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Brooks: UNICEF Water for Life Gala helps millions of kids

Brooks: UNICEF Water for Life Gala helps millions of kids


OCTOBER 23, 2012


UNICEF Patrons Council chair Sue Riddell Rose and her husband Mike Rose, left, with UNICEF ambassador and American Idol phenom Clay Aiken at the UNICEF Water for Life Gala held Sept. 29 at the Hyatt.

Photograph by: Bill Brooks, For the Calgary Herald

The UNICEF Water for Life Gala held at the Hyatt on Sept. 29 was one for the record books. Record attendance (the gala sold out months prior) and record dollars raised (more than $844,000) ensured water — an essential right and a vital need — will be provided for millions of children around the world.

In 2011, UNICEF provided children with clean water and sanitation in more than 90 countries to more than 23 million people.

That none other than American Idol phenom and UNICEF ambassador since 2004 Clay Aiken attended, performed and shared his UNICEF experiences ensured the standing-room-only crowd had a wonderful evening. Superb silent and live auction items rounded out the excellent experience, so kudos to the small army of volunteers on the success of the gala.

Guests in attendance included: UNICEF Canada president and CEO David Morley; Patrons Council chair Sue Riddell Rose and her husband Mike Rose; John Cordeau and his wife Justice Carolyn Phillips; gala co-chairs Stephanie McNear and Kerrie Hale; UNICEF Canada national events manager Holly Davidson; Wayne and Penny Whitlock; gala vice-chairs Heather Giuffre and Nancy McCurdy; Chris and Mary Fong; Charlie Fisher and Joanne Cuthbertson; Peter Burgener and Shannon Peters; Chris and Hanita Simard; UNICEF Canada board members Raksha Bhayana and Noella Milne; Dr. Michael Giuffre; Kent and Carrie Ferguson; MRU president Dr. David Docherty and his wife Kris; Lorne and Lorraine McElwain; avid UNICEF supporters Joe and Mary Giuffre; Greg and Shirley Turnbull; Brad and Linda Thompson; Ann McCaig; Joe Giuffre and Marcela Witt; AJE Child Foundation’s Ron Jackson and his wife Toni; Robin Beddis; Bob and Julie Hamilton; Gran Tierra’s Dana Coffield and his wife Denise; Sandy Edmonstone and Courtney Murphy; Ken and Jade Davis; Brad and Linda Thompson; Terry and Diana Donaleshen; Peter and Terry Wallis; Wayne and Eleanor Chiu; and Rollie and Marilyn Cyr.

© Copyright © The Calgary Herald

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2012 Championship Gala -- The Attendee Perspective

2012 Champions Gala - The Attendee Perspective


The National Inclusion Project’s 9
Annual Champions Gala, found us in the nation’s capitol, Washington, DC. With so many amazing and historic sites to see, attendees arrived early to take in all the museums, memorials and some even got a “lucky” tour of the White House gardens and grounds. A tour not to be missed!

“From the time we arrived at the JW Marriott until we checked out of the hotel, everything went beautifully. The staff at the hotel was great and helpful with any question we had.”

Saturday, October 20
, Gala day, began with an opportunity to get a taste of the “Let’s All Play” training given by the Project’s Director of Programs, Aron Hall. The 2-hour session allowed those in attendance to experience some of the training that counselors and partners receive from the Project when they incorporate Let’s All Play into their recreational programs. The attendees had a great opportunity to get a better understanding of the signature program their donations and the donations of others go to support. As many said “it was both a fun and a learning experience.” Nancy and Bridget Brown, Gala Honorees, were among those that attended.


A bit more sightseeing filled the early afternoon before the Platinum and Gold ticket attendees made their way to the Gala’s VIP Reception at the JW Marriott hotel. After being welcomed to the reception by the Project’s Executive Director Jerry Aiken, everyone enjoyed beverages and hors d’oeuvres. In addition, all of the attendees got the opportunity to have their photo taken with Project Co-Founders, Clay Aiken and Diane Bubel. Soon after the reception, everyone made their way next door to the beautiful and historic National Theater.

“It was great to see familiar faces dotted around in the lobby of the Marriott waiting to get into the theater. After 9 years of following Clay at concerts and Galas, plus communicating via message boards, many people have gotten to know and care for one another. With that comes tons of enthusiasm, support, and interest from not only those at the Galas -- but from so many fans who are not able to attend.

The Gala opened with a performance by one of the event’s special guests, Ruben Studdard. Ruben then introduced the man he said “he loved to watch when he was in middle school,” the evening’s emcee, Arsenio Hall. Arsenio opened by saying to Ruben that they had something in common - Clay let them win on their shows. This brought laughter from the entire crowd.


Once Arsenio had everyone loosened up, he introduced Jerry Aiken, the Project’s Executive Director, to the stage. Jerry gave a wonderful overview of the Project’s year and accomplishments which included exceeding over 200 programs providing inclusive experiences for 25,000 children annually.

National Inclusion Project board member Dr. Zak Fathi introduced us to the first honoree Loretta Claiborne. Loretta was born partially blind and intellectually challenged and was unable to walk or
talk until the age of 4, but soon she began to run and run and run. Loretta never let anything stop her. Loretta is an amazing woman who has run a number of marathons and is a proud multi-medal winning Special Olympics athlete. Loretta has fought for the inclusion of those with intellectual disabilities. She was moved to tears when she talked about how much she wished that the National Inclusion Project had been there when she was growing up. Her acceptance speech was an inspiration that brought a well-deserved standing ovation.

The second honoree was introduced by Project board member Dr. Gary Sipserstein. He welcomed to the stage honoree Steve Eidelman. Steve has led change in a variety of ways for all those with intellectual and other developmental disabilities all over the country. As the former head of the Arc of the United States, the nation’s largest organization working with and for people with disabilities, he worked on a number of issues to support them and their families. Partnering with other disability organizations they developed the National Leadership Consortium on Developmental Disabilities. Their goal is to train the next generation of inclusive organization leaders.


The Founders Award winners were presented by Co-Founders Clay Aiken and Diane Bubel. They recognized Shelley Anderson for her great volunteer efforts in support of the Project through the Major Gift Campaign. Also recognized was Priscilla Brame for her commitment and volunteer hours spent on the Board of the Project helping to lay the building blocks for the future of the organization. Both winners were surprised and deeply moved by the public recognition.


The final honorees were introduced by special guest Debbie Gibson. Bridget and Nancy Brown are in a word - amazing. Bridget was born with Down Syndrome but together with her mother Nancy they have taken a journey that has led to a full and inclusive life. Bridget was the first person with Downs Syndrome to be included in her Illinois school district. They have met every challenge and broken through all barriers. Bridget had a very successful school experience and together they are sharing their journey so that others can have the same success. Bridget’s acceptance speech was spirited, joyful and inspiring to all in the Theater.

“All three Gala winners were amazing. Each one filled your soul with love, pride and determination to work just a bit harder for inclusion. “


“Every year I think the honorees can’t be topped but then I’m surprised to see they do each year. They were fantastic and so moving to hear their stories.”

“I had the chance to meet Bridget and her father in front of the theater in the morning. She was looking at the posters at the theater and excited to see her name in print. I introduced myself and told her that I was looking forward to hearing her speak and excited to meet her. Both Bridget and her Dad were cordial and, hopefully, pleased that they were recognized. We did see her again at the VIP reception when she came up and introduced Nancy to me. What a lovely family.”

The Champions presentation was followed by the Live Auction. Dee Snider via video introduced the auction and everyone that it was a great touch. The crowd loved that he thought enough about the Project to be a part of the show even though he couldn’t attend in person. He introduced the evening’s two “auctioneers” Clay Aiken and Arsenio Hall.

“Dee’s video showing his support was a surprise and so neat!”


The live auction was a great success. Two dinners with Clay went for $22,000 each and a special experience with Clay at Arsenio’s new upcoming talk show went for another $17,000. The highlight however was the “Send a Kid to Camp” Auction. To send a single kid to camp costs $250. Starting with 20 and going down to 1; those in the Theater generously raised their bid number to send their chosen number of kids to camp. Overall, the auction raised over $140,000 to make sure no child sits on the sidelines!

The entertainment part of the evening continued with solos and duets from Ruben Studdard, Debbie Gibson and Clay Aiken accompanied by a great band led by Ben Cohn. With Clay’s special performance of “The Real Me,” the 2012 Champions Gala came to a close.

“It was a beautiful venue. The acoustics in the theater were excellent and from all accounts, everyone could hear easily. The large screens that were placed above the stage made the performers seem so close. Everyone had a great view. “

“There seemed to be a lot of love on the stage. All of the performers truly love and respect each other and were very respectful and appropriate.”


