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Clay Aiken Talks Food. Plus: Chance to Win Tour Tickets

Clay Aiken Talks Food. Plus: Chance to Win Tour Tickets

Tour Kicks Off February 10

no-photo_jpg_20x20_crop_q85.jpg Posted by Editor Jan. 12, 2011

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Peeking in on the food lifestyles of the famous can be fun, so when we had an opportunity to find out what crooner Clay Aiken likes to eat, we took advantage of it--and scored a couple of tickets for a lucky Food Channel reader in the process. The contest prize is one pair of tickets to a show on the Clay Aiken Concert Tour 2011. Winner may choose which concert to attend but must provide own transportation. Scroll down for complete rules, and for more details, join us on Facebook.

Known for his stint on American Idol, Aiken will be on tour in February and March 2011. Here's what he had to say on our favorite subject, food. Our advice? Go and take the man a peanut butter and apple butter sandwich.

Would you consider yourself a foodie?

I'm not necessarily a foodie in the sense that I have an adventurous palette, but I can go to town on comfort foods and the foods I grew up eating. I do often find myself enjoying different things, but I can't discern whether or not something is going to taste good based on the ingredients. So, I rely on the expertise of others to guide me.

Do you cook? And if so, what do you consider your specialty?

I'm not a chef by any standards, but I can follow a recipe. If it's something Paula Deen has made, I'm usually more inclined to try it. I have made her macaroni and cheese several times, but I always "forget" to tell people that it's not my recipe.

Are there hints for eating on the road/while on tour?

There are plenty of hints/tips, but I'm not the greatest at following them. You shouldn't really eat too late at night, I am told. But, after a show it's hard to remind yourself of that rule. When you live on a bus and in hotels for an extended period of time, you have to remind yourself to eat more healthy.

What are your food requirements backstage?

I'm not that big of an eater all of the time. Especially when I am working, I can go for hours and even all day and forget to eat. So having things that are really easy makes me more likely to eat on a regular schedule. When all else fails, there's nothing like a PBJ sandwich . . . Although, I am FAR more partial to Peanut Butter and Apple Butter sandwiches. Maybe it's the South in me.

If you'd like to qualify for the free tickets, check it out on Facebook. Here's the tour schedule so you can see if he'll be in your area:

Miami, FL - February 10

Orlando, FL - February 11

Sarasota, FL - February 12

Houston, TX - February 14

Atlanta, GA - February 16

Knoxville, TN - February 17

Pittsburgh, PA - February 18

Cleveland, OH - February 19

Waterbury, CT- February 20

Baltimore, MD - February 22

Charlotte, NC - February 23

Greenville, SC - February 24

Westbury, NY - February 26

Glenside, PA - February 27

Cincinnati, OH - March 1

Fort Wayne, IN - March 2

Waukegan, IL - March 4

Minneapolis, MN - March 5

Memphis, TN - March 7

Grand Prairie, TX - March 8

Mesa, AZ - March 10

San Francisco, CA - March 12

Visit Clay's Official Site for more information about the tour.

Food Channel/Clay Aiken Tour Tickets contest rules

  1. Tell in a few words why you're a Clay Aiken fan and why you'd like to attend a show on his upcoming concert tour.
  2. Submit your answer on The Food Channel Facebook page or by postal mail to Food Channel Clay Aiken Contest, 2215 W. Chesterfield Blvd., Springfield, MO 65807 by January 31, 2011.
  3. Winners must be 18 or older.
  4. PRIZE: One pair of tickets to any one concert on Clay Aiken's 2011 tour. Winner may choose which concert to attend. Prize is tickets only. Winner must provide own transportation to and from the event.
  5. Decision of the judges is final. Winners will be chosen on the basis of originality, fan passion, brevity and clarity of submission.

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usatoday.com

Clay Aiken to Sing National Anthem at NHL All-Star Game

Clay Aiken to sing national anthem at NHL All-Star Game

02:00 AM

By Brian Mansfield, USA TODAY4

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Clay Aiken will sing the American national anthem at the NHL All-Star Game Sunday (4 p.m. ET, Versus).

"We all rally behind the home team," says Aiken, a native of Raleigh, N.C., where the game will be held. Raleigh got the team, which had been the Hartford Whalers in 1997, and the team won the Stanley Cup in 2006. "I don't think anybody in Raleigh knew much about hockey until the Hurricanes came to town, but now everybody has learned to love it."

Clay says the entire town is excited to host the game and the surrounding weekend of festivities, which begin Friday.

"We built a brand-new airport," he says. "It specifically opened Sunday to be ready for the all-star game. They've put as much energy as they can into this event."

The Canadian Tenors will perform the Canadian national anthem and rock band 3 Doors Down have the first-intermission performance.

Hurricanes center Eric Staal will captain one team, and Nicklas Lidstrom of the Detroit Red Wings will helm the other. "They're going to pick their teams like they do on the playground," Clay says. "We've got two Hurricanes who are all-stars, Eric and one of our goalies, Cam Ward. And Eric Staal's brother Marc is an all-star, so I imagine he'll pick him."

Also, Clay will start his Tried & True Tour Feb. 10 in Miami.

"I like being relatively laid-back and casual," he says. "I don't put too much production into it, especially this time. This isMoon River, Unchained Melody and What Kind of Fool Am I. These songs don't need a lot of flashy light stuff. I like to come out and sing the songs, and I like talking to the audience."

Most of Clay's set will focus on tunes from his recent albums of standards, but he says he has a few surprises up his sleeve.

"Most of these songs are big-band types songs," he says. "I think we're going to do a medley of songs that are on the radio today, but we're going to do them in a big-band style."

Such as? Lady Gaga's Poker Face is on the short list. So is Kenny Chesney's She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy.

"They're definitely songs you would not expect to hear in big-band style."

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soundspike.com

Q&A: Clay Aiken

Q&A: Clay Aiken

Story by Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

SoundSpike Contributor

Published January 25, 2011 02:32 PM

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A few weeks out from a major U.S. tour that starts Feb. 10, Clay Aiken admits he's a bit overwhelmed by the preparations for his jaunt.

"I'm looking toward it, yes," said Aiken, who became a household name after he took second place in the sophomore season of "American Idol." "That's not to imply that I'm not looking forward to it. There's just quite a bit of work and finagling that goes into getting it started. It's always incredibly fun when you get out on the road. But the weeks before the tour are a little more work than they are fun."

Aiken is promoting his fifth full-length album, "Tried and True," a collection of classics from the '50s and '60s, including "Unchained Melody" and "Mack the Knife," which he performed during his tenure on "Idol." Released last June, "Tried and True" is Aiken's first for Decca Records; he left RCA after the release of 2008's "On My Way Here." "Tried and True" sold 22,000 units in its first week, debuting at No. 9 on The Billboard 200 album chart and No. 21 on the magazine's Digital Albums chart.

Aiken spoke to SoundSpike about the upcoming tour, why he decided to record an album like "Tried and True" and how he chooses which charitable endeavors in which to participate.

SoundSpike: Tell me about the feel of the tour and the production.

Clay Aiken: I've done the big tours. I've done the orchestral things. I've done the major, big production stuff. This time, we decided to pare it back to make it a little more intimate, if possible. That gives me an opportunity to be more flexible with the set list, not that it'll change every night. If you go out with an orchestra, you have to stick with the charts that they have, in the order that they play them. It becomes a little more stiff, structured and scripted. This time I thought, "These songs are all very low key." Some of them are big but they're not flashy, so to speak. This time we're going to go out and do a show that matches the tone and the vibe of these songs. It's not big. It's not high production. I don't need to be dancing while I'm doing "Misty" or "Moon River." So we'll do it kind of low key. It'll give me the opportunity to communicate, talk to the audience and make it more casual.

How did you decide to do an album like "Tried and True"?

I've always liked this genre. They are songs that I grew up on because my mom was playing them, or I enjoyed the artists that sang some of these songs. It was an opportunity for me to sing songs where I got tosing. This is a "crooner" album more than anything else. I like songs that are about the melody and about the music, instead of about the beat or the hook, not that these songs don't have hooks. They're not about dancing. They're about singing. I think that that's a lost art form almost nowadays. You have people like Bruno Mars who are still singing and have great voices and sing great melodies, but it's not as prevalent on the radio nowadays as it used to be.

How did you choose the songs for the album? There's such a wealth of material out there.

Well, we found that there were too many. So we kind of decided to narrow it down to one decade. We were going to do songs from the '60s. Then, I really wanted to do "Unchained Melody," so we expanded to the '50s and the '60s. We literally had a list of about 100 songs. I went through them and a few of them I knew right away I wasn't going to like. That narrowed it down to 75, maybe. I went in the shower and started singing some of them. Some clothes you can look at on the rack and know you're not going to like them, right? Some clothes, you have to try them on before you realize you're not going to like them. That's kind of how it was with the songs. (That's the first time I've ever used that analogy and I'm very proud of myself.) There were songs, once I got them on, I was like, "Wow. This fits perfectly. So we're going to do it." Some of them were songs that I had sung for years. "Unchained Melody" I had been singing since I was 11, 12 years old. My mom always wanted me to go record it in Nashville and be a big star because of it. It never worked out that way for her. But I finally decided to sing and record the song that I'd been singing forever, and have my own version of it now.

Are you pushing this record to radio?

This is kind of a tough album to put to radio. It doesn't fit on Top 40, necessarily. I guess we could maybe send it to AC [adult contemporary]. These are songs that had been sung before. There are no new songs. There are no originals.

Have you started working on new material yet?

No, not really. I'm not a songwriter and never have been the type of person who is necessarily trying to create something. I enjoy singing. I'm a performer. I like to sing and perform. I don't know if original stuff I've written is something I want to focus on. A lot of people write songs because they want to make more money off of it, too. [Laughs] There are people who write songs because they're great at it. Then there are some people who write songs because you make a little bit more money when it's your own music, you know?

Tell me about your work with PBS. That's a great organization with which to be associated.

Well, I've just done this one particular thing ["Tried & True Live!"]. PBS is a pretty big purveyor of arts programming. Because of commercials and whatnot, you don't get to see music and arts on TV as much. PBS is a repository for that type of thing. We've got Carole King and James Taylor, Andrea Bocelli and [Michael] Buble -- arts programming you don't get to see anywhere else.

You support nonprofits such as the National Inclusion Project, UNICEF and GLSEN. You must be inundated with requests for support from nonprofits.

