything he'd wished for and more.

By Tracy Rasmussen

Reading Eagle Correspondent

As if singing, dancing and idol status weren't enough, Clay Aiken has added writing to his resume.

“I did a Christmas show last year and it was so much fun,” Aiken said. “I thought I'd love to continue to do it, but I wanted to do something different.”

That something different is his new “Joyful Noise” tour, which comes to the Sovereign Center in Reading on Wednesday (which happens to be Aiken's 27th birthday).

Aiken said he tried to come up with an idea that could join all the different songs he sings together, when he hit on the idea of having an older woman talk about her Christmases past with a young neighbor.

“Then I just sat in my pajamas and wrote it,” he said. “I thought, Golly, I can do this. I'm not Arthur Miller, but this story works.”

The story revolves around a little boy who is annoying his parents and they send him outside to get him out of their hair. He goes next door and meets one of his neighbors a woman who has recently lost her husband.

“She starts talking to him and telling him stories,” she said. “And there are dancers who sort of show the back story.”

Aiken sings in between and throughout the stories, pulling the show together.

“I'm sort of the guardian angel,” he said.

And staying in line with the guardian angel theme, he hired his choir teacher from high school, Alison Lawrence, to play the part of the elderly woman. And since his teaching certificate is up to date he hired Gregory Ellis, a child from his hometown, to play the child in the show.

“I figured I could teach him on the road,” Aiken said.

Still, he admitted to being a bit nervous about having so much input into the show.

“But it ended up being so much bigger and better than I thought,” he said. “You usually have a vision in your head about what something is supposed to be and then you hope for the best, but this is everything I hoped it would be.”

Although the subject matter is poignant, Aiken promises a Christmas ending.

“Everyone dies,” he deadpanned. “No, really, it's a Christmas show, of course it has a happy ending.”

Aiken said that for him this show portrays one of his own wishes.

“Sometimes I wish that life had a soundtrack,” he said. “That's what this show is.”

The show includes many of Aiken's songs from his Christmas album, “Merry Christmas With Love.”

If Aiken's life did, indeed, have a soundtrack, it would likely be solid gold.

He's perhaps America's best known runner-up, as he came in second to Rueben Studdard in the second season of “American Idol.”

Aiken used that notoriety to promote his first CD, “Measure of a Man,” which has sold more than 600,000 copies, and he's found himself playing to sold out venues and basking in the adoration of the “Claymates” who follow him from venue to venue.

He said he's particularly looking forward to the Reading show.

“This is the first time I've ever done a show on my birthday,” he said, laughing. “So I'll expect lots of presents.”

Aiken has used his own gifts to help others, too. His teaching degree allowed him to work in special education, including a part-time job as an aide to a child with autism. That child's mom, Diane Bubel, convinced Aiken to audition for “American Idol.” Together they now have a charity that supports children with autism.

Education is still important to him, and he keeps current with the field while traveling the country.

And he said he never imagined that his life could be as good as it is.

“Right now I'm at a friend's house in Vancouver,” he said. “She lives on a cliff overlooking the bay and all I can see is water and these majestic mountains. I'm never going to expect things like this to happen.”

He said that prior to “American Idol” he hadn't gone far from his Raleigh, N.C., home.

“Myrtle Beach is about as far as I had traveled,” he said. “But now I've been to places like Indonesia and Uganda (as a UNICEF Ambassador).”

He will be home for Christmas, though.

“We'll be in Raleigh with the tour around Christmas,” he said. “So I'll be home.”

E-mail correspondent Tracy Rasmussen at entertanment@readingeagle.com

The Cincinnati Post

Aiken here for Christmas show

By Rick Bird

Post staff reporter

Go ahead. Call Clay Aiken a nerd. He won't mind.

"I'm not trying to be cool, and I don't expect to be any time soon," Aiken says with a laugh that can only be described as, well, nerdy.

The issue came up in a recent interview with the "American Idol" star, because a newspaper headline this month dubbed him a "Pop Nerd."

"I've always wanted to just be myself. So it's not an insult at all," he said about the reference. "It's a label I carry proudly."

Aiken may be the most famous second place finisher of any competition. And his geekiness obviously helped drive his fame.