“We must mention Ms. Leisey, the interpreter. She is amazing. Her ability in signing the program is both skilled and artistic. Sometimes I sit and watch her as she works. She puts such meaning into the phrases. I hope she knows how much she is appreciated.”

“Every time I attend a Champions Gala, I return home with a renewed passion to do whatever I can to support The National Inclusion Project. The program is always uplifting and full of hope. “

“I thoroughly enjoyed the event this year although different than in the past, it was well done, heart-warming, interesting, and exciting. You could tell ‘All Is Well’ by the looks and smiles on the many folks leaving the theater on Saturday night, later in the Marriott lobby areas, and even in the elevators.”

“It was an outstanding weekend filled with many special moments where all in attendance were reminded that Inclusion means ALL participate and ALL belong! We look forward to 2013 and the 10
Annual Champions Gala.”


Thanks to everyone that made this event possible. It was wonderful to meet so many of you and feel so welcomed into the Inclusion Project
Family. THANK YOU for making my first Champions Gala so amazing and enjoyable. I can’t wait for 2013!
– Tonya, National Inclusion Project


This overview was put together with the help of multiple recaps from Gala attendees. Thank you to everyone that contributed!**

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Clay Aiken Believes in a "National Inclusion" for Kids!

Singer Clay Aiken believes in a 'National Inclusion' for kids!

By Cause Celeb

Wed Nov 14, 2012 1:12 PM EST

Clay Aiken is an American singer who rose to fame in the second season of ‘American Idol’ placing second in 2003. His first release Measure of a Man went multi-platinum, in the midst of all his new found success Aiken still had time to earn a degree in special education from the University of North Carolina. Aiken has released 6 more albums since then with his most recent Tried and True (2010) and Steadfast (2012). Aiken wrote a New York Times bestselling book called Learning to Sing: Hearing the Music in Your Life and hit Broadway in 2008 playing the role of Sir Robin in Monty Python’s Spamalot. Aiken placed second again when he appeared on the fifth season of ‘The Celebrity Apprentice’. An artist, author, actor, producer and activist, Aiken still found time to start The National Inclusion Project.

National Inclusion Project was born in 2003 by Clay Aiken and Diane Bubel who shared a vision of all children being including in all summer and afterschool programs. Inclusion means the participation and belonging of all kids. They have worked with many different youth organizations including YMCAs, Best Buddies International, Boys & Girls Clubs, CampFire USA and many more. After almost ten years, The National Inclusion Project has worked with hundreds of programs, trained numerous staff members and leaders, and provided inclusion opportunities to over 20,000 kids around the country.

Introduction by: Meg Zrini

Interview by: Meg Zrini

Q: What is the National Inclusion Project?

Clay: How do I speak without going on forever? It started in 2003 with Diane Bubel and I, I was a special education teacher before Idol and a lot of the kids including her son who I worked with, got excluded from afterschool programs and summer camp programs because there wasn’t training for people to know how to work with kids with disabilities. There wasn’t the opportunity for them to be included at afterschool programs and summer camps. They didn’t have the resources or the staffing and so on and so forth. We started the organization just to work with one YMCA that I had worked in and another near her[Diane Bubel] in Charlotte and it really blossomed. A lot of fans started supporting and gave a lot of time and money and energy to it. It turned into a program where we now train extracurricular staff, we train summer camp staff, we have a curriculum with several different universities that we work with, and we have several different programs for training like Let’s All Play and service learning projects. We work to try and help other people include kids with disabilities into their programs.

Q: What are your hopes for the project for the future?

Clay: We always say, Diane especially says that if we’ve done a good job we will not be needed anymore. Any good nonprofit works to put itself out of business because kids are included. Short term goals though, we want to continue to expand programs and we want to get more people in more areas. We want to make sure there are inclusive programs available in every major region in the country. We want to be able to be a resource for parents with kids with disabilities so they can come to us and know where there are inclusive programs around them, where they can participate in things. Those are some of the things that we’re working on now. Trying to expand programs, expand possibilities and opportunities for camps to become inclusive and find others that might be doing it also so we can compile a list so we can help become a resource for parents.

Q: How do you feel about tonight? (Evening of National Inclusive Project Gala – October 20th 2012)

Clay: I’m a little hoarse right now but I think it went well. This is our first time leaving North Carolina for this program and we did it because I had help from Arsenio [Hall] and Debbie [Gibson] and Ruben [studdard] who provided us an opportunity and a reason to come to a bigger city, somewhere more accessible. I think it went really well. We’re still in the process of growing and trying to expand a base of people, who know about our mission, not just who know about me. We want people to be interested in the mission. We have a good base of that and we’re trying to expand that and coming to D.C. gave us that opportunity a little bit, to network with new people and hopefully raise enough money to continue doing it for another year, like nonprofits it’s important to have those resources. We’re a small staff. Our overhead is very low. We only have three staff members who do everything. We can take all the money that we raise and put it right in the program. Hopefully we’ve raised enough tonight and I don’t have a total yet so I can’t tell you how great I feel but it certainly feels like we did a good job.

Q: Anything else you want to add?

Clay: I think that’s all.

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Happiness is a Warm TV: Clay Aiken Talks About Respecting Donald Trumpt (But Wishing He'd Be Quiet)

Clay Aiken talks about respecting Donald Trump (but wishing he'd be quiet)

Submitted by brookecain on 11/15/2012 - 16:41


We had a fun chat today with pop singer and Raleigh nativeClay Aiken about his upcoming Christmas concert at the DPAC (more on that coming next week).

Clay is a fun interview. He's always chatty and funny, and he laughs a lot. So naturally, I took advantage of his friendly disposition to ask him about coming in second on "Celebrity Apprentice" earlier this year, and also, what he thinks about some of the recent controversy that show's host, Donald Trump, has created with comments about President Obamaand the presidential election.

Here's a bit of our conversation, in Q&A form.

Q: Were you surprised you didn't win "Celebrity Apprentice?"

CLAY: Weren't we all?! I felt I shouldn't be surprised, because I think that's just my lot in life. I think second place is really where I belong. And I will never get in a competition with a black man again, that's for sure! I knew going into 'Apprentice' that it was a very arbitrary show, and that [winning] wasn't necessarily based on one thing or the other. I love Arsenio [Hall] and I couldn't be any more happy for him. I think it's great that he won. He and I are still friends and we stay in touch. I did think I had it, but like I said, I knew it was arbitrary, and let's not lie to ourselves, you know, Mr. Trump's judgment is not always pristine. And we know that it has a lot to do with branding.

I had an interesting time doing it, and I made friends doing it. In some ways, it's good for me. I don't think I would have had as much success in my career had I won 'Idol.' Coming in second kind of gave people something to root for again, to root for me, and had I come in first, that would have sort of been it. Being second kind of gave me some momentum. Coming in second on 'Apprentice' ... I joked with Arsenio, 'If I win, that's great. If I lose then I'll make business cards: America's #1 #2.' And now I have a real purpose in life.

Q: What about 'Celebrity Apprentice: All-Stars'? [Airing in early 2013] Were you asked to be on that?

Clay: They called me, but I think they knew better. ... For me, it was that I came in second, and that's better than 16 other people did. I don't necessarily think it's smart to go back and do something and come in worse than you came the first time. So I would not. You know, Bret Michaels is doing it this season and I personally think it's the stupidest thing you could do. You won! Why would you want to go back and come in fifth place? It doesn't make any sense. Go out on top. To me, I'm of the mindset that I'm never going to win that show. There are variables at play that ... I don't think I would win. So if second place is the best I can do, why would I want to go back and come in fifth?

Q: What do you think about some of the things Donald Trump has been saying lately?

Clay: It's really tough. … I have family members who I don't agree with politically, but I still love them. I mean, I don't love Trump, but I do have a certain degree of respect for him because of what he's been able to do in the business world. I have a certain degree of affection toward him because he was very gracious — and I think I probably told you this the last time we talked —- very gracious and kind and approachable while we were working together. He was never anything but nice. I never saw him be anything but nice to anyone around him. He's got kids who are some of the best-put-together children or young adults I've ever met. They are grounded, they are responsible, they are hard-working, they are smart, and he had a great hand in raising them. So I have a lot of respect for him. And so sometimes when I see him do things, I feel like Barbara Walters, honestly …"

[Here Clay alludes to comments Walters recently made about Trump on "The View."]

Clay: I have a certain degree of affection for him, and it hurts me sometimes when he says certain things because I feel like he's not really showing people who he really is. And that's disappointing to me. Or, on the other hand, he might not have shown me who he really was, and what you see now is who he really is.