I do. I've pinned my name on certain causes. I worked as a special ed teacher and made that a cause. I work with organizations that work with kids with disabilities. UNICEF called me because I was a teacher, and asked me to be an ambassador for them, and kind of focus on their education programs everywhere. It's taught me about world issues. So, education in general, just from being a teacher, is something I kind of focus on. It doesn't mean I don't have empathy for people who have certain diseases, or whatnot, and I help if I can. I think anybody who is in this position, where you constantly get asked to do things, you have to pick an area and focus on that particular charitable area.

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gastongazette.com

North Carolina Always Home for "Idol" Clay Aiken

North Carolina always home for 'Idol' Clay Aiken

Bernie Petit

2011-02-03 10:07:18

North Carolina has been good to the hit reality television show "American Idol."

It's produced Season 3 winner Fantasia Barrino and Kellie Pickler and Chris Daughtry, both of Season 5. This year, Tar Heel singers Scotty McCreery of Garner and Victoria Huggins of St. Pauls were given the coveted golden ticket to Hollywood on the show.

But Raleigh native Clay Aiken still lays claim as the first North Carolinian to hit it big on the show, finishing second in the show's sophomore season. Since then, he's toured relentlessly, starred on Broadway in "Monty Python's Spamalot" and become one of the biggest stars "Idol" has ever produced.

Last year, Aiken toured with Reuben Studdard, who bested him for the "Idol" crown in 2003. This month, the soulful homegrown crooner is launching his "Tried and True" tour in support of his fifth full-length album, a collection of classics from the '50s and '60s. He'll bring his tour to the Belk Theater in Charlotte Feb. 23.

A University of North Carolina at Charlotte graduate, Aiken has strong ties to the area. While in school, he studied to be a special education teacher and worked individually with several families that had children with disabilities, including working for a year with a Mount Holly family.

He also shared the spotlight with Shelby mayor Ted Alexander at a university gala in November 2006, when Aiken received the university's Outstanding Young Alumnus Award and Alexander, a 1982 UNCC graduate, was inducted into the school's Alumni Hall of Fame.

"There's a special place in my heart for Charlotte," said Aiken in a phone interview from Raleigh. "Charlotte is the place where it all began for me."

Although he doesn't regularly tune into the show that made him a star anymore, Aiken spoke to The Gazetteabout what's gotten him to keep track of "American Idol" this season, his new tour and his latest album. Questions and responses have been edited for brevity.

You toured last year with Reuben Studdard and you're getting ready for another tour. How are you spending the downtime you have left?

Aiken: I like doing nothing in my downtime. I have been preparing for this tour though. There's always a little work that goes into things and preparing for this tour had taken up a good deal of time.

What should people expect when they come see your show?

Aiken: The most enjoyable ones for me have been the ones where we don't overproduce. I've done the shows with dancers and actors and the big tours. The ones I have the most fun with are the ones that aren't overly produced and I have time where I can talk to the audience and change things up. I want to keep this as laid back and low key as possible and change things up as we go.

What's allowed you to have the staying power you've had?

Aiken: It remains to be seen if I do – I haven't gotten out on the road yet. No doubt the enthusiasm of the folks who have been hardcore fans the last eight years has been big, along with a lot of luck and a lot of divine providence. If anyone knew how that worked, they'd duplicate it. Some of the best artists in the world fade away because no one knows how to make that work. Some people who are not great performers end up sticking around a decade or longer.

You don't watch "American Idol" regularly anymore but you watched recently to see Victoria Huggins. Why?

Aiken: I watched a clip of her audition online. Years ago I did a little competition, my mother had found out about a gospel competition and she had me sign up and sing. Victoria was this little five-year-old girl, if she wasn't younger than that, auditioning also. She won in her age group and I won in my age group. My mom stayed friends with her family. I hadn't seen Victoria in 10 years but I remember her vividly as being spunky and lively. When I watched her she was exactly as I remember her being 10 years ago.

What do you think about the show's new judges (pop star Jennifer Lopez and singer Steven Tyler of the rock band Aerosmith)?

Aiken: They're definitely big names and people who know what it's like to have a career. Paula (Abdul) had the experience of being an idol herself, but, if I'm not mistaken, you didn't have anybody who was a singer on the show last year. It's nice to have some people with that experience on the show now who can speak from experience about being a performer.

Your latest album, "Tried and True," has received a lot of positive feedback. Why did you want to do an album like that?

Aiken: These are songs that are a comfortable fit for me. They're singer songs, crooner songs, classic melodies. That makes them like a comfortable shoe to me. Songs on the radio today, it's about the producer nowadays and how good they can make them sound. They're not necessarily about the singer. Back in the '50s and '60s, singers went into the studio and sang these timeless melodies and sang them beautifully. That to me is what's most impressive. They just don't write songs like that anymore.

Tried and True

Clay Aiken, who's become a household name after finishing second on the second season of "American Idol," will bring his "Tried and True" tour to Belk Theater in Charlotte at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 23. The tour is in support of his latest album "Tried and True," a collection of classics from the '50s and '60s, including "Unchained Melody" and "Mack the Knife," which he performed during his run on "Idol."

Tickets are $24.50 to $69.50. Belk Theater is at 130 N. Tryon St., Charlotte. For tickets or more information, visit www.blumenthalcenter.org or call 704-372-1000.

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cleveland.broadwayworld.com

Clay Aiken Set to Play PlayhouseSquare, 2/19

Clay Aiken Set to Play PlayhouseSquare, 2/19

by BWW News Desk

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As American Idol runner-up on the 2003 Idol season, Clay Aiken appears to have emerged the career winner. Standing room-only concerts, an extended run on Broadway starring in Spamalot, an autobiography at #2 on the New York Times Best Sellers list, five albums selling millions of copies and an avid international fan club of "Claymates," all integrated with intense charity involvement have kept Clay firmly in the spotlight.

Now, following in the wake of a critically acclaimed tour with fellow American Idol alum, Ruben Studdard, Clay Aiken is treating his fans to another solo tour...the Tried and True Tour, which highlights his current album of the same title. PlayhouseSquare's Palace Theatre on February 19th is one of the 20-city stages that will welcome the Raleigh, NC native. The 7:30 pm concert will be Clay's third PlayhouseSquare appearance. A "Tried & True Live!" DVD capturing Clay's first PBS concert special, has been airing across the country and locally on ideastream's WVIZ-PBS-TV. The DVD showcases the singer's performance in his hometown of Raleigh, NC, plus exclusive material not seen on PBS and a bonus EPK on the making of his latest CD, Tried & True. The CD made an impressive debut in the Top 10 of Billboard's Top 200 Album Chart. Considered the record Aiken was always meant to record, it is comprised of songs from the '50s and '60s that are Clay's personal favorites, and ones he grew up listening to. Clay will continue to perform these standards on the national "Tried & True" tour.

An unlikely pop star, Aiken has remained steadfast in his desire to remain true to the simple values he learned as a child in Raleigh, North Carolina. "I still live in the town where I grew up," he says. "I like surrounding myself with people I know and love." It is this authenticity that his millions of fans have responded to, an almost supernatural earnestness that feels unconventional in the cynical world today.

While the accolades that followed his stunningly close second-place finish on the second season of American Idol have validated him in ways that he could never have dreamed of when was a teacher working with autistic children back in his home state of North Carolina, it is the charitable work that his music career has enabled him to do that gives him satisfaction.

The singer created the Bubel/Aiken Foundation in 2003, an organization that promotes and funds educational and recreational programs for children with special needs. "I worked with Mike Bubel, who has autism, when I was going to school at UNCC," says Aiken. "His moter was very instrumental in encouraging me to get into the entertainment business." The Foundation remains close to the singers heart at all times. "My music career has allowed me to do the same thing I was doing before - work with kids with disabilities," he says. "It has given me a big stage to talk about the same things I always cared about. I don't get to be as hands-on with the kids anymore, but I do get to work toward enacting change on a much grander scale."

Also important to Aiken's life as a humanitarian is his work as a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF. In April 2007 he travelled to Afghanistan and then launched the "$100,000 in 10 Days" campaign to support UNICEF lifesaving missions in that country. In the past couple of years, he's also traveled to Uganda to witness the phenomenon of "night commuters", children who trek from the countryside into slightly more secure towns to avoid being abducted by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).

And three months after the tsunami in South Asian, Clay participated in UNICEF programs that helped children reconnect with their families and provide care for orphans. He's also testified before Congress on UNICEF's behalf, supported relief work in Lebanon and served as national spokesman for UNICEF's annual Trick or Treat fundraising campaign in 2005 which, for the first time, saw the organization help U.S. citizens when half of those funds benefited victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Tickets for Clay Aiken's February 19th concert at 7:30 pm at PlayhouseSquare's Palace Theatre are $75, $55, $45, and both $20 & $10 Smart Seats, on sale at playhousesquare.org, 216-241-6000 and at The PlayhouseSquare Ticket Office.

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watermarkonline.com

Clay Aiken throws back to the 50s and 60s on his fifth studio album

Clay Aiken throws back to the 50s and 60s on his fifth studio album

03/02/2011 17:18:00

Erik R. Caban

In a day of reality-show instant celebrities, still only a select few know the exhilarating feat of being plucked out of anonymity and thrown into the proverbial fishbowl of super-stardom. Clay Aiken was a fan favorite during the sophomore season of American Idol, where he finished second to Ruben Studdard.

Eight years later, despite rumors and set-backs, Aiken's grit, determination and raw talent have proven why he's a household name. While Aiken may have acquiesced to a few minor alterations, he has stayed true to himself and his passion, using his celebrity as a platform to raise awareness for gay rights, AIDS and children with disabilities.

Just a few weeks out from a major U.S. tour that brings him to Orlando's Hard Rock Live Feb. 11 and Sarasota's Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall Feb. 12, the 32-year-old North Carolina native talks about coming out, fatherhood, Broadway and Richard Chamberlin.

WATERMARK: You've toured with Ruben Studdard among others. Do you think you prefer touring solo or as an ensemble?

CLAY AIKEN: There are benefits to both. I like touring solo because I get to make all the decisions. [Laughs] But there is something nice about touring with someone else. Not only because there's that camaraderie. There's someone you get to bounce jokes off of and you get to play on stage with someone else. It does take some of the pressure off. I like being part of a team—I like being a valuable part of a team. I don't want to be on the bench and want to be an equal part of a team. Like when I toured with Reuben [studdard] and Kelly [Clarkson] the pressure was off of me. I was still a very important part, still a boss, but there was someone to be a part of it with me.

With that said, I like singing my own songs. I like doing my own shows. So, it's kind of six of one, a half dozen of the other.

What can we expect from this solo show?