On "American Idol" he narrowly lost out to Ruben Studdard in 2003, but his boyish grin, lack of pretense and choirboy voice earned the Raleigh, N.C., native millions of teen fans who launched Web sites and gobbled up a few million copies of his debut album becoming part of "Clay Nation." It was the overnight success story for the boy next door.

Aiken, 26, likes to think his self-deprecating demeanor has been the secret to his success.

"I think that's a mistake a lot of people do whether it's performing on 'Idol,' or just life - try to be something they are not, try to fool the world and make people think they are not a nerd or a geek."

For the second year in a row Aiken is out with a Christmas tour that comes to Music Hall Saturday. Called "Joyful Noise," it is more than just a concert. There are actors, dancers and special effects in a loose holiday story.

Aiken wrote the show himself.

"It became a favorite (last year) and we wanted to do it again, but the issue was how do we make it different? How do we keep it from being just a bunch of holiday songs? I wanted to try to string all the songs together with some sort of connective tissue. I thought, let's get someone to write a story line. Then I sat down one day and said, 'Wait a minute. I can do this.'"

Aiken even hired his high school choir teacher to come out and perform in the production.

Aiken and the singers play guardian angels, sort of a Greek chorus, that comment on the story through holiday songs. Aiken says it's a reverent show with part of it set in a church.

But that raises another small problem for the "Idol" star. Girls often do scream through it.

"Of course on a regular tour that's what you kind of want. When they come to this show and scream I kind of get a little bothered by it. This is a theme, where we are in church. It's like, 'Please don't scream in church,'" Aiken said.

"But some nights when they don't scream I get upset, too."

Aiken may be the perfect post 9-11 star. He's non-threatening, a true family act that parents can enjoy and don't mind if their young daughters scream at. Aiken says he's the last person to ask to explain the phenomenon.

"I hope the public is growing tired of negativity and trashiness. I am," he said. I can't say why people like me. It's flattering, but I can't really comment on that question."

Aiken released his multi-platinum selling "Measure of a Man" months after the "Idol" competition and has been almost constantly touring ever since. He also cranked out a best-selling autobiography, hosted his own Christmas TV special last year and raises money for his Bubel/Aiken Foundation, which benefits children with disabilities.

He says he's taking his time working on a new CD, carefully selecting the right songs. He acknowledges the first album came out pretty fast.

"That's the nature of the beast. There is a lot of push to get it done quickly, to get product out after the show," he said. "But I don't think it was done poorly. Had we spent more time on it maybe we could have found (material) we were happier with."

Aiken doesn't buy the argument some make that the "Idol" pop stars are rushed onto the scene, winners of a contrived event who haven't paid their "dues" in the music business.

"I felt prepared to record," he said. "I would venture to say that those of us who have been through the beast, been through that machine, have paid plenty of dues. Different dues. It was quite a boot camp really."

Aiken says he's learned what his strength is and that is as a vocal stylist, not a songwriter.

"Again, it's go with what you got and don't try to be something that your not. There is a lot of motivation these days to try and be a songwriter because it may look good or you make a lot more money that way. To be honest there are a lot of artists out there today who have their name written on the song. And the truth is they've maybe written two or three words of it. I'm not going to say I wrote a song if I didn't."

Clay Aiken brings his "Joyful Noise 2005" tour to Music Hall at 8 p.m. Saturday. Tickets, $69.75, $62.75, $49.75, $29.75. Ticket-master.

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News Source. www.clayonline.com

Quoting this from clayonline.com:

11/22/05 / Clay on “The Insider”

The Insider takes a behind-the-scenes look at a day-in-the-life of Clay Aiken on the Joyful Noise 05 tour which should air on Tuesday, Nov. 29. (Pending breaking news, it’s possible the story could get bumped back a day or two). If you think Clay just leisurely loafs around all day until it’s time to show up on stage and sing, you’ll be quite surprised to find out how busy he is before he hits the stage. On the day of his Chicago performance, he even served as a guest-hosted a segment on a behind-the-scenes look at that Clay Aiken guy on his Joyful Noise 2005 tour! The man never stops….if you don’t believe, just tune in!

Edited by Jen
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