The Trump that I know is gracious and approachable and nice and smart, and like I said, it hurts me a little bit. I came back home from taping the show and saw him say some things on TV and thought, 'God, I really just wish you'd be quiet, because I don't want people to think of you like this.' Kind of like that uncle who you care about but you just don't want people to hate, because he doesn't deserve that.


We'll have more from Clay, including information on his upcoming Christmas conert at the DPAC (and the prospects for a new Christmas CD), in next week's News & Observer. And in case you missed it before, here's our Q&A with Clay from this spring, right before the "Celebrity Apprentice" finale.

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Clay Aiken Makes "Joyful Noise" in Sarasota

Clay Aiken makes ‘Joyful Noise’ in Sarasota

By Gerry Galipault, Herald-Tribune

/ Monday, November 19, 2012


If you think the Christmas blitz comes earlier every year — heck, Target launched its first holiday ad before Halloween — that’s nothing to Clay Aiken.

He gets into the spirit in September.

There’s a reason for that: He has been preparing for his third Christmas-themed tour, “Joyful Noise,” which opens Friday in West Palm Beach and crosses the state to Sarasota’s Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall the next day.

“My neighbors must think I’m crazy,” he says over the phone. “I blast Christmas music really loud, I’m dancing

around the house and singing all these songs. But it’s just me getting ready for this tour.

“At least this tour starts after Thanksgiving,” he says with a laugh.

The 33-year-old singer, who was the runner-up in the second season of “American Idol,” says he hasn’t done a Christmas tour since 2007, so he had to refamiliarize himself with the standards.

“Christmas can be tough,” he says, “because the songs don’t change that much over the years. Everyone’s heard them before. Many of the ones I’ve chosen come from my Christmas album (2004’s million-selling ‘Merry Christmas With Love’).

“But this time around, I decided to change it up and go back to the basics. This show will be a lot more simple, no more dancers, with an orchestra.”

Instead of bringing an orchestra with him from town to town, he uses local musicians at each tour stop. For Sarasota, he’ll have a 20-piece orchestra behind him.

“It’s a huge undertaking,” Aiken says. “For me, I stress out over all the details before we go on the road. The orchestras usually learn the show in one afternoon. Little things can go wrong, but I don’t notice them because that’s how good they are. These musicians are true professionals and they’re always prepared.

“By the time the first day comes around, I’m not worried anymore, but everyone else around me is stressed out. Funny how that works.”

Aiken’s parents divorced when he was just a year old, so Christmas was a two-day event in his native Raleigh, N.C.

“We would go to my father’s house on Christmas Eve,” he says, “and then my mother’s on Christmas. So it was two days of presents — that part was cool.”

Now that he’s a father — his son, Parker, is now 4 — the holiday is even more of family affair. But Parker won’t be joining him on this tour.

“Can you imagine a 4-year-old being cooped up on a tour bus?” he says, laughing. “It might be cool for him for about a week, but then he would get bored — and how do you entertain a 4-year-old going from town to town?”

Since finishing second behind Ruben Studdard on “American Idol” in 2003, Aiken has had a satisfying career. His debut album, “Measure of a Man,” sold more than 2 million copies, and “Merry Christmas With Love” was the biggest-selling holiday album of 2004.

He doesn’t garner the huge album sales of “Idol” winners Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, but he has a large, devoted following — they’re called “Claymates.”

“They’re wonderful,” he says. “Who could ask for anything more?”

His post-“Idol” résumé is impressive: He has guest-starred on “Scrubs,” “Drop Dead Diva” and “30 Rock.” He finished second to Arsenio Hall on the fifth season of “The Celebrity Apprentice.” And he made his Broadway debut as the not-so-brave Sir Robin in the Tony Award-winning musical “Monty Python’s Spamalot” in 2008-09.

He’s also passionate about the many causes he supports, such as the National Inclusion Project, which he co-founded in 2003. It promotes the inclusion of children with disabilities in activities with their non-disabled peers.

“I’ve been blessed with a great career, and I’m very happy with everything I’ve done so far,” he says, “so anything I can do to help others, I’ll do it. It’s important to me.”

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7 Questions with Clay Aiken

Seven Questions with Clay Aiken

November 20th, 2012

By Megan McDonald

The former American Idol star brings his Joyful Noise 2012 tour to the Van Wezel on Nov. 24.

You probably recognize Clay Aiken from his stint on American Idol almost a decade ago; though Aiken was the runner-up to season two’s Ruben Studdard, he quickly developed an intensely dedicated legion of fans known as “Claymates.” And Idol was only the beginning for Aiken; since the show, his career has taken off: He’s released several albums, authored a memoir and starred in Broadway’s hit Monty Python’s Spamalot.

This Saturday, November 24, Aiken visits Sarasota and the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall as part of his Joyful Noise 2012 tour; we spoke with him by phone.

What can concert-goers expect from this tour?

Lots of Christmas cheer! It’s a reincarnation of a show we’ve done several times, but we try to vary things quite a bit from year to year. We’ve done a show that’s just me and the band, but we’ve also gone all the way with dancers and villagers and snow falling in the theater. This falls somewhere in between; for this tour we’ve got a full orchestra. I think there’s something about French horns that makes it feel like Christmas.

What’s your favorite song to perform?

It changes all the time, but O Come, O Come Emmanuel is one that I used to sing in church all the time growing up, but for this show we put a different spin on it. I think it’s the prettiest. And we do a song called Don’t Save It All for Christmas Day that stays in the same spot every year no matter what year it is; I think that one puts the cherry on top of the holiday cheer.

What do you think of Sarasota?

We’ve been to Sarasota on many of the tours I’ve done, so this isn’t our first time here. And the entire Florida Gulf Coast is gorgeous. That said, it’s always very interesting to me to do a Christmas show and be wearing shorts all day. It’s a shock to the system, but it’s nice.

How do you look back on your American Idol days—fondly? Glad they’re over?

Well, I look back with binoculars, since it’s been almost 10 years! In many ways Idol was like high school—you need your education, and if I hadn’t finished high school, I wouldn’t have been able to get a job or really do any of this. But I certainly don’t go back to my high school football games.

However, Idol opened a door for me that I never would have been able to open on my own, and I’ve said before that if I could do that show for the rest of my life—without having to worry about getting cut—I would.

Does it bother you when people like me ask you about American Idol after so long?

[Laughs.] No comment!

What’s in the near future for you after this tour—are you looking into doing any more Broadway?

I loved [doing Monty Python’s Spamalot on Broadway], and I would do it again in a heartbeat—it was easily one of the most fun things I’ve ever done. I’d want it to be a show where I could sing, though. But I think the reason we’ve been able to stick around as long as we have—and I say “we” because I don’t do very much of this all by myself—is because we’ve stayed open to all different possibilities. Almost everything that I’ve had the opportunity to do has been something that’s come my way rather than me seeking it out.

What’s your favorite part of the job?

What’s that quote—if you pick a job you love, you never have to work a day in your life? There aren’t many people who can say that they get paid to do their hobby. Singing was always going to be a hobby for me; I never intended to get paid to do it as my job.



Clay Aiken Talks Christmas Songs, Reality Success, Enthusiastic Fans and Donald Trump

Clay Aiken talks Christmas songs, reality success, enthusiastic fans and Donald Trump

You think your holidays are hectic? Try spending the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas on the road, playing 20 concerts in cities stretching from West Palm Beach to Anaheim. Then see how much shopping you get done.

“God bless Amazon, is all I can say,” laughs Clay Aiken, who this weekend will kick off his fifth holiday tour, his first since 2007. “It’s saved my life quite a bit.”

Ever since Aiken placed second on American Idol’s second season in 2003, holiday music, and his semi-annual tours to support it, have been a big part of his career. His 2004 album Merry Christmas With Love has sold more than 1.4 million copies, and with each tour, he adds new songs to his repertoire. And while his ever-passionate fan base of “Claymates” has turned out for every phase of his career — solo pop artist, Broadway star (Monty Python’s Spamalot), TV gigs ranging from 30 Rock to Celebrity Apprentice — he says the traditional sound and setting of his Christmas tours is “always where I’ve been the most comfortable.”

“I’ve had people who’ve worked for me since the beginning come up to me for the past few years and said, 'Why aren’t we doing a Christmas show? It doesn’t feel like Christmas unless we’re doing a Christmas tour,’” Aiken said.

Aiken’s holiday tour will hit Clearwater’s Capitol Theatre on Sunday. (Click here for details and tickets.) Calling from New York, Aiken talked about Christmas songs, reality competitions and whether Donald Trump is a bully. Here are excerpts.

I have to admit, I’m a little nervous about interviewing you, because your fans are some of the most fiercely, vocally protective of almost any artist recording today.

Oh, what are you trying to say? Are you going to be mean?

I was afraid that if I ask one wrong question, I’d get hate-commented right off the Internet.