You can expect I'll be in charge. [Laughs] This show is going to be relatively laid back compared to some of the other shows that I've done. All of the music is love songs from the 50s and 60s. It will be a little more low key than say "Invincible" or some of the stuff I've done with Reuben. It's almost like one of my Christmas shows, just without the Christmas music. It'll be a sit-down-and-enjoy-the-music kind of atmosphere; perfect for Valentine's Day. I'm taking less people on tour with me so that I have a little more control over the set list and more flexibility within the show to change things up a bit. My goal for this show is to keep it as intimate and laid-back as possible. I want to have time to talk with the audience and have conversations with some of the people in the crowd.

On your latest album Tried & True, I read that you said your intention was to make a record of timeless classics and get back to a style that you're comfortable with. Amongst your selection of songs on the album, were there any in particular that you chose because they have a personal meaning to you?

I used to sing "Unchained Melody" as a kid. When I was a teenager, my mom would always dream that she would take me to Nashville, I'd record [my version] and I'd become a big star. But then, Leann Rimes recorded it like three months after [my mom] had that dream and shot it down. [Laughs] I continued to sing it though as always—the Righteous Brothers version. When I decided to do this album, I said there are a few songs I have to do and "Unchained Melody" was one of those because I wanted my own version of it. So, my musical director created an arrangement for me that was totally different from anything anyone has done before. Now I have my very own arrangement of "Unchained Melody."

Another was "Moon River." It was a song I wanted to sing on American Idol but didn't get a chance to. It's always been one of my favorites.

I remember always wanting to sing like Johnny Mathis. I can't tell you the first time I heard him sing "Misty." Listening to him I would think, "God, he's a freak. His voice is so...effortless."

"It's Only Make Believe" is a song that makes me remember going to Twitty City—where Conway Twitty lived—with my mom, dad and brother when I was a young kid. I never thought it could be turned from a country song to a ballad.

Most of the other songs I chose because I've always loved and wanted to sing them. There are a few that I wasn't familiar with that I've come to love.

In 2008, you debuted on Broadway in Monty Python's Spamalot. Did you find it difficult to go from being a recording artist to Broadway?

I loved it! I didn't think I was going to. It's definitely different. Difficult? Not really. I have nothing but respect for people who do eight shows a week. There were doubts if I'd be able to handle eight shows a week but when I was on tour I did six shows a week. I was in a different city every day. At least when I was on Broadway, I was able to sleep in the same bed every night, spend the day relaxing and then go in and do the show for two hours.

As I said earlier, I loved the fact that there was a team involved. The pressure was not all on me to handle everything. I'm amazed by the ensembles of all these Broadway shows that go in there and dance their heads off. I was lucky. I was in a less physical role but I was still sore. They had to drag me off the stage a few times. [Laughs]

Over time, it becomes easier. There's less memorizing involved, it becomes routine and just something you do for two hours every night.

I'm not sure if you read or heard about Richard Chamberlin's article in Advocate advising gay male celebrities to stay in the closet for the sake of their career. How do you feel about that?

Whether you're a celebrity or not there is an argument that can be made for celebrities to come out of the closet. I don't think that's fair to an individual and I don't think it really affects the gay community that much anyway. My coming out may have helped one or two people, but it didn't have a profound effect on the entire gay community. I think that if anything, a large number of my middle-aged women fans who may not have been okay with homosexual men before have learned acceptance.

You decided to come out when you announced the birth of your son because you didn't want "to raise a child to lie or to hide things." What advice can you offer to those that may be grappling with the decision to come out?

In the rear view mirror it's easy to see that a lot of the fears that I had before coming out, a lot of the things that concerned me and a lot of the things that I was afraid would happen to me when I came out did not come to fruition. I realized that those fears weren't rational. What I know today is that irrationality doesn't respond to irrationality.

Most people that are in the closet are not able to be rational and I don't blame them because I wasn't either. So, the best thing I can say is that when you're ready, people will be there to support you. And don't do it until you're ready. I think that a lot of gays and lesbians that have been out for a long time tend to forget what it was like. Then, there are those who had a great support system and were never made to feel ostracized don't know what it's like.

Everybody takes their own path—their own journey. For me, it was not as bad as I thought it would be. I have yet to meet anybody who has said it was as bad as they thought it would be.

With the ban on gay adoption lifted here in Florida, can you offer any advice for those wanting to be parents?

It's a miracle. Having a child in your life is incredible. It will change your life forever. It's definitely a decision that shouldn't be taken lightly. I think that if the gay men and women in Florida have the opportunity and want to adopt and are serious, they should absolutely do it. Do not be swayed in any way by what you think other people might say or think.

Who is your Valentine this year?

If I had a partner, I'd have plans. But since I don't I will be performing. My Valentine will be my audience.

see + hear

WHO: Clay Aiken

WHEN & WHERE: Friday, Feb. 11 at Hard Rock Live in Orlando and Saturday, Feb. 12 at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota

TICKETS: HardRockLive.com or VanWezel.org.

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thegavoice.com

Clay Aiken Remains "Tried and True"

Clay Aiken Remains "Tried and True"

BY JIM FARMER

FEBRUARY 04, 2011 00:00

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Performing in Atlanta has been special for singer Clay Aiken. It's not his birthplace — that would be Raleigh, N.C. — but he feels partial to the city.

"I auditioned for 'American Idol' in Atlanta so it's full circle when I return," says Aiken, who brings his "Tried and True" tour to the Cobb Energy Centre on Feb. 16.

Aiken was featured on the second season of "American Idol," where he eventually was runner-up to Ruben Studdard. On the show, he was an audience favorite, never once appearing in the bottom three for viewer votes. It helped him, he feels, that he was able to sing songs he was familiar with.

"I got to be who I was," he says. "I sang what I was comfortable with. For me, I always sang music that I knew, songs that I grew up singing. The one time I didn't sing something I knew was the night I got low scores."

After much speculation about his sexual orientation, Aiken came out as gay to People magazine in 2008. Ironically, another musician, Jordan Knight of New Kids on the Block, came out recently by saying he was never in. Aiken understands that. He disagrees with the notion that a public figure should come out when people expect it.

"There was this misconception that I was not out," he says. "I was in 'Spamalot' and everyone knew, but I don't necessarily want to sit at a table with strangers and tell them. When you come out, you do it with people you are comfortable with."

He admits that coming out has made little difference in his career. A few people might have been surprised, he says, but it has had no adverse affect.

"I definitely do see the liberation and understand the rationalization of people wanting me to be out," he says. "On the other hand, I wouldn't say that coming out has made me happier because that implies I was not happy before and I was."

Aiken is very comfortable discussing being gay — he even went to D.C. to speak at a Capitol Hill briefing on anti-gay bullying at the end of 2010.

Another major difference for Aiken is having a son.

"It's changed my life; it changes everything," he says.

He sang the National Anthem at the recent NHL All Star Game and got a jersey. He planned to auction off the jersey for charity — which he does after these kinds of events — then realized perhaps he should save it for his son.

As a public figure, he says the dating world can be awkward. He is not really dating right now.

"There are other variables," he says. "Me being known will always make it more difficult."

In terms of Aiken's own favorite love songs, he is fond of the ones from the current album.

"I love 'Unchained Melody;' I also love Perry Como," he says. "I also think that 'I Will Always Love You' is a great love song."

He's currently getting ready to kick off the tour and notes he's particularly nervous on the days just before he begins.

"But the stress will go down when it starts," he says.

The tour — largely composed of Southern cities, which the artist says he loves playing — is a live incarnation of his last album, "Tried and True." It's mostly love songs and very low-key, says the performer, with ballads such as "Suspicious Minds," "Crying" and "Moon River."

A lot of Aiken's material is from the '50s and '60s. "It's not necessarily the era but the singers and the great songs that I love," he says. "There are so many of them. I feel a real kinship. There were great performers who could practically perform live, with no producer."

He looks at today as a different time, an age when performers can rely on their producers to make them sound good. "That's the way it works," he says. "That didn't happen then — you could not cut and paste."

Not long ago he moved back to Raleigh, away from Los Angeles.

"If you leave and go somewhere, it's nice to come back, to feel comfortable," Aiken says. He compares that to his musical tastes — returning to what he feels best performing.

While Studdard's career stalled after "American Idol," Aiken's has taken off. He has been on nine different tours, written a book and become a staple on television. He even appeared on Broadway in "Spamalot." 2010's "Tried and True" was his sixth album.

He has not had time to watch "Idol" regularly in years, but he understands why skeptics have complained about the show's demise.

"I did watch one episode last season," he says. "The stories are not the same. There's no bond. Back when it started you had the girl next door, the single mother, people like Kelly [Clarkson] and Ruben. These are people who would have never had this chance without the show.

"It used to be about the contestants, now it's about the show," he says. "Some of the judges are bigger than the show. It's flashier and flashier."

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miamiherald.com Gay South Florida

Clay Aiken: Out 'American Idol' Singing Star Says Life is Good as He Launches 'Tried & True' Tour

Clay Aiken: Out 'American Idol' singing star says life is good as he launches 'Tried & True' tour

BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com

To his throngs of loyal fans, singing star Clay Aiken can do no wrong."My mother doesn't defend me as much on some days," says Aiken, who debuts his Tried & True concert tour Thursday at the Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami.

For five years after he won international American Idol fame in 2003, fans stood by Aiken as mean-spirited bloggers taunted him as "Gaykin." Then, weeks after the birth of son Parker in August 2008, Aiken appeared on the cover of People magazine beside a screaming headline, "Yes, I'm Gay."

"I still love you Clay and think you sing like an angel. You are still the same person inside today as you were yesterday!" a woman posted to fan site ClayManaics.com just after People announced the news.

Two years later, Aiken is an anti-bullying spokesman for GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network.

"I didn't choose to be gay. I choose to be out," Aiken, 32, tells The Miami Herald. "I'm also respectful of people who choose not to be."

Aiken says his decision to come out publicly had nothing to do with becoming a single dad.

"The tipping point was not because my son was born. Because of the position I was in, I pretty much had to," he says. "I was out to everyone I was working with. I wasn't out to people I don't know. All of my friends who are gay aren't out to people they don't know."

Aiken's public declaration cost him some fans, he acknowledges. "I would be remiss to say it didn't have any effect at all."

Still, Aiken's life is better today. "To say I'm happier now would imply I was unhappy before. I definitely see now there is a certain amount of freedom ... I didn't have before. I also see the fears I had before didn't come to fruition.''

Aiken's Tried & True tour -- based on his current album of the same name -- contains such '50s and '60s standards as Can't Take My Eyes Off of You and Unchained Melody.