Oh, you will! They’ll tear you up, and I’ll tell ’em to! (laughs)

Do you feel your fans are overly defensive of you?

They can be, can’t they? Yeah. And how do you get upset about something like that? You can’t. You can’t be upset about someone for being supportive. But sometimes I think to myself, “I’m 34 years old now. I’m a big boy. I can handle it.” Sometimes I feel like I have a million moms. (laughs)

Is a holiday tour more financially successful for you than a regular tour, or is it about the same?

It depends. At some point, a lot of the overhead’s taken care of. The songs do change from year to year, but it cuts down a little bit on rehearsal time. It’s not really that much different, but I think the reason we continue to do it is it’s kind of become a tradition. It doesn’t feel like Christmas unless I’m doing this show. So we have cranked it back up.

How many sweaters do you pack for a tour like this?

(laughs) A whole bunch. This year, though, is a no-sweater tour. It’s a suit tour. But we’ve done a few. It’s about four suitcases’ worth.

Is your setlist mostly culled from Merry Christmas With Love or (2006 holiday EP) All Is Well? Or do you come up with new songs every year?

I comes primarily from those two projects, but we don’t want to do the same show every year, so we’ll always change the setlist at least a little bit. We’ll throw in one or two different songs and try to keep it fresh. Especially some of the traditional ones, like Silent Night and the Christmas standards, we’ll try to put into different medleys or present them in a different way every year. But if people come because they like Merry Christmas With Love, they’ll get that, and they’ll get All Is Well.

What’s your process for picking a new Christmas song?

Sometimes if I know I’m doing a Christmas tour, I’ll start listening to Christmas songs in May or June. (laughs) Either it’ll be a song that I just like and connect with and really want to sing, or in 2005, we did actually a play, a full production with actors and dancers and a storyline, so I found songs that were in the storyline. I’m not a real big fan of Christmas songs that sound like pop songs. You’ve got people that put out Christmas albums and it clearly sounds like they have just taken a pop song and put some sleigh bells in the production. I steer clear of those.

Is there a Christmas skin that just gets under your skin, that you just can’t stand hearing?

If anything, it’s some of the traditional Jingle Bell-type songs, when they’re just done in the traditional Jingle Bell-type way. We do those songs, because they’re popular for a reason, but we also try our best to do them in a different way. We’ll mix them together with another traditional song, or we’ll try to mash it up somehow.

Paul McCartney’s Wonderful Christmastime? Nothing?

It’s not in the show. I don’t dislike it. It’s not one that has caught my attention, necessarily.

I’m amazed that you start listening to Christmas music in May. Being a holiday performer, like Trans-Siberian Orchestra or Mannheim Steamroller — that’s a year-round thing, right?

This year it’s only been a little bit different, because I hadn’t done the Christmas tour for several years, so it took a little bit longer to get the engines warmed up again. In 2004, it was a yearlong thing, because I put an album out. We did a Christmas tour in 2004 and a special on TV, and in 2005, we decided to do this huge production with dancers and actors and everything. In 2006, we put out All Is Well, 2007 we changed the tour up. When you’re singing a Christmas song, if you don’t change it up a little bit, it ends up getting stale. The goal is not to do the same show every year.

(Recent albums) Tried and True and Steadfast are both big band-style albums. I’ve heard more than one person say that the trend of artists releasing albums of big-band pop standards is maybe getting a little stale. So I ask you: Why do you think there’s life left in it?

I certainly agree there was a trend for a while of people putting out that type of album and reinventing themselves in some way. But you couldn’t make that argument for Michael Buble. That is naturally who he is. That is who he sounds like. For me, the reason we did it was because it really has been always sort of my vein. Tried and True was not really a big band album. We happened to have a band involved, but it was really songs from the ’50s and ’60s, kind of that old soul-type crooner thing. That’s kind of my wheelhouse. So it wasn’t trying to be part of the trend for me.

I think you’re probably right. If Justin Bieber were to put out a big band album next year — granted, it would sell gangbusters, because it’s Justin Bieber. But it would be more of a gimmick. Whereas for us, it wasn’t trying to be a gimmick. It was trying to let me put my voice where it naturally fits.

Does that artistic space still feel natural to you?

It does. That’s part of the reason that Christmas feels so natural to me. Back in 2003, when I was putting out Measure of a Man, and we were struggling — well, we weren’t struggling, but the label was struggling — with trying to get me to dress this way or dress that way, or sing this way or sing that way, I said to Clive Davis, “I’m never going to be Justin Timberlake. That’s not who I am, that’s not what I sound like, that’s not how I dress, there’s none of that.” So the Christmas album was an opportunity for me to be me, and to sing and sound like me. That sound, that traditional Christmas vibe, that tried and true vibe, is always where I’ve been the most comfortable.

You’ve been pretty active in social causes since Idol, certainly in the last few years. We’re a couple of weeks past Election Day at this point. What was your biggest takeaway from Election 2012?

I’ll tell you what it was: I don’t want to be living in a swing state anymore. I’ve lived my entire life in North Carolina, and we’ve never been a swing state. I was in New York during the election in 2008, doing Broadway, and never saw a political ad. This year, oh my god, I feel so sorry for Florida. All the time! Three Romney commercials in a row, followed by four Obama commercials! My takeaway is, I’m tired of politics.

One of the causes you’ve lent your name to is GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network), and one of their missions is to eliminate bullying. You’re in unique position to answer this, which is something I heard a lot during the campaign: Is Donald Trump a bully?

Oh, gosh. It’s hard to answer that, knowing him. To me, he has become sort of like an uncle who you really wish would be quiet when you’re around strangers. He’s somebody that I know to be a gracious and kind person, and I like him as a person. But then I get home, and he’s spouting all this nonsense. I really did feel sad when I got back from taping Apprentice, and he got on TV and started talking about politics, because I grew to know him as someone who’s very generous and gracious and approachable. He really is a nice guy. I watched him do political stuff, and I’m like, (in cringing voice) “Oh my god, please just shut up! You’re making people hate you in a way that you don’t deserve to be hated!” So is he a bully? He certainly wasn’t to me.

Do you watch any televised talent competitions on TV?

I don’t. I feel like once you know how the sausage is made, you don’t really want to eat it.

Do you think that winning, or not winning a TV talent show requires a different skill set today than it did a decade ago?

Oh, wow. I do know that winning doesn’t mean the same thing it did years ago. Even being on it doesn’t mean the same as it did years ago, because the market is so saturated. I mean, can you tell me who won X Factor last year?

Oh, no.

Okay. I think nowadays, people go on these shows thinking they know how to win —thinking they know what a pop star looks like, thinking they know how to perform. They need to sing this way in order to be successful. I think what made Idol so big and so entertaining in the first, second and third years was that none of us went on with any preconceived notions as to how successful we were going to be afterwards, or what a pop star looked like or sounded like or anything. It was all very organic, and I don’t think it’s very organic anymore.

-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*

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Clay Aiken on His Joyful Noise Tour: "I Have a Thing for Christmas"

Clay Aiken on His Joyful Noise Tour: "I Have a Thing for Christmas"

By Matt Preira Wed., Nov. 21 2012 at 9:35 AM

It's hard to escape the long shadow of American Idol.

Thus far, only Kelly Clarkson has truly satisfied the long-running vocal contest's basic premise of introducing the American public to a bonafide pop star. Adam Lambert is a close runner-up. But unless someone leaks a NSFW video of the flamboyant runner-up on the shows 8th season, his relevancy is shrinking exponentially.

One might imagine Clay Aiken has had an especially hard time post-Idol, considering he lost to Ruben Studdard. And, to be frank, who the fuck is Ruben Studdard?

Lucky for Aiken, he stumbled upon a passion that rivaled the one he has for music. The cherubic southern gentleman is absolutely obsessed with Christmas. This Friday, he kicks off his Joyful Noise tour in West Palm Beach. We hit him up to learn more about his love of the allegedly most wonderful time of the year.

New Times: Were you ever in any Christmas pageants growing up?

Clay Aiken: A show or two in high school. Strangely enough the Christmas show that they do at the community theater in Raleigh is Cinderella. It's not really a different story, but it's part of the Christmas tradition. I don't understand it, but I was in it.

What did you play in the Christmas version of Cinderella?

I was just a townsfolk. I never got any good parts.

What is your set like on this tour?

Its culled off the two Christmas CDs we've done. It's original and traditional music. There are a few that are more contemporary. I sprinkle in a few new ones each year. I try to keep it original and fresh.

Would you ever put out an album for a different holiday?

We talked in the past about doing something. My third album was intended to be a Valentine's Day album, and then it got pushed back. But I dont know that there's another holiday that I would be equipped to do an album for. We've talked about doing another Christmas album.