"We're doing it very intimately," Aiken says. "The songs are lushly arranged but the orchestrations will stay big. We'll try and pull the instrumentation down a bit. There's something that gets lost when there are as many people on stage as in the house."

Aiken says the down side to playing a 22-city, four-week bus tour is being separated from 2-year-old Parker.

"Technology helps," Aiken says. "We Skype and all that.

IF YOU GO

Clay Aiken appears 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the John S. and James L. Knight Concert Hall in the Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami. Tickets $35 to $85. Call 305-949-6722 or www.arshtcenter.org.

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orlandosentinel.com

Learning as He Goes

Learning as he goes

After the Idol frenzy, Clay Aiken aims for longevity in the music business

By Jim Abbott Orlando Sentinel Music Critic 12:06 p.m. EST, February 7, 2011

A big break can come with big challenges and that has been the case for Clay Aiken.

For Aiken, runner-up in the second season of "American Idol" in 2003 and one of the show's signature personalities, the music has always competed with intense curiosity about his personal life:

His sexual orientation. Family life with his son, Parker, now almost 3 years old, conceived via in vitro fertilization and born in August 2008.

Through it all, Aiken, 31, is still singing. His current tour, which stops on Friday at Hard Rock Live, features standards out of the American songbook. Aiken considers the material, showcased on his fifth studio album, "Tried and True," as the best he has ever recorded.

"I wouldn't say I'm more satisfied with the product this time than on any of the other ones," says Aiken by phone from his home in Raleigh, N.C. "I made sure everything we've done has been of the same high quality. With this one, it's just the material, the songs themselves. We used songs that have been superior, the "Unchained Melody," "Misty" and "Moon River." These were songs I sang and loved before 'Idol.'"

On stage, Aiken is taking a relaxed approach.

"I want to be more laid-back this time around … a little more off the cuff with a smaller group of people so we can change things as we go. Maybe do a different set tonight than the night before."

"Idol," of course, offered an enviable national platform to launch a career. Yet that advantage, as it turned out, didn't allow Aiken to avoid a steep learning-curve about his new career.

"I was thrown from a world where I was a special-ed teacher, where I had kids throwing things at me and spitting at me. But I didn't have to work with cutthroat lawyers and businessmen. Then, there's getting used to your newfound celebrity and learning how to live my life in this new way.

"Obviously, that takes some time."

After several years of speculation, Aiken disclosed that he was gay in a 2008 interview with People magazine. He has been a voice for inclusion and equality, although he doesn't consider himself an activist. In November, he testified at a congressional hearing on legislation to curb bullying, something he endured in his adolescent years.

"I never had someone who told me that it was OK to be different," he said at the time. "What I did hear was that it would get better once I was out of high school … that things would get better. But from where I sat, I could not possibly believe that to be true."

He hopes that his words might make things better for someone else.

And he's learned something else along the way:

"I learned the lesson that you can't make everybody happy all the time. What's worked for me best the last three or four years is to just do what's best for me."

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Access Atlanta

Clay Aiken Coming to Cobb Energy Centre Feb. 16

Clay Aiken coming to Cobb Energy Centre Feb. 16

11:14 am February 7, 2011, by Rodney Ho

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My recent Clay Aiken interview was decidedly unexciting because I didn't prep properly or ask him anything terribly compelling. Totally my fault. I forgot to ask him about watching "Idol" (the publicist gave me the "last question" signal and I blanked) or anything related to his sexuality (a touchy subject of course. I'm sure I could have asked it in an innocuous way and got him to gab a bit.). To salvage the story, I had to glean stuff from USA Today (for the "Idol" stuff) and Miami Herald (where he addressed his sexuality openly) for the story below, set for print Friday.

Over nine seasons of "American Idol," Clay Aikenremains one of the most indelible characters from the show. A dorky-looking special ed teacher who shocked the judges with his vocal skills during his audition more than eight years ago, he almost won the competition and at the same time, developed an incredibly loyal fan base.

While Aiken has created two albums of original music, he still has a penchant for covering classic songs, leading to his current album and tour dubbed "Tried and True." The concept was picking great songs from the 1950s and '60s that fit his voice and style.

"I liken it to trying clothes on in a store," said Aiken, on the phone last month to promote his concert Feb. 16 at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. "We started with 150 songs and narrowed it down to 75. I went to the shower and the garage and sang them all."

A couple of songs he didn't think would work ultimately made the album: Perry Como's "It's Impossible" and Herman's Hermits' "There's a Kind of Hush." The Anka song had a bossa nova styling "that exudes a coolness I don't necessarily have," he noted. But he found an arrangement that worked for him.

Aiken is also known for gabbing between tunes: "I will play a little more than an hour. But if I'm feeling really chatty, it can go much longer."

Last fall, Aiken toured with season two winner Ruben Studdard but didn't make it to Atlanta. That, he said, was "more of a show than a concert. We did a lot of shtick." This time, there will be no MC Hammer routine, no baggy pants or shiny baubles, he said.

For years, Aiken was the target of late-night comedy jokes over his sexuality until he came out in 2008. He is now is a spokesman for GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network.

Before going public, "I was out to everyone I was working with," Aiken told the Miami Heraldrecently. "I wasn't out to people I don't know. All of my friends who are gay aren't out to people they don't know."

Though it may have cost him some fans, he said coming out gave him a freedom he didn't have before and "fears I had didn't come to fruition."

Aiken generally avoids watching new seasons of "Idol" but did catch fellow North CarolinianVictoria Huggins last month when she auditioned. He remembers competing in a gospel-music contest with her many years ago.

"She won in her age category, and I won in my category," Aiken told USA Today last month. "Her mother and my mother have stayed in touch."

He's afraid if he continues to watch, he'll become addicted. "I'm going to get tied up in it and my palms are going to get sweaty every Thursday night on elimination night!'" he said.

ADDENDUM:

A source has been emailing me about a site that tracks Aiken ticket sales assiduously. Ticketmaster enables people to pick their seats. Only rear orchestra seats are available right now in the 2,750 capacity Cobb Energy Centre. Mezzanine and tier seats are not available at all. This site surmises that Cobb pulled 1,900 seats from the mezzanine and tier, leaving just the orchestra area, where about 400 seats are for sale out of 850 as of today. If these stats are accurate, it appears the tour is selling relatively slowly given the size of the venues. (When I reported he looked like he was nearly sold out last Friday, I was not aware of how Cobb may have purposely blocked out seats from sale.)

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broadwayworld.com

Photo Coverage: Broadway Backwards Raises $281,243 for BC/EFA

Photo Coverage: Broadway Backwards Raises $281,243 for BC/EFA

Tuesday, February 8, 2011; Posted: 12:02 PM - by Linda Lenzi

BROADWAY BACKWARDS 6, the one-night-only event held Monday at the Longacre Theatre, raised a record-breaking $281,243 to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center (the Center). This year's total far surpassed last year's previous record total of $186,780.

BROADWAY BACKWARDS is the only Broadway event custom-made for the gay and lesbian community, our friends and families. This year's edition featured a stunning 64-person cast that included Tony Award winners Hinton Battle, Len Cariou, Alan Cumming, Debra Monk, Bebe Neuwirth, Denis O'Hare, Karen Olivo and Lillias White, Academy Award winner F. Murray Abraham and American Idol runner-up Clay Aiken.

BROADWAY BACKWARDS re-interprets the songs of musical theater by featuring women singing songs originally written for men and men singing songs written for women. By keeping the lyrics intact, including the pronouns, each song takes on an entirely new dimension. It's Broadway in a whole new key.

Some highlights from this year's sold-out BROADWAY BACKWARDS:

· A rousing and naughty rebuke of the military's soon-to-be-obsolete "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy toward gay troops. Until the law is fully revoked, soldiers still can't "tell," prompting Alan Cumming (CBS's The Good Wife) to plunge into a military-themed "Don't Tell Mama" from Cabaret, the show which garnered him a Tony Award.

· Bebe Neuwirth (The Addams Family) returned to her Chicago roots, this time taking on the role of scheming lawyer Billy Flynn in the self-promoting "All I Care About is Love," surrounded by a bevy of glamorous, feathery fan-whirling chorus girls.

· American Idol runner-up Clay Aiken, who appeared on Broadway in Spamalot, brought the house to tears with his heart-felt yearning for "Home" from The Wiz.

· Lillias White, Tony winner for The Life and most recently seen in Fela!, had the audience dancing in their seats and stopped the show cold, showing off seemingly limitless vocals with a Ray Charles arrangement of "Some Enchanted Evening."

· Denis O'Hare, Tony winner for Take Me Out and currently starring in HBO's True Blood, partnered with Brooks Ashmanskas for a hilarious, updated version of "Marry the Man Today" from Guys and Dolls.

· Tony Yazbek, who appeared as the scene-stealing Tulsa in the recent revival of Gypsy, left the audience in awe after a breathtaking, heart-pounding redition of "Music and the Mirror" from A Chorus Line.

· The leading ladies from the original Broadway cast of In the Heights - Mandy Gonzalez (Wicked) and Karen Olivo (West Side Story) - reunited for a new take on the In the Heights show-stopping love song "When You're Home."

· F. Murray Abraham (Academy Award-winner for Amadeus) concluded the show with an emotional finale with "Hello Young Lovers" from the King and I, celebrating the courageous and brave in our community who stand-up to oppressors and bullies.

Other featured performers included Farah Alvin (The Marvelous Wonderettes), Hinton Battle (Miss Saigon), Ward Billeisen (Anything Goes), Tituss Burgess (The Little Mermaid), Len Cariou (Sweeney Todd and CBS's Blue Bloods), Colman Domingo (Scottsboro Boys), Robin De Jesús (La Cage aux Folles), Derek Hanson (A Chorus Line), Jose Llana (Wonderland),Jan Maxwell (The Royal Family), Debra Monk (Curtains), Mo Rocca (The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee), Brian Charles Rooney (The Threepenny Opera), Bobby Steggert (Ragtime) and Jason Tam (A Chorus Line).

Dan Butler (The Only Thing Worse... and NBC's Frasier) and Kirsten Wyatt (Elf) served as co-hosts for the evening.

Broadway Backwards Creator Robert Bartley directed and choreographed with co-choreographer/associate director Kathryn Kendall and musical direction by Chris Haberl. The creative team also included lighting designer Paul Miller, costumer designer Philip Heckman and musical supervisor Patrick Vaccariello.

Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS is one of the nation's leading industry-based, nonprofit AIDS fundraising and grant-making organizations. By drawing upon the talents, resources and generosity of the American theatre community, since 1988 BC/EFA has raised over $195 million for essential services for people with AIDS and other critical illnesses across the United States.