How are you celebrating this year?

I'll be on the road. This is my tradition. It doesnt feel like the holidays if I'm not doing the show. I took a year off to do Broadway. It was great, but it killed the Christmas tour. It's my first time back since 2007. I'm excited.

Every year, I've had trees in the house and decorated the yard, but it didn't feel like Christmas. This year I havent even put anything up. I haven't even put red candles out. And it already feels more like the holidays for me. My Christmas starts on Friday in West Palm, and I get a full month of it.

You get a lot of mileage out of Christmas. Do you consider yourself a "Christmas artist?"

My manager would kiss you on the mouth if he heard that. We talked about that in the past. It's sort of my wheelhouse. I have a thing for Christmas. It fits me well. I'd be happy as hell if I could do this every single year and nothing else.

Clay Aiken's Joyful Noise tour 8 p.m. on Nov.23 at Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, 701 Okeechobee Boulevard, West Palm Beach. Tickets cost $25. Visit Kravis.org.

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tbo.com (Tampa Bay Online)

Clay Aiken Bringing Christmas Songs to Clearwater

Published: November 21, 2012

Clay Aiken bringing Christmas songs to Clearwater

By Ed Condran

Christmas apparently isn't as cool as it once was with recording artists. There is considerably less holiday albums released these days as there was a generation ago.

But Clay Aiken's reaches for Christmas music at this time of year. The pop artist doesn't care if Christmas isn't cool.

"That doesn't matter to me because I'm not cool either," Aiken said while calling from New York where he is taping a segment for the "Dr. Oz" show. "I can see why Christmas isn't cool. It can be schmaltzy and cheesy but that's fine for my personality. That's why I'm out on another Christmas tour. I love it."

The American Idol alum (class of 2003, runner-up to "A.I." champ Ruben Studdard), will perform Sunday at the Capitol Theatre. Aiken will tour behind Christmas music each year in perpetuity. "I'm going to do it annually since I hope to become the next Andy Williams," Aiken said. "I don't think anyone else wants to be the contemporary Christmas artist and that's alright with me. I would love to be able to be known as the Christmas artist."

Expect Aiken, who will be backed by an orchestra, to belt out an array of Christmas classics. Such seasonal favorites as "Winter Wonderland," "Joy to the World" and "Silent Night," which are on Aiken's 2004 release "Merry Christmas With Love," will be rendered.

"I had the greatest time making that album," Aiken said. "From that point on, I knew I wanted to be a part of the holiday season every year. You don't have to see me the rest of the year."

Well, Aiken is just kidding. "You'll hear plenty of my non-Christmas albums in the upcoming years," Aiken said.

But expect much of Aiken's future material to be retro. Aiken was born too late and he knows it. The pop singer would have been perfectly at home during the '60s singing hits from legendary Brill Building songwriters, such as Neil Diamond, Carole King and Neil Sedaka.

Aiken revels in singing love songs from a bygone era.

"Breaking Up Is Hard To Do," penned by the aforementioned Sedaka, Henry Mancini's "Moon River" and Roy Orbison's "Crying" is some of the tunes Aiken loves to croon.

"I have to agree with your born too late line," Aiken said. "I just hope it's not born too late, died too soon. I think my voice fits those songs from the '60s and '70s and I just love those songs. They are wonderful songs from a wonderful period. I feel like I relate to the songs from that period."

That's why it was so uncomfortable watching the post-"Idol" Aiken be dressed up by the corporate machine into something he isn't. You couldn't help but wince watching Aiken in a leather jacket.

"I think it's so important to stay in your own lane," Aiken said. "When I put out my first two albums, they were dressing me up like I was going to be the next Justin Timberlake or how Justin Bieber looks today. That image just doesn't work for me. But there is a type of music that works for me, it's Christmas music."

Clay Aiken appears Sunday at. Tickets are. Show time is 7 p.m. For more information, call


When: 7 p.m. Sunday

Where: Capitol Theatre, Clearwater

Tickets: $55 and $75; (727) 791-7400 and www.rutheckerdhall.com

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Former "American Idol" Singer Clay Aiken to Perform in Lakeland, Tuesday

Former 'American Idol' Singer Clay Aiken to Perform in Lakeland, Tuesday

By Matt Reinstetle


Published: Thursday, November 22, 2012 at 12:01 a.m.

The Christmas Season is upon us, and for some people, a jumpstart is needed to get them into the spirit.

For singer Clay Aiken, performing around the holidays has become something of a tradition to him and his fans. On Friday, Aiken begins his fifth Christmas music concert tour. Aiken said he's been able to work with people who have been there since his very first Christmas tour, and they tell him that it doesn't feel like Christmas unless they're doing the show.

"It kind of starts my season for me," Aiken said in a phone interview. "It gets me in the Christmas spirit and I don't really get into it the years I haven't done it. I don't feel like it's Christmas."

Clay Aiken will take center stage at the Polk Theatre Tuesday as his Joyful Noise Tour comes to Lakeland.

America was first introduced to Aiken during the second season of Fox's musical talent show "American Idol" in 2003. His powerful voice made him an instant favorite on the show and went on to finish first runner-up to Ruben Studdard.

Since "Idol," Aiken has gone on to release six albums, including a 2004 Christmas album "Clay Aiken: Merry Christmas With Love."

Aiken's performance will be a first for Polk Theatre — fan clubs. Leslie Sikora, president and CEO of the Polk Theatre, said they were asked to set aside tickets for Aiken's loyal fans. When tickets went on sale, Aiken's fans, also known as "Claymates," started buying tickets in force.

"I was just really surprised how many people called because I've never dealt with a fan club before, but he definitely has one," Sikora said.

Aiken's Lakeland concert is the fourth stop on a 20-city tour that goes from Friday until Dec. 21. This year's tour includes four Florida stops, the first time Aiken's tour has appeared in the state, with Lakeland being the last leg of his Florida swing.

In years past, Aiken's Christmas concerts have done everything from band accompaniments, to actors and dancers performing, and even snow. Aiken said this year's show will include a full orchestra performing with him and having the orchestra on stage adds to the holiday cheer.

"There's something about the French horn that says Christmas to me," Aiken said.

Earlier this year, Aiken stepped back in front of a camera as he was part of another reality TV show.

"I've gotten used to being in the public eye and that just perpetuated that a little bit, so maybe it wasn't the best choice for me to go on TV again," Aiken said laughing.

Aiken took part in the fifth season of "The Celebrity Apprentice," NBC's business-oriented reality competition hosted by Donald Trump. Aiken and 17 other contestants competed to raise money for various charities. Aiken managed to get to the finals, and finished second to comedian and former talk-show host Arsenio Hall.

"Our purpose behind doing (‘The Celebrity Apprentice') was to let me be seen in a different light," Aiken said. "I've spent 10 years being known as ‘the kid from "American Idol" that sings' and the goal was to try and let people at least think that I'm intelligent. I don't know if I was successful in that, but it was our hope."

Being part of two massive reality TV shows put Aiken in a small group. He said that he still keeps in contact with Studdard and the two speak about once a month.

Last month, Aiken did a fundraiser for his charity, The National Inclusion Project, in which Studdard and Hall performed and hosted.

"When you're with someone in such a controlled environment for as long as we were, you make friends and I guess some people make enemies. I've been fortunate enough that I haven't made too many enemies," Aiken said. "You make friends and they are in a very, very small fraternity with you, so you have a great deal in common."

As Aiken gears up for his new tour, he said these shows have always been about getting the people into the Christmas spirit. Aiken added that he hears about people who enter his shows not in the Christmas spirit, but leave in the mood for the holidays.

"That's kind of the benefit to having the show toward the beginning, like Lakeland does," Aiken said. "The Florida dates are so early that it's a great way to kick-start the holiday and hopefully people will see it that way."

Matt Reinstetle can be reached at matt.reinstetle@theledger.com or 802-7533. Follow Matt on Twitter @LedgerMatt.

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For Clay Aiken, There's No Place Like Home for the Holidays

For Clay Aiken, there’s no place like home for the holidays

By Brooke Cain -


Published in: Music

When Clay Aiken takes the stage at DPAC next week, it’ll be for a holiday tradition he’s more than happy to resume.

Aiken, who rose to fame as the runner-up on the 2003 “American Idol” season, headlined Christmas concert tours for four straight years, from 2004-2007, before making the jump to Broadway with a starring role in “Spamalot.” This year’s 20-city Joyful Noise tour is the singer’s first swing back into holiday music since then.

“I’m glad to be getting back to it for the first time in five years, because it’s always my been my favorite show to do,” said Aiken, a Raleigh native who now lives in Durham. “It’s not really Christmas for me unless I do this show, and so I’m happy that Christmas is back to normal for me now.”