BC/EFA also awards annual grants to more than 400 AIDS and family service organizations nationwide and is the major supporter of seven programs at The Actors Fund, including The HIV/AIDS Initiative, The Phyllis Newman Women's Health Initiative, The Al Hirschfeld Free Health Clinic and more.

The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center provides innovative social service, youth programs and activities, educational and cultural/recreational programs for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people of all ages. Since its inception, the Center has been the only LGBT-identified resource delivering a continuum of substance abuse prevention and treatment services to LGBT communities in and around NYC. More than 3,000 clients use Center Counseling, Advocacy, Recovery and Education (Center CARE) annually, which offers low-cost/no cost professional counseling and social services for substance abuse prevention and related HIV/AIDS, mental health and gender identity issues. More than 1,000 adolescents participate in our LGBT youth prevention program, the Youth Enrichment Services (YES) Program. In September 2007 the Center opened Center CARE Recovery, the first and only licensed outpatient substance abuse treatment program for LGBT communities in New York State.

BroadwayWorld was on hand for the event and brings you photo coverage below.

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The Hollywood Reporter

Clay Aiken "Has No Desire" to Record "Any Time Soon"

Clay Aiken Has 'No Desire' to Record 'Any Time Soon'

He plays coy on a report claiming he's been dropped by his label: 'I am focusing on my live show and heading out on tour this week for the next few months.'

5:15 PM 2/8/2011 by Stacey Wilson, Shirley Halperin

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Addressing rumors on Tuesday that he'd been dropped from another record label, American Idol alum Clay Aiken was cagey about the possibility of a second project with Universal's Decca Records, which released his fifth studio album, Tried and True, last summer.

"There is no upcoming album planned at this time," Aiken told The Hollywood Reporter. "I am focusing on my live show and heading out on tour this week for the next few months. The truth is, I have no desire to get back into the studio any time soon."

A rep for Decca was equally non-committal, saying only that she "didn't know of any plans at this time to release a future album with Clay."

The June 1, 2010 release of Tried and True -- a compilation of 1950s and 1960s pop songs -- sold only 63,000 copies according to Nielsen SoundScan, plus, 10,000 digital downloads.

Disappointing sales aside, Aiken may have in fact signed a "one-off" deal with Decca, a common contractual arrangement in which an artist renegotiates with a label on an album-to-album basis.

Avoiding specifics, Aiken kept the possibility open for further collaborations with Decca.

"There has never been a long-term label deal in place," he said, "but when there is new album to discuss, I will discuss it with the label."

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miamiartzine.com

Clay Aiken: An American Idol

Clay Aiken

An American Idol

by James Cubby on February 05, 2011

Singer Clay Aiken has morphed into quite a musical star since his first audition for American Idol in 2003. Those who watched Aiken's first audition saw a skinny bespectacled geek but one full of confidence with a tremendous voice present himself to judges Randy Jackson and Simon Cowell. Today Clay Aiken is an American Idol. Although he didn't win the show, coming in a close second, Aiken, like many other Idol "losers," has a won a place in the hearts of the American public. With six albums under his belt (his debut album Measure of a Manwent multi-platinum), nine tours, a New York Times best-selling book, a stint on Broadway and a string of guest starring roles on shows like Scrubs, Saturday Night Liveand 30 Rock, Aiken is not only an American Idol but a star.

On March 12, 2010, Aiken held a one night only concert at the Raleigh Memorial Auditorium performing songs from his new album, Tried and True. PBS filmed the concert with guests appearances by Ruben Studdard and Linda Eder. Aiken is currently on tour promoting that album will take the stage of the Knight Concert Hall in Miami to sing some of the classics from Tried and True. Since Aiken is currently on tour, he only had time for a quick interview. I asked him what the audience should expect from this show and he replied, "This time we decided to make it a little more intimate if possible. That gives me an opportunity to be more flexible with the set list songs which will be low key, some of them are big but not flashy. It's not big. It's not high production."

Most of the songs that Aiken will be singing are from the 50s and 60s. Songs like Mack the Knife, Can't Take My Eyes Off You andMoon River. Aiken says he feels at home singing these classics. "I've always liked this genre. They are songs that I grew up on because my mom was playing them, or I enjoyed the artists that sang some of these songs. It was an opportunity for me to sing songs where I got to sing. This is a crooner album more than anything else. I like songs that are about the melody and about the music, instead of about the beat or the hook, not that these songs don't have hooks. They're not about dancing they're about singing." I tried to get Clay to reveal his set list, beyond songs from Tried and True, but he said that he wants to surprise the audience.

While Aiken seems at home singing any type of music he says, "My favorite type of music is anything that has a great melody, any kind of crooner song."

Aiken, like any true star, has proven himself in many arenas. In 2008, Aiken made his Broadway debut in Monty Python's Spamalot, playing the role of Sir Robin. "I would love to return to Broadway it was a great experience and I had a lot of fun."

Aiken has repeatedly made the producers of American Idol proud and has returned to the show for guest spots. On one such show, a Clay Aiken wannabe performed while the curtains behind him open to reveal the real Clay Aiken. Clay appreciates the boost that American Idol gave his career but he doesn't look back. I asked him what he would do if he woke up tomorrow and couldn't sing. He said he'd go back to being a teacher.

Luckily for us, Aiken has not lost his voice and Miami audiences will be treated to a night of his crooning. Aiken is no stranger to Miami since he recorded the songs "Invisible," co-written by Miami's Desmond Child, and "Measure of a Man" in Miami. On February 10, Clay Aiken will take the stage at the Knight Concert Hall and prove that he's an American Idol.

Clay Aiken performs at the Knight Concert Hall of the Adrienne Arsht Center on February 10 at 7:30 p.m. The Arsht Center is located at 1300 Biscayne Boulevard in downtown Miami. For information call 305.949.6722 or visit www.arshtcenter.org.

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knoxville.com

Clay Aiken Keeps His Feet on the Ground Long After "American Idol"

Clay Aiken keeps his feet on the ground long after 'American Idol'

No pedestal

By Wayne Bledsoe

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Clay Aiken is the sort of artist who gets a gut reaction. Some fans love him. Others, especially those who hate "American Idol," seem to despise him. Talking with Aiken, though, it would be hard not to like the guy. He laughs easily and seems comfortable. He answers questions without hesitation. When Aiken competed in "American Idol," he was a 25-year-old finishing up his degree in special education. He says he wasn't prepared for the negative aspects of becoming an instant celebrity.

"At the very beginning I, literally, was scared to death of it - hated it," says Aiken. "Then it became a major annoyance. Then it became a chronic annoyance!" Aiken laughs. "Slowly it's just kind of become, 'That's just how things are.' People say, 'Oh, you knew what you were getting when you got into this.' No, I really didn't. I went on a reality show. I wanted to be in a competition and by the time this started happening it was kind of too late to drop out of 'Idol.' I didn't ask for it."

Although Aiken came in at No. 2 in the competition, he is one of only a handful of the Idols to have a solid music career after competing.

He's released six albums and tours regularly. He says it took a little while to find his groove in the business.

"I imagine it's like any job," says Aiken. "The first few months of doing a job are a learning curve. ... You get past that anxiety of not knowing what you're doing, of not knowing how you're doing, of not knowing if you're going to get fired by their bosses if they screw something up. At some point you just get comfortable with it. It's been eight years since 'Idol' now, which makes me cry to think about how old I am! But I know the audience a little bit more, myself a little bit more, the business a little bit more."

Aiken says there's no dearth of people who aren't fans making comments about him. "I sang for the NHL All-Star Game a few nights ago, which, let's be honest, I was a perfect fit for - and that's pure sarcasm! I looked at comments for that and you know the comments were incredibly nasty. I've gotten beyond the point that it hurts my feelings. If I could be bruised by that, I'd have a big one."

Aiken said he decided to look at comments about Christina Aguilera singing at the Super Bowl, and they were just as mean. (Note: This interview was conducted before Aguilera flubbed the national anthem at the Super Bowl on Sunday night. Aiken is referring to general comments made about Aguilera when it was merely announced that she would be performing.)

"You never see anyone write anything nice. These are bullies and they wouldn't do it if their name and face and address were available. I can't tell you how many times I've read someone say something nasty about me in a blog or a comment somewhere, but I've never had anybody say anything nasty to my face, not once in eight years. The Internet has become someplace where we can hide. It would really change the tone of this country if you couldn't be anonymous. I'm all for free speech, but speak it and own it."

More upsetting to Aiken, though, is that some people think he is rude. He points to 2006 when he was on "Live With Regis and Kelly" and put his hand over Kelly Ripa's mouth.

"I think most people knew that was supposed to be a joke and people laughed and we laughed through it," he says. "The way it was spun was that I am a rude person. There is this faction of people out there that think I'm some sort of diva or mean person. If I was one, I would tell you I wasn't (laughs), but I really don't think that I am!

"People who are the meanest in life are the ones who are less secure. People who are happy with their lives and where they are in life are generally nice. I was definitely less secure in 2003 than I am in 2011. I like to think that that makes me more gregarious. I enjoy what I do, how I get to do it and who I get to do it with. I'm happy with my life. If I ever do start being mean to people then it will probably be because I'm not happy with my own situation. But I promise I won't!"

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thedailytimes.com

Clay Aiken Shoots "True" with an Album Drawn From the Classics

Clay Aiken shoots 'True' with an album drawn from the classics

By Steve Wildsmith

When crooner Clay Aiken of "American Idol" fame decided to tap into the classics for his most recent album, he opted not to go for the obvious.

The golden age of singers would have been an easy choice, but for Aiken, channeling the coolness of Frank Sinatra and the rest of the Rat Pack just didn't feel right. Besides, another contemporary singer, his friend Michael Bublé, had already put his stamp on that particular sound.

Instead, Aiken went for the doe-eyed romanticism of men like Perry Como and Johnny Mathis. Their vibe, he told The Daily Times during a recent phone interview, was much more his style.

"We definitely had an era we wanted to hold onto, and the Rat Pack wasn't it, although it's very close," he said. "Michael Bublé is a good friend of mine, but I felt there was a faction of that '50s and '60s era that he wasn't tapping into. There's a coolness that comes from the Rat Pack, and I'm not going to kid anybody by thinking I'm the coolest person in the room.

"Guys like Perry Como and Andy Williams who had a very different vibe. Songs like 'Unchained Melody' and 'Moon River' and 'Misty' — those are the songs I gravitated toward most, the love songs from the '50s and '60s. And so the question became, how do we fill in around them?"