This year’s Joyful Noise shows will be a little different from Aiken’s past Christmas concerts, he promises.

“We change the concept of the show every year,” he said. “It’s been everything from me and a five-piece band and bantering with the audience and singing Christmas songs, to a few years back when I had the choir from Stough Elementary and the choir from Southeast Raleigh High School come in and perform with me. One year we did it with actors and dancers and a big production, and the next year we kind of stripped it down.”

“This year is more of a return to the roots,” Aiken said. “It’s a little more laid-back, sort of an ‘evening with’ atmosphere. But, we’ve got an orchestra – the strings and the horns and all that jazz – which kind of makes it more lush, and I think adds to the Christmasy-ness of it.”

Christmas music is definitely close to Aiken’s heart. He released his first Christmas album, “Merry Christmas with Love,” in 2004 and it sold more than 1 million copies. He followed that with an EP of four Christmas songs, “All is Well,” in late 2006.

Aiken has sold more than 6 million records total, starting with “Measure of a Man” in 2003. His memoir, “Learning to Sing,” made it to the No. 2 spot on the New York Times bestseller list in 2004. He also made the Forbes Magazine list of the 10 Top-Earning American Idols.

Losing to Arsenio

Earlier this year, Aiken was a contestant on “Celebrity Apprentice” on NBC. And just as he did against Ruben Studdard on “American Idol,” Aiken again came in second place. He lost out to former talk show host Arsenio Hall.

“I think that’s just my lot in life,” Aiken joked. “I think second place is really where I belong. And I will never get in a competition with a black man again, that’s for sure.”

Even though the Christmas shows change from year to year, Aiken says fans at Thursday night’s DPAC show can expect to hear old favorites mixed with a few surprises. “The overwhelming majority of the songs are from my Christmas album and Christmas EP, and some are songs I love and do every year,” he said. “This year we have some I haven’t done in a while.”

The next Andy Williams?

There is no new Christmas album in the works for Aiken presently, he says, but he doesn’t rule it out.

“We’ve talked about it a few times,” he said. “That’s kind of my wheelhouse, I guess. That sound. And it’s something that I love doing.”

Aiken says there are plenty of Christmas songs he loves and would like to record. His manager (and fans) would love to see it happen.

“My manager has said in the past that I should just become the new Andy Williams and be all about Christmas every year,” Aiken said. “It is something we have certainly discussed, maybe for next year. I’d love to do it again.”

Cain: 919-829-4579

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Interview: Clay Aiken Gets Festive at Taj Saturday

Interview: Clay Aiken gets festive at Taj Saturday

By ROBERT DiGIACOMO Atlantic City Insiders | Posted: Monday, November 26, 2012 1:00 am

Clay Aiken needs a little Christmas. The former “American Idol” runner up had not gone out on a holiday tour since prior to his 2008 stint in the Broadway musical, “Spamalot,” and he felt like something was missing.

“We did one every year for four years, and it was my favorite thing to do,” says Aiken, who performs his “Joyful Noise” show 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1, at Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City.

“Christmas didn’t seem like Christmas when we didn’t do the Christmas tour,” he says.

Aiken is planning a concert format for the show, which will draw much of the material from his 2004 release, “Merry Christmas with Love” (RCA). Backing him will be a 20-plus piece orchestra mostly made up of local musicians, plus his traveling band.

“I have done modified, musical plays, or something a little more scripted,” Aiken says of previous holiday tours. “This time will be a little more free-flowing and conversational with the audience.”

However, don’t expect to hear “This Is the Night,” “Invisible” or other Aiken pop hits at the performance.

“If you sing, ‘O Holy Night,’ then ‘Invisible,’ then ‘The First Noel,’ it just doesn’t seem to fit,” Aiken says. “The idea is if you’re in the holiday spirit already, you’ll come to the show and you’ll go home and get ready to continue. If you’re not in the holiday spirit, hopefully, you’ll come to the show and then go home and decorate.”

Aiken, who is among the most well-rounded of “Idol” alumni, having branched out from music to play a role in Lifetime’s “Drop Dead Diva” and to compete in NBC’s “Celebrity Apprentice,” believes in mixing things up, career-wise.

“It’s important in this business to have a little variety, to be able to continue to do what you do,” Aiken says. “If I’m just going to sing and do music, there’s an expiration date on that if you’re not Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood.”

It’s the view of Aiken — who in 2003 finished a surprising second on “Idol” to Ruben Studdard — that the reality competition offers great TV exposure, but isn’t an automatic platform for radio success.

“I think I’m relatively competent when it comes to singing, but I also realize I’m not necessarily the same genre of music as you might hear on Top 40 today,” he says. “I can either try to put a square peg in a round hole or I can try to find a square hole.

“I like to think we’ve been pretty smart about trying to find those square-shaped holes to fit in — it can be ‘Spamalot,’ which was great fun, or ‘Apprentice,’ which was not great fun, but can allow me to appear intelligent.”

For Aiken, who risked alienating his devoted “Claymates” fan base when he came out four years ago, the key is staying true to his mostly squeaky-clean image as a born-again Christian from North Carolina.

“The downfall of a lot of folks who come off shows, especially now that there are 17 different competitions, they come off it with an inflated sense of authenticity,” he says. “Being on the shows doesn’t give that to you.

“Being on ‘Idol’ is beneficial if you know how to work it. I don’t know how to work it, but have been fortunate to surround myself by people who know.”

Aiken also proved skillful at handling his coming out. Amid much speculation about his sexual orientation, he opened up about his life via a 2008 People magazine cover story.

“It took me by surprise — it took me every which way,” he says of being in the tabloid spotlight.

“I’m not necessarily a public-eye type of person. Has it gotten easier? Yes. I’ve learned to cope and adapt.

“Everybody has a job. Hopefully, you’re doing the job you enjoy. Even when you do it, there are days when you don’t want to be there. I think it’s the same for people who do what I do.”

He has since tried to walk a careful line between supporting LGBT issues, such as an anti-bullying campaign by the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network, and maintaining his privacy as a single dad to his four-year-old son, Parker.

“There’s a difference between my personal life and talking about issues,” Aiken says. “I don’t have a problem with issues. My personal life isn’t that interesting. I have to keep some things personal.

“I’m not a different person, just a more fully realized version of myself. I’m perfectly comfortable with this version. You don’t care about who I’m dating — nobody does.”

Heartwarming A.C. memory

One of singer Clay Aiken’s fondest memories on stage happened in Atlantic City during a concert appearance in July 2004, the year after he finished runner up on “American Idol.”

The Make-a-Wish Foundation contacted Aiken to set up a meeting with one of his biggest — and youngest — fans, six-year-old John Martin of Yeadon, Pa.

Martin had watched Aiken perform his signature song, “This Is the Night,” and when he got to meet him backstage in A.C., he pointed out a quirk: Aiken always yanked the mic off the stand at the same point in the song.

Having met him backstage, Aiken asked Martin to return the next night and perform the song with him.

“He spiked his hair up, we gave him a mic stand and we both yanked the stand at the same time,” Aiken recalls. “He had dressed up like me — he was so adorable."

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Dr. Oz: Reparative Therapy Gay Cure, Does Conversion Therapy Work?

Dr Oz: Reparative Therapy Gay Cure – Does Gay Conversion Therapy Work?

By Pat Howard on November 27, 2012

An all new episode of Dr Oz November 28 2012 is sure to stir up controversy. That’s because Doctor Oz is meeting men who say that reparative therapy has turned them from gay to straight. Can this really be true? You may have seen headlines about it, but Dr Oz is getting the full story from people on both sides of this heated conversation.Dr Oz: Reparative Therapy Gay Cure?

One man said that he went through this type of reparative therapy and is now happily married to a woman, with whom he has two children. He said that he has never been happier in his life. What do you think about this hot topic? We will all probably get some new perspectives on the conversation, because Dr Oz is bringing on a number of guests to share their points of view.

Dr Oz: Clay Aiken Coming Out

Among them will be American Idol alum Clay Aiken, who has led a private life but did come out as a gay man on the cover of People in 2008. He has since been outspoken against bullying in schools, and it’s safe to say he will not be lending his support to the idea of a “gay cure.”

Dr Oz: Gay Conversion Therapy

There has been a lot of conversation about gay rights in recent years, with multiple states voting on the issue in the 2012 elections. It seems that the tide of popular support is turning in support of gay marriage for many states, but this is a topic you may not have heard much about so far.

Reparative therapy to cure gay people is actually banned for minors in California. But unless you live there or follow this topic in the news, you may not know much about it. That’s why Dr Oz November 28 2012 is shedding light on the conversation.