Once he had a specific vibe in mind, Aiken and his team began broadening the scope of their search, seeking out other songs they could transform into the sound they were aiming for. A prime example — "It's Only Make Believe," by Conway Twitty.

"What we did is take the skeleton of that song, which we took and stripped away some of the steel guitar, and once we did that, it really fit beautifully," he said. "We did the Herman's Hermits song ("There a Kind of Hush") the same way — we turned it into a bandstand type of song."

And therein lies Aiken's genius — he's a song aficionado. He plays to his strengths, and he has a keen ear for what songs will serve his sound the best. It's a skill that made him runner-up on Season 2 of "American Idol" and gave him a career that's eclipsed that of the man that beat him, his close friend Ruben Studdard.

A native of North Carolina, Aiken's time on the show was a study in transformation — from that of a gangly singer in glasses to a stylish cool guy by the end of the season. Although he needed a "wild card" invite to make it past the top 32, once he made it to the top 12 he was never in jeopardy for the remainder of the season. His enormous popularity carried through to October of that year, when he debut album "Measure of a Man" debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart.

The following year, his holiday album "Merry Christmas With Love" set a new record for the fastest-selling holiday album since Soundscan started being used to tabulate sales; in 2006, his sophomore effort "A Thousand Different Ways" landed at No. 2 on the Hot 200 and made Aiken the fourth artist ever to have his first three albums debut in the Top 5 and sell more than 200,000 copies each during the first week of release.

Two years later, however, "On My Way" here marked Aiken's last for the RCA label. A disappointment in terms of sales – at least compared to his previous albums — the majority of the press surrounding him focused instead on his personal life, including the birth of his son with his friend Jaymes Foster (the sister of David Foster, the executive producer of his three RCA albums) and the disclosure in September of that year that he is gay.

Almost three years later, he's accepted the public fascination with his personal life. He doesn't like it, but he's stopped fighting it, he said.

"It frustrates me, but I've figured out that's how it happens," he said. "It's something that, eight years ago I hated and wanted it to stop, and four years ago I hated it and wished it would stop, and now I hate it and realize I'm not going to be able to. Do I wish the focus was on the music? Yes. Do I understand this morbid fascination with what I do outside of music allows me to continue doing things in music? Yes.

"Now, looking back in this rearview mirror, while I don't like this attention being on it, I do understand that the morbid fascination with what I do outside of work has allowed me to work, more so than I know of some people who have boring lives, or even the great musicians who don't have the fascination of them as people. But it's a Catch 22, because I'd love for it to go away.

"That's one of the reasons I moved to North Carolina, because I couldn't leave my house in LA without being followed or getting my picture taken," he added. "I hate that when I go there to visit my son, it's like that — but I also have to wonder: If it did go away, would my ability to continue to tour and sing and perform also go away?"

He'd like to think it wouldn't, and judging by the legion of loyal fans who love his voice and his music, their adoration would continue to sustain his artistic endeavors, on some level at least. Because to them — and to countless others who witnessed his rise to fame on "American Idol" — Aiken is the real deal. Like his music or not, keep up with his personal life or not … it's impossible to deny his voice is a thing of power.

Is he an artist? Some say yes; Aiken himself shies away from making such a claim. He doesn't, however, downplay his ability to take a song and turn it into something that sounds amazing. After all, he's earned the right to be proud of what he can do, and some would say he's entitled to that pride. But don't mistake pride for arrogance — hearing Aiken talk, you get the idea that it has nothing to do with arrogance and everything to do with confidence.

"Nowadays, it's all about the producer — there are some incredibly talented producers in the world that could take 'Mary Had a Little Lamb,' turn it into a dance mix and everybody would be singing along to it," he said. "Some of the songs I hear these days are so produced, it's hard to tell if the songs are any good. That's not the case with the songs on 'Tried and True.' Melodies you can't argue with. Songs that are really well-written, you can't argue with, and we chose not to change the production on those.

"I think there's a difference between being an artist and a performer, and I'm willing to accept the title of being a performer. I don't write songs; I've tried my hand once or twice at writing something, and it didn't work out so well. I just don't consider myself a songwriter. But I do enjoy trying to figure out the technicalities and the eccentricities of a song — why we like it, what it means to us. There's just something about doing that that intrigues me."

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outsmartmagazine.com (Houston, TX)

Clay Aiken's Valentine's Day Concert in Houston

Clay Aiken's Valentine's Day Concert in Houston

February 12, 2011

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by David Goldberg

For star-crossed lovers, first dates, or even the single-and-fabulous, this Monday, February 14, will certainly be enchanting as Clay Aiken lands at Jones Hall. Aiken is hitting Houston as part of his Tried and True Tour to promote his latest album of the same name. "The music is all love songs," Aiken says. "It's perfect for Valentine's Day." Tried and True will feature some of Aiken's original music, along with covers of classic love songs like "Moon River" and "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You."

After multiple tours, and performances on Broadway in Monty Python's "Spamalot," Aiken says he now has the experience to pull off a show that is spectacular and stress-free. "This tour is a lot more laid back and a lot more relaxed than other shows I've done before," Aiken says.

Now that the 2003 American Idol runner-up is a touring artist and father of two-year-old son Parker, he argues that accommodating his career and his family is not as difficult as it sounds. "Having a family is not something that makes things more complicated; it makes things more wonderful," Aiken says. "I don't look at [touring and raising a son] as if it's some burden that I have to work around." Although Houston is only the second stop on Aiken's tour, he's already confident that he'll make his family arrangements work.

Since having a child and coming out in 2008, Aiken now performs to an even more diverse range of fans, many from the LGBT community. "There are some people who have come into the fray in the last two years or so who might not have felt welcome before, or might not have felt comfortable coming to a Clay Aiken show [even though] they wanted to," he says. And while he makes it clear that he enjoys all his fans, regardless of race or sexuality, he admits that he has noticed "a slightly obvious change to where there's a more active and supportive group of gay fans."

The out gay performer is involved with a number of LGBT causes, most notably the Gay, Straight and Lesbian Education Network (GSLEN), which has played a significant role in fighting bullying and persecution of gay youth in schools. Their battle has taken on more importance in the wake of the country's recent gay teen suicides. "After coming out, I made sure I understood that there was a role that I would play when it comes to gay rights and equality," he says. "GSLEN was at the center of it for me." He hopes that his visibility and voice will help unite people from all political spectrums to push for anti bullying legislation. "No one believes that kids should be picked on and abused and bullied so much that they resort to such horrible solutions—I hate to use that word—as taking their own lives," he says. Aiken's voice may prove to be essential in the coming political struggles against LGBT bullying.

The star is thankful for his fans that have supported him since the beginning, and to his new fans that are just discovering him. He believes that his Houston fans will be happy that they chose to see him on Valentine's Day. "It's the Valentine's Day show for everyone, for all couples, of all stripes and varieties," he says. "Everyone is welcome and encouraged to come and show their love of the person that they are with, regardless of who they are and who they are with. I hope to see everyone there."

The Houston Symphony and Jones Hall for the Performing Arts presents the Clay Aiken: Tried and True Tour, in conjunction with PBS to support "Clay Aiken: Tried and True – Live!" Monday, February 14, 2011, 7:30pm, in Jones Hall. Info Phone: 713-224-7575 or 888-512-SHOW.

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timesonline.com (Beaver County, PA)

Aiken Has It Covered for Area Show

Aiken has it covered for area show

Posted: Saturday, February 12, 2011 11:31 pm | Updated: 9:05 am, Sun Feb 13, 2011.

Scott Tady

Clay Aiken promises intimacy Friday when he performs a show filled with '50s and '60s classics at the Carnegie Library Music Hall in Munhall.

"One of my favorite things is to get into the audience and have conversations with people," Aiken said. "It's a great way to find out what those songs have meant to them."

One song from his "Tried and True" covers album, in particular, carries extra significance for the former "American Idol" star.

That's the Righteous Brothers' "Unchained Melody, a song he first sang on stage at age 14, delivering such a stirring performance that his mother vowed immediately to take him to Nashville so he could become a big star.

"Clearly that didn't happen," chuckled the 32-year-old Raleigh, N.C., native, who was 25 when his seemingly improbable run began on Season 2 of "Idol." The show's judges initially doubted the idol potential of the geeky-looking singer, until his tenor voice let loose with a remarkable rendition of Heatwave's "Always and Forever."

Aiken's climb toward the final round included performances of "Unchained Melody" and "Mack the Knife," another standard on his 2009 "Tried and True" album.

He wanted to sing Henry Mancini's "Moon River" and was given the green light from an "Idol" producer, but was talked out of it by friends who didn't think that song would earn enough viewers' votes.

"But I love it," said Aiken, who made sure to include "Moon River" on his "Tried and True" album, and has been known to sing it live. Maybe he will do so Friday in Munhall.

Aiken said he's excited to return to Pittsburgh, remembering his initial surprise when first visiting the city.

"I just couldn't believe how green and how pretty the downtown is on the rivers," Aiken said. "It's really one of the more beautiful downtown layouts. I wish I lived in a city with rivers."

When his tour wraps in March, he will continue to focus on music rather than heading back to Broadway, where in 2008 he performed a four-month run in "Monty Python's Spamalot," playing Sir Robin.

"I did love Broadway, but I would be upset if I didn't get to sing," he said.

Aiken said his 2-year-old son, Parker, is "doing well," but the protective parent didn't want to elaborate,

"His daddy already spends too much time in the spotlight," Aiken said.

And don't ask Aiken about the new-look "American Idol" with judges Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez.

"I haven't watched 'Idol' in years," Aiken said. "I mean, after a while, you appreciate your high school and where it got you. But I don't go to the football games."

Scott Tady can be reached online at stady@timesonline.com.

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pittsburghlive.com

Clay Aiken Believes the Music Should Be About the Singer

Clay Aiken believes the music should be about the singer

By Kellie B. Gormly

PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Pop star Clay Aiken sometimes wonders whether he was born in the wrong era, since he has such an affinity for oldies music from his parents' time, in the '50s and '60s.

With two musician parents, music was always playing around the North Carolina home where Aiken grew up. Some of the old favorites he heard all the time -- like "Suspicious Minds," "It's Only Make Believe," "Moon River" and "Crying" -- ended up as cuts on his fifth studio album, "Tried and True," his first with Decca Records. Aiken, who is bringing his "Tried and True" tour to Munhall on Friday, says he feels right at home on this album, which was almost effortless.

"When I started singing, these were the songs that fit into the category of great melodies sung by people who could really sing," Aiken says. "It feels like a glove."

"Tried and True," Aiken says, is about "beautiful melody and beautiful songs, rather than being radio-friendly."

That's the way music should be, he says -- but today, that often isn't the case. Modern music, he says, can sound like the musical equivalent of airbrushing.

"I just think music then was about the melody, and it was about the song, and it was about the singer," he says. "I definitely see that it ... takes talent to do a lot of the stuff that was on the radio.

"Now, the performer doesn't necessarily have the talent," Aiken says. "The producer has the talent. Back in the 50s and 60s, they sang it live while they scratched it onto vinyl. That's how good they were."

"Tried and True," which came out in June of last year, includes two songs -- "Unchained Melody" and "Mack the Knife" -- that Aiken sang when he was a contestant on the second season of "American Idol." Aiken has given up on his training grounds and no longer watches "Idol" regularly, though he acknowledges the show's importance on his path.

"Once you know how the sausage is made, it's a little tougher to eat it," he says. Aiken watched the season after his, and it brought back nervous memories. "When people would get cut ... I found myself being transported mentally to that stressful environment. My palms were sweating. It made me horribly nervous.

"I have no doubt about the fact that I wouldn't be here today if it weren't for high school, but ... I don't go back to the football games," Aiken says.

Aiken does much more than sing. He has appeared on many television shows, including "The Insider," "The Morning Show," "All My Children" and "Days of Our Lives." Aiken does charity work as chairman and co-founder of the National Inclusion Project, which helps children with disabilities, and he also works as a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF. In 2008, Aiken made his Broadway debut in the musical "Monty Python's Spamalot," as Sir Robin.

That same year, Aiken came out publicly as gay, although he had been out for awhile to many people close to him. It wasn't as hard to come out as it seemed, says the born-again Christian.

"I think Christians get a bad rap sometimes because the loud mouthpieces are more hypocritical," Aiken says. "I know plenty of Christians who are supportive and loving and accepting."

Kellie B. Gormly can be reached at kgormly@tribweb.com or 412-320-7824.

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vindy.com

A Grown-Up Clay Aiken Sticks to "Tried & True"

A grown-up Clay Aiken sticks to 'Tried & True'

By John Benson

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Clay Aiken has finally grown up. Or so he feels regarding his latest album, "Tried & True," which features covers from the '50s and '60s such as "Unchained Melody," "Crying" and "Mack the Knife."

It's been an interesting road for the Season 2 "American Idol" runner-up, who unlike others in his position has parlayed 15-minutes of fame into a recording career that includes more than 5 million albums sold. Over the past few years, the 32-year-old Raleigh, N.C., native has reinvented himself from sappy pop singer into a Broadway ("Spamalot") and television ("30 Rock" and "Scrubs") actor. Though he came out in 2008, that topic was off-limits during a recent phone interview to discuss Aiken's show Friday at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Library Music Hall and Saturday date at Cleveland's Palace Theatre.

The Vindicator talked to Aiken about his memories of Northeast Ohio, how his new album captures his dapper side and his "American Idol" past.

Q. Over the years, you've enjoyed quite a following in Cleveland. What stands out about your local audience?

A. We actually have a lot of luck in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan. The swing states for some reason work out really well. There are several fans I can think of in particular who are from Cleveland. I won't mention their names, but they're colorful and always the way I think of that city. They just come to the show. There is one lady in particular who likes to be called Granny. She's a huge [Cleveland] Indians fan and very early on, eight years ago, she started coming to shows. She's been very enthusiastic. I'm sure she'll be there.

Q. As far as your new album, "Tried & True," what was the idea behind recording '50s and '60s songs?

A. They're songs I grew up listening to, and I say artistically, they're a little bit more close to home to me. It's a sound, a vibe, an energy I feel more comfortable doing. I enjoyed doing all of the other albums I've done, but when I sing in the shower or when nobody is around, these are the kinds of songs I gravitate towards. They're more musically significant to me, and I think melodically and lyrically, they're stronger than most things you hear on the radio nowadays. Now it's more about the producer than it is the singer.

Q. Staying with "Tried & True," the album cover finds you looking quite dapper, which isn't always your image.

A. It's about time I grew up (laughs). The whole concept of the cover was to go along with the sound itself, which it came from my house. When I built my house, my mom decorated my game room with her old LP covers from the '50s. She framed them and put them on the wall. And as we were doing this album, I looked at them and thought they all have a very similar feel to them; always a very well-dressed professional almost looking dapper. They all have the same vibe. So let's do the new album cover like that.

Q. Did you realize at the time you were making something straight out of "Mad Men?"

A. You know what? I didn't but I wish they'd use it.

Q. Let's switch topics to "American Idol." We have to ask what you think of the current season's new lineup featuring judges Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler?

A. I haven't watched it in about six years, so I have not seen enough to have an opinion. The only thing I can base an opinion on would be the fact I know who they are. The fact they are both performers I think is nice. With the exception of Paula, there really hasn't been anybody on the panel who is a performer and knows what it's like to get on stage. So that's a benefit.

Q. Finally, do you think you'll ever officially be out of the "American Idol" shadow?

A. First, you'd have to assume it's a shadow. I'm not so sure it is. It still shines a pretty big light. I don't know if one ever does leave that to be honest, but I think after eight years, people for the most part recognize me for me. I think I'll always be — or at least as long as the show is on the air — be considered or introduced as being from "American Idol." And that's fine; that's how I got here.

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greenville.metromix.com

Q&A: Clay Aiken

Q&A: Clay Aiken

Singer discusses '30 Rock' appearance, 'Idol' judges and vowels

By Matt Wake Feb. 18, 2011

Halfway through the interview, pop crooner Clay Aiken pauses to quietly order lunch — Chick-fil-A — via his assistant. Following today's call, conducted from a bedroom land line in his Durham, N.C., home, Aiken, 33, will reorganize his set list. He's touring in support of "Tried and True," an album of big-band interpretations, including "Suspicious Minds," "Mack the Knife" and "Unchained Melody."

The loudest rock artist you listen to is…?

Does Daughtry count?

Sure.

If that's the loudest, that's pretty sad for me, isn't it?

Like Sly Stone says, different strokes for different folks. You've been on a ton of talk shows. How much of that dialogue is off-the-cuff and how much is rehearsed?

When you do Leno, you do a pre-interview to find the funny things in your life, because if I just talked about normal things, it might not be funny. When you do a news interview, like if you do "Good Morning America," you don't have any preparation whatsoever. I'll say that "The View," which is probably my favorite show to go on, is really quite off-the-cuff, too. Amazingly, those ladies are somehow miraculously able to be spontaneous but not talk over each other so much we can't understand them.

What's your favorite song to sing live these days?

"What Kind of Fool Am I," the Sammy Davis Jr. song.

Why?

As silly as that sounds, if the words are written right and the vowels sit in the right place they're just easier to sing, and they sound better coming out of your mouth. And "What Kind of Fool Am I" is chock full of them.

You appeared on an episode of "30 Rock" last year. What's it like on that set?

Well, I was slightly star-struck because that's my favorite sitcom on TV. I got home last night at midnight and ran straight to the TiVo to watch it. The scene I did was with Alec Baldwin. I got to talk to him quite a bit, and he seems perfectly normal and very nice. But he would grab the script — and I honestly believe in the scenes I worked with him that he'd never seen the script before — they handed it to him, he looked at the lines, and, bam, he became Jack Donaghy. It was kind of fascinating.

How do you think the new judges on "American Idol" are doing?

Well, I don't watch the show. I haven't watched "Idol" with any regularity since Carrie Underwood. Having not really seen enough of them in the judges' capacity to know how they would do, I will say Steven Tyler is a legend and he's sustained a career for years. He knows what it's like to be on stage. J.Lo knows what it's like to be a star. Whether you like her music or movies or not, she's good at being a star, which is more than I think Randy or Simon could say. I always said they should have a former contestant on the show as a judge because nobody else knows what that's like to be a contestant. I would volunteer. (Laughs.) Last year, they didn't have anybody on the show that knows what it's like to be a performer. Well, now they do.

Ever wear disguises when you go out in public?

If I pull my hood up on my sweat shirt and think I can sneak through somewhere, people always recognize me more. I used to have this little bucket hat that I wore all the time. It doesn't work. The best disguise for me is if I put on my glasses and don't comb my hair. People still (recognize me), but it takes them a little longer. "Hey, he kind of looks like Clay Aiken."

What instrumentalists inspire you?

I'm a big fan of Chris Botti, because I think he makes the trumpet sounds different than anybody else does. It's just very smooth with him. And Regina Carter, who's a jazz violinist, I've been a fan of since college at least. David Sanborn, I specifically asked for him to be on this album because there may be more commercially viable but artistically there's not anybody who's as good as he is. I have respect for anybody that can play an instrument because I can't even play the spoons.

How did growing up in North Carolina and the South in general impact you as a singer?

If you look at "Idol," the first half of the series every winner was from the South and every runner up was from the South. I grew up singing in church. When you're singing religious music the lyrics matter, so in addition to having to have good lyrics you also have to have a melody that allows you to hear them. Also I think probably all of us, Fantasia would be the exception, grew up listening to country. I know for a fact Reuben grew up listening to country. I grew up listening to country. Kelly, I guarantee did and Carrie obviously did. Historically, country music has been a little bit more about the lyric and melody than it is about dancing. Arguably, there's some shift toward drinking songs and check-you-for-ticks type songs, but for the most part it's about the melody and the lyric and I grew up with that.

Clay Aiken plays the Peace Center 7:30 p.m. Feb. 24. Tickets are $35-$65. For more information, call 864-467-3000 and www.clayaiken.com.

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charlotteobserver.com

Clay Aiken: "It's None of Your Business"

Clay Aiken: 'It's none of your business'

NewsChannel 36

Posted: Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2011

North Carolina native and former "American Idol" contestant Clay Aiken talked about his newest album and his experiences in the public eye.

Aiken appeared on the second season of "American Idol." Since then he's managed to stay true to himself while working in the music industry.

"It is a business; people have to make their money. So there have definitely been people who have wanted me to dress this way or whatnot," Aiken admitted during a Charlotte interview today. He performs at the Belk Theater tonight.

"I try to equate it to when I was growing up and my mom or my teacher would try to use the slang terms that the kids were using, and it just didn't sound right coming out of their mouth. I remember at one point a record executive tried to have me in this leather jacket, and I was like, 'really? No, that doesn't work for me, that doesn't look right.' It's much easier to be who you are. I think people see through it when you're not really being yourself."