Dr Oz: Gay Reparative Therapy

I already have some strong opinions about this conversation, but my experience is that Dr Oz is fair about letting both sides be heard. I’m curious to see how he will handle this conversation and what the many guests will have to say.

Tune in or log on after the show to get a full recap of the heated reparative therapy gay cure debate on Dr Oz November 28 2012.

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Have Yourself a Claymate Christmas

Have yourself a Claymate Christmas

By Keith Loria

Hour Correspondent | Posted: Wednesday, November 28, 2012 12:15 pm

Although he may have finished second in "American Idol's" season two finals and lost out to Arsenio Hall to take the two spot again in the last installment of "The Celebrity Apprentice," to millions of Claymates, recoding star Clay Aiken will always be No. 1 in their hearts.

"I think I am destined for second place forever, it's just the way my life goes," Aiken jokes. "I'm glad I could provide some humor and fodder for people."

Despite losing out to Ruben Studdard back in 2002, Aiken's recording success far exceeded his American Idol friend and rival, going double platinum with his debut, "Measure of a Man," which not only was No. 1 on the Billboard 200, but still stands as the highest debut of any Idol winner (take that Kelly Clarkson!)

"The show seems like such a long time ago now. It's been 10 years and I find as I get older, I can remember less and less," Aiken says. "It was an amazing experience and I am so thankful for what it has brought."

Over the last decade, Aiken has topped the charts with singles "Invisible" and "This is the Night," wrote a best-selling book and appeared on Broadway in "Spamalot."

Although some other albums haven't sold as well as his first, Aiken did find great success with the release of the holiday album "Merry Christmas with Love," which was the highest debut by a holiday album in the history of Billboard magazine.

Since it's release, he has spent many the Christmas season touring and on Dec.6, Aiken will play Stamford's Palace Theatre in a concert he calls, "Joyful Noise 2012."

"This is our fifth iteration of the Christmas tour and every single year we try to change up the way we do it. We've done just me in a band, me with dancers and this year it's going to me with a full orchestra," Aiken says. "It's a change of pace and I think the orchestra adds a level of energy to a Christmas show that you can't get with a band. There's something about a French horn that just screams Christmas to me."

Aiken doesn't want any of his Claymates to have Blue Christmas, but he warns that the concert is all about the holiday music, so people shouldn't be expecting him to break out "Bridge Over Troubled Waters" or any of his other power ballads.

"If you're going to do a regular pop show and throw a Christmas hit in, I think it works, but when you do a Christmas show and throw in 'Invisible,' I think it ruins the mood," he says. "We stick with holiday stuff but that doesn't just mean I'm singing 'Jingle Bells.' There are some very pop-sounding tunes."

He'll also take traditional favorites--like "Sleigh Ride" and "Winter Wonderland"--and make them fresh with his own Aiken-esque style.

"It's not a sing-along, but we have fun," he says. "I think people really enjoy it and get into the holiday spirit."

The Christmas season is a joyful time for Aiken who loves to reconnect with his family and friends in North Carolina.

"There are so many people my age now who live somewhere else and Christmas is really the only time I get home to see my family," the 34-year-old says. "I think we certainly commercialize Christmas too much, maybe, but in doing so we've provided a time to reflect and look back on the year and be thankful for the good things and happy to have survived the bad things, and just have people gather around together."

When he was younger, Aiken recalls experiencing "the typical Southern Christmas," surrounded by family and presents.

"When I was a kid, all I wanted to do was get presents but as I've gotten older, I realized how much more special it was to give," he says. "I enjoy giving a lot more than I do receiving now."

Speaking of giving, as those who watched "The Celebrity Apprentice" know, Aiken is the founder of the National Inclusion Project, which supports the integration of children with disabilities into the life environment of their non-disabled peers.

It's been a few years since Aiken has done his Christmas tour and now that he's getting ready to begin, he realizes how important it is for him.

"I don't get into the holiday spirit unless I am doing this," he says. "The years when I didn't do it, I decorated the house and had the tree up but it didn't feel like the holidays at all. Now, I feel so much more like it's the holiday."

Looking ahead, Aiken is considering writing another book, working on another Christmas album and is open to other TV, stage and music projects.

"For now, we just want to kick start the holiday season off for people and I want it to get people into the spirit," he says. "There's something magical that happens this time of year."

Clay Aiken will play the Palace Theatre at 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 6. Tickets range from $22-$73 and can be purchased atwww.stamfordcenterforthearts.org.

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Clay Aiken Blasts Ex-Gay Reparative Therapy

Clay Aiken blasts ex-gay reparative therapy

'I know I was born gay. I didn't make a choice to be gay'



Photo: Twitter

Singer Clay Aiken paid a visit to The Dr. Oz Show Wednesday (28 November) to weigh in on controversial ex-gay reparative therapy who said he was 'heartbroken' that the topic was even being featured on the daytime syndicated show.

'Just by the nature of the name, reparative therapy, you're implying that something needs to be repaired - you're implying that something's wrong in the first place,' Aiken said. 'I think that puts people back 10 steps on their (coming out) journey and my journey took 10 years.'

'When you imply that someone needs to be repaired, when you even provide a service that says, 'We'll fix this for you,' then what you are saying is what you are inherently is wrong,' he added. 'I know I was born gay. I didn't make a choice to be gay.'

Aiken, who came to fame in 2003 as the runner-up on American Idol, came out publicly as a gay man in 2008 - the same year that he became a father.

'I'm happy with myself and that is a part of the journey - being able to love yourself,' he told Dr. Oz. 'I don't think these therapies help people love themselves.'

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Holiday Greetings from Clay

Holiday Greetings from Clay

Singer Clay Aiken rides his sleigh full of Christmas cheer to the Trump Taj Mahal

By Ed Condran



|Posted Nov. 28, 2012

Christmas apparently isn’t as cool as it once was with recording artists. 
There are considerably less holiday albums released these days as there were a generation ago.

But Clay Aiken reaches for Christmas music at this time of year. The pop artist doesn’t care if Christmas isn’t cool.

“That doesn’t matter to me because I’m not cool either,” Aiken tells Atlantic City Weekly while calling from New York where he is taping a segment for the Dr. Oz show. “I can see why Christmas isn’t cool. It can be schmaltzy and cheesy but that’s fine for my personality. That’s why I’m out on another Christmas tour. I love it.

The American Idol alum (class of 2003, runner-up to A.I. champ Ruben Studdard), will perform Saturday, Dec. 1, at the Trump Taj Mahal. 

Aiken says he will tour behind Christmas music each year in perpetuity. 
“I’m going to do it annually since I hope to become the next Andy Williams,” Aiken says. “I don’t think anyone else wants to be the contemporary Christmas artist and that’s alright with me. I would love to be able to be known as the Christmas artist.

Expect Aiken, who will be backed by an orchestra, to belt out an array of Christmas classics. Such seasonal favorites as “Winter Wonderland,” “Joy to the World” and “Silent Night,” which are on Aiken’s 2004 release Merry Christmas With Love, will be rendered.
“I had the greatest time making that album,” Aiken says. “From that point on, I knew I wanted to be a part of the holiday season every year. You don’t have to see me the rest of the year.

Well, Aiken is just kidding. “You’ll hear plenty of my non-Christmas albums in the upcoming years,” he says. 
But expect much of Aiken’s future material to be retro. Aiken was born too late and he knows it. The pop singer would have been perfectly at home during the 1960s singing hits from legendary Brill Building songwriters such as Neil Diamond, Carole King and Neil Sedaka.

Aiken revels in singing love songs from a bygone era.
“Breaking Up Is Hard To Do,” penned by the aforementioned Sedaka, Henry Mancini’s “Moon River” and Roy Orbison’s “Crying” is some of the tunes Aiken loves to croon.

“I have to agree with [the] ‘born too late’ line,” Aiken says. “I just hope it’s not ‘born too late, died too soon.’ I think my voice fits those songs from the ’60s and ’70s and I just love those songs. They are wonderful songs from a wonderful period. I feel like I relate to the songs from that period.

That’s why it was so uncomfortable watching the post-Idol Aiken be dressed up by the corporate machine into something he isn’t. You couldn’t help but wince watching Aiken in a leather jacket.

“I think it’s so important to stay in your own lane,” Aiken says. “When I put out my first two albums, they were dressing me up like I was going to be the next Justin Timberlake or how Justin Bieber looks today. That image just doesn’t work for me. But there is a type of music that works for me, it’s Christmas music."

Is it just a coincidence that Aiken is performing at Donald Trump’s Taj Mahal after he finished second last spring on The Donald’s NBC hit The Apprentice?