When Aiken first emerged as a musician, there was a lot of speculation about his sexuality. He has been the butt of several jokes from comedians like Kathy Griffin. As his career has progressed he has figured out how to focus on the aspects of the job that he likes, such as the music, while downplaying things like the media attention and teasing he has received.

"The first year of a job you're sort of getting used to it, so initially, it did hurt my feelings at first. Then I didn't care as much, I kind of understood it was part of the job. Then that kind of thing became a nuisance and then eight years on - I have a choice. I can go back to teaching or I can stick with it and this is something that comes with the job," Aiken said.

He does understand the need for media attention in his industry.

"There's also the argument that if it weren't for this morbid and completely unwarranted fascination with me the person, I wouldn't have the opportunities there as much. If I wasn't so fascinating as an individual, maybe people wouldn't want to let me keep singing," he said with a smile. "It's kind of a catch-22."

But as far as the speculation into his sexual orientation, Aiken said that publicly admitting he is gay was not a relief.

"There was probably more of a feeling of animosity towards people who thought it was their business," Aiken said.

He said his sexuality wasn't a secret.

"I wasn't in the closet before," he said. "I was out to friends here in Charlotte; I was out to pretty much everyone I knew. I feel like there's a little bit of hypocrisy there. People who are gay who live in Charlotte, who live anywhere else, they don't have to come out to the world. And I didn't either. People knew, I had told my family, I'd told friends, people knew but I had not told 'you' and it's none of your business."

Aiken disclosed that he is gay in a 2008 issue of People Magazine. He appeared on the cover of that issue with his infant son.

He said fatherhood is great. Right now, while he's on tour, his son is with his mother.

"It makes me homesick even more," Aiken admitted.

But he is enjoying a little downtime from being a dad. "Several people (on the tour) have kids and while we miss them, we enjoy the fact that we can sleep a little longer in the morning."

Aiken is touring to promote his album "Tried and True." The album is made up of songs from the 1950s and 1960s.

"It's songs my mom played or sang while I was growing up and that was the soundtrack to my childhood," he explained.

Clay Aiken grew up in Raleigh and graduated from UNC Charlotte in 2003.

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long-island.newsday.com

Clay Aiken Brings "Tried and True" Tour to Westbury

Clay Aiken brings 'Tried and True' tour to Westbury

February 23, 2011 by GLENN GAMBOA / glenn.gamboa@newsday.com

For Clay Aiken, it's all about being comfortable.

After a slight adjustment period, the former special education teacher from North Carolinawho shot to prominence on "American Idol" in 2003 has come to terms with his post-"Idol" life.

"I really loved the TV aspect of 'American Idol' and the idea of doing something different for people every week," said Aiken, calling from a tour stop in Pittsburgh. "In high school, I would always say, 'I can do other things, too.' That's followed me into adulthood. . . . I have a lot of different irons in the fire."

Aiken's current priority, aside from his 2-year-old son, Parker, is his current "Tried and True" tour, which stops at the NYCB Theatre at Westbury Saturday.

"Tried and True" features songs from the '50s and '60s. How did you get an attachment to songs written before you were born?

The biggest reason is my mom. She loved that music and would sing these songs around the house. . . . Another reason is that in that era people really sang well. They were singers instead of artists where the producer makes them sound like a robot the whole time.

It should make for a different tour than your last one with Ruben Studdard.

It lets me be more flexible. We even let the audience take a song and choose the style. We had a calypso style the other night. . . . The important thing for me is to make sure the songs all fit the show and feel like they're from that era. We even take contemporary songs and give them a lush, orchestral arrangement. . . . We've done "Invisible" that way, and even "Footloose" and "Baby One More Time."

You don't have a record label at the moment.

The industry is more interested in immediate hits rather than careers that last. If I was going to sign a deal, it would be a short-term one, not for multiple albums. I don't really want to be in the studio as much right now. I love touring. I love what I'm doing.

The music industry has certainly changed.

It's in the process of reinventing itself and we have to look at things in a different way. A few years ago, you had to have a major label behind you. Now, it doesn't necessarily behoove you to have one.... just won the Grammy for Album of the Year and they're on a tiny, tiny label in Durham, near where I'm from and that's not exactly a music industry mecca. With everything changing so fast, I don't think it's a good idea to be in a long-term deal. It restricts you.

You've spent a lot of time recently talking about bullying.

I got bullied my entire life, so it hits close to home. I've always been tracking that cause in particular. Unfortunately, last year it got a lot of attention because so many gay males tragically took their own lives. That wasn't a new thing. Bullying has been happening for decades but it just got more attention... The group I've joined GLSEN focuses on an area where most people won't disagree. No matter where you are on the ideological spectrum, no one believes that kids shouldn't be safe at school. Nobody thinks that kids should be abused or called names so much that they want to take their own lives. That's not OK.

WHAT: Clay Aiken

WHEN | WHERE: 8 p.m. Saturday, NYCB Theatre at Westbury, 960 Brush Hollow Rd., Westbury

INFO: 516-334-0800, livenation.com

ADMISSION: $39.50-$59.50

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news.sentinel.com (Fort Wayne, IN)

Clay Aiken Sings with Classic Style

Clay Aiken sings with classic style

‘Idol' hasn't been idle, building a successful pop-music career

By James Grant

Fans of the television show “American Idol” may find it hard to believe, but it's been nearly eight years since singer Clay Aiken took home second place on the mega-popular program in 2003.

Even though Aiken, who performs Wednesday at the Embassy Theatre, lost the “American Idol” crown by a very slim margin to Ruben Studdard, his albums ended up outselling Studdard to become one of the more successful “Idol” alumni.

The singer has gone on to release several best-selling albums, done several successful tours, co-written a best-selling book, performed on Broadway as Sir Robin in the show “Monty Python's Spamalot,” as well as recently making a PBS special titled “Clay Aiken: Tried & True Live!” named after his current CD, “Tried & True.”

Aiken says that, while the music he performs in concert will be the same as his PBS special, his live show does have its differences.

“We're doing it a little bit differently from the PBS special, just to kind of give us some flexibility in the music we do, … (and) the order we do it in,” Aiken said in a telephone interview.

“The PBS special was such a big production itself; in order to take that on the road, you kind of lose some of the intimacy that I like to have in the show … . It's the same vibe, it's the same sound, but it's not going to look exactly the same.”

While the PBS concert was a big production, more important to Aiken was the fact the show was shot in his hometown of Raleigh, N.C., in front of family, friends and people who made an impact on his life.

“I had about 15 to 20 teachers who had taught me at various grades all the way from second grade up to senior year, college actually,” Aiken said. “I had one teacher from every grade except for first and kindergarten who were at the show. That was probably the neatest thing, to be able to do it (the PBS concert) in the theater that I grew up seeing shows in and had not performed in before or had not performed in since ‘Idol' at all.”

Pop standards on “Tried & True” originally were made famous by the likes of Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison and Johnny Mathis.

Aiken performs them in the classic pop style of the recent past, not unlike that of Andy Williams with a little jazz and big-band thrown in and ballads to the forefront. Aiken is obviously comfortable singing as a balladeer and feels the songs on “Tried & True” are a perfect vehicle for him.

“They are singer's songs, that's why,” Aiken said of what drew him to perform these songs. “It's not about the beat or the hook … I took all of these songs, and I sang them either in the shower or in my garage just to kind of see how they sit in your voice. It's like trying on clothes ...you may even like it on the mannequin but until you actually put it on yourself you don't know how it fits or how it looks. That's kind of the way it is with songs.”

In the last few years, Aiken has also made other aspects of his life fit in with his musical career.

In 2008, he welcomed the birth of his son, Parker, which triggered his decision to publicly announce that he is a gay man. Aiken told People magazine he didn't want to raise a child to hide things or lie, and that his first decision as a father was to be open about his life.

One thing that Aiken feels fatherhood hasn't influenced is his approach to music.

“I think if I wrote music it might,” Aiken said. “It probably influences the way I build out my career because before it was always ‘let's just have fun, who cares?' Now, well, I'm like I have college to pay for and everything, so let's work this. It changes that outlook a little bit.”

With all the activity of his career and fatherhood, one thing Aiken hasn't kept up with is the show that made him famous — “American Idol.”

“I haven't watched it with any regularity since Season 4,” Aiken said. “I'm six years behind now. I caught one episode last year because Ruben (Studdard) sang. Once you know how the sausage is made, you don't want to eat it,” he said, laughing.

“I know it's addictive, I imagine it still is,” he added. “I know it's very different. It's changed quite a bit since I've been on it. What little I've seen, it's much flashier, … it seems to be a little bit more manufactured now.”

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Clay Aiken Puts "American Idol" Behind Him

Clay Aiken puts 'American Idol' behind him

By Dan Armonaitis

dan.armonaitis@shj.com

Published: Thursday, February 24, 2011 at 3:15 a.m.

Clay Aiken is grateful for the exposure he got eight years ago during the second season of "American Idol."

But these days, the Raleigh, N.C., native tends to be evasive when asked about the series that helped turn him into an instantly recognizable celebrity.

"I haven't watched ('American Idol') in years, actually," Aiken said.

The direct impact of "American Idol" on his own career, however, can't be dismissed, even if he's reluctant to offer more insight than, "It really changed the trajectory of my entire life."

Aiken is much more relaxed discussing his latest album, "Tried and True," which features his interpretations of such classic songs as Roy Orbison's "Crying," Elvis Presley's "Suspicious Minds" and Conway Twitty's "It's Only Make Believe."

The 1950s- and '60s-centric project also includes Aiken's take on material made famous by Tony Bennett, Perry Como, Johnny Mathis and Andy Williams.

"I've always felt more comfortable doing songs that are a little bit older," Aiken, 32, said. "I guess people have called me an 'old soul' for a long time, and I've always kind of wanted to sing croonery-type songs."

Aiken does two songs on the album that he performed as an "Idol" contestant in 2003, "Mack the Knife" by Bobby Darin and "Unchained Melody," most notably recorded by the Righteous Brothers.

Aiken said there is a noticeable difference between the music of today and of the '50s and '60s era.

"Back then, it was about the music (and) about the singer," Aiken said. "Tried and True," released last summer, is Aiken's fifth studio album and arguably his most mature to date. His current tour places a greater emphasis on performance than it does on dazzling audiences with a flashy stage show.

"The music is a little more laid- back and relaxed, so we decided not to do anything that would take away from the music," Aiken said.

Aiken dismissed rumors that he had been dropped by Decca Records.

"We've just kind of taken a break and made a general agreement that I wasn't going to do anything for a while," Aiken said.

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