“That’s a funny thing, isn’t it?” Aiken offers. “I had a great time on the show. It was very hard work. We worked 18 hours a day, but it was all worth it for the experience. I enjoyed working on Lisa Lampanelli’s team. She is so hardcore and we have a similar absurd sense of humor. It was a challenge every day. I had a project to do that I could take ownership of. It was great. I enjoyed being around Arsenio Hall and Donald Trump was wonderful.

When American Idol alum precedes Aiken’s name, he can’t help but chuckle. 
“It’s been so long since I was on American Idol that I look through binoculars to see it,” Aiken says.

“It’s been 10 years, but I appreciate the opportunity the show gave me. The show has gone through quite a few changes since I was on. Simon [Cowell] is gone and so is Paula [Abdul] and Randy [Jackson]. They were great judges, but they had to move on and the show is moving on. It’s still doing well.

Will Aiken ever do another reality show?

“I think I’ve done enough of those shows, don’t you?” Aiken says with a laugh. “I’m just happy doing this. I love to sing and to be on tour and to make albums. I’m right where I want to be. Right now is extra special since I get to do what I love most, which is to sing these Christmas songs every night.

“Right now, I don’t think I would change a thing. Everything is going very well.”


Clay Aiken

Where: Trump Taj Mahal, A.C.

When: Saturday, Dec. 1, 8pm

How Much: $19 and $34

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Clay Aiken Brings His "Joyful Noise" to Staten Island's St. George Theatre This Weekend

Clay Aiken brings his 'Joyful Noise' to Staten Island's St. George Theatre this weekend

By Rob Bailey / Staten Island Advance

on November 29, 2012 at 4:09 PM


'Clay Aiken: Joyful Noise'

The star's fifth holiday concert tour comes to S.I.

Where: St. George Theatre, 35 Hyatt St., St. George, 718-442-2900.

When: Dec. 2, 7 p.m.

How much: Tickets are $49, $69 and $89 at the box office and Ticketmaster.com.

More information: Visit StGeorgeTheatre.com or ClayAiken.com.

Photo by Kevin Cook

STATEN ISLAND, NY — Sometimes, losing really is the best revenge.

Don't take my word for it — just ask Clay Aiken.

It's been nearly a decade since the then 24-year-old with unruly red hair from Raleigh, N.C., smiled through Simon Cowell's cutting fashion critiques and lost the 2003 "American Idol" title to second-season winner Ruben Studdard (whatever happened to that guy?).

Given the number of tabloid headlines he generated in the years after — webcam sexcapades, his coming out party on People magazine, his son-by-surrogate, 4-year-old Parker Foster Aiken — it might be all too easy to forget he's achieved what most overnight reality TV sensations can't: Longevity.

Aiken has racked up more than 6 million record sales (he was the first 'Idol' contestant to have five albums reach the Top 10), wrote a New York Times best-seller ("Learning to Sing: Hearing the Music in Your Life"), acted on TV ("30 Rock," "Drop Dead Diva") and Broadway ("Monty Python's Spamalot"), and even made a brief-but-splashy return to the world of competitive TV ("Celebrity Apprentice").

Oh yeah, he also found time to complete his degree in special education at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte.

11928034-large.jpgAWE in print ...

Photo by Kevin Cook

But his favorite gig remains a seasonal one: Aiken launched "Joyful Noise" — his fifth holiday tour since 2004's platinum-selling "Merry Christmas with Love"— earlier this month, and stops by the historic St. George Theatre this weekend.

And yes, he realizes carols aren't necessarily "cool."

"That doesn't matter to me because I'm not cool, either," he told the Tampa Tribune last week. "... It can be schmaltzy and cheesy but that's fine for my personality. That's why I'm out on another Christmas tour. I love it."

The refreshingly polite performer recently took a break from cyber-shopping to chat with AWE about his tour, getting trashed by 'Apprentice' co-star Penn Jillette in a new book, and the often over-protective nature of his enduring fans, aka Claymates:

Q: You've said before that you don't care if it's cool: You want to be the new Andy Williams when it comes to Christmas music. Why?

A: I enjoy the holiday a lot more because it has a purpose to it. A summer tour has to be all about you, but this show isn't about me so much as it is about the season. And love the energy that happens around holiday; for that reason I don't get bored with it.

Q: Why do you think you've managed to thrive when so many 'Idol' winners just fade away?

A: Not winning helped me. It lowered expectations to some degree. We chose to do things were they were naturally lowered, to show I could do something different.

For example, I did "Spamalot" on Broadway because it was a show where I didn't sing. When the cast of "Celebrity Apprentice" was leaked in August of last year, almost every list said I would be the first to be fired.

We picked things I knew I could do well at but no one else thought I could do, and capitalize on that.

Plus, I never saw myself as a radio star. I believe I can sing, and I forged some sort of path as a singer; but people, when you come off of reality TV you are not really a music star — you are TV star. And trying to forge a career in an industry that really doesn't have any interest in TV stars.

Of course, there are the Kellys and Carries of the world. but they are the outliers. Look at Jennifer Hudson: She turned her TV stardom into movie stardom. Sure, she has a music career on the side, but she did that on the back of her Oscar — not "American Idol." And both Fantasia and Jordin Sparks have had some degree of music success, but they've done TV and stage and movies, too.

The people who've stuck around have understood, "I cannot take my TV stardom and turn it into radio stardom."

Q: "Claymates" are notoriously protective. Why do they get so mad?

A: They don't get mad at me! (Laughs) They are just aggressively supportive, but sometimes that hurts a little bit more. It's like having mom go to fight your battles for you — sometimes it backfires. I had a mom like that. Yeah, they're nice when they're in the room but later on they're gonna beat the crap outta me! (Laughs).

They are extremely supportive, but it makes it look like I can't do it myself. I don't need anyone fighting my battles for me.

Q: Were you surprised that your wholesome fanbase stuck with you through various controversies?

A: You are being very respectful, and I appreciate that, but you don't have to be:

When the story broke in 2008 and I came out, I was doing "Spamalot" and I thought, "These people bought their tickets and didn't have time to get rid of them, and when I walk out, I'm gonna get booed."

(Laughs) It was the most nervous I've ever been — and I don't really get nervous — but it took a lot of balls.

Even when they didn't boo, I really believed they would boo me at the curtain call. They were clapping for everybody else, but I just knew they wouldn't for me. Heck, I predicted it wouldn't happen in 2003. But I was wrong. They stuck around. Of course, some people have moved away and natural attrition has played a role, but the most energetic ones are still here.

It's humbling.

Q: Speaking of Broadway, you scored great notices. Would you do it again?

A: I loved it way more than I thought I would. It was incredible, but I didn't get to sing, so I would love to find a show where I could. I need to find the right show. I'm not actively seeking it, just hoping the right thing comes along. Unfortunately, it seems like the female leads always get the good songs, like in "Wicked." I want to wait for a show where the guy gets good songs.

Q: In his new memoir, Penn Jillette says he would have "preferred waterboarding" to talking to you on the "Apprentice" set. Thoughts?

A: The feeling was mutual. (Laughs).

No, Penn and I get along perfectly fine. When you're writing a book, the lead-time is sooo long. He wrote most of that right after the show taped and before it aired. Some comments were fresh then and not fresh now.

... We've had discussions since and he, well he doesn't like long conversations and I don't, either. The bottom line is it doesn't bother me at all.

I've been in this business 10 years and my skin is so thick you could probably bounce a bullet off it. It was written over a year ago. We're all good.

Q: So, any chance you'd hop back on the reality TV treadmill?

A: The completely ironic part is I'm not really a competitive person. Once I get into something I will dedicate myself to it and all, but I think I'm done with competitions.

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Singer Clay Aiken Brings Holiday Show to Atlantic City

Singer Clay Aiken brings his holiday show to Atlantic City

By Kristie Rearick/South Jersey Times

on November 30, 2012 at 7:18 AM, updated November 30, 2012 at 7:20 AM


Clay Aiken will perform at Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City on Saturday, Dec. 1 at 8 p.m.

Photo provided

This is Clay Aiken’s fifth time “doing the holiday thing,” and he couldn’t be happier about it.

“I took a break from doing the show a few years ago,” said Aiken. “And it was kind of one of those things where the fans said, ‘it’s just not Christmas without this show.’”

So the fans got their way.

Aiken — along with a full orchestra on stage — kicked off the “Joyful Noise Tour 2012” earlier this month, with a stop planned at Trump Taj Mahalin Atlantic City on Saturday at 8 p.m.

Each year he tries to “keep it fresh and do it a little differently,”said Aiken.

“We add a song or change a few of the songs,” he said. “We keep it from being the same show every year.”

One year, he had a five-piece band on tour with him. And on another year, “snow” fell from the ceiling.

But there won’t be any “snow” this year, he said.

“I don’t think that would work with the orchestra being on stage,” he said with a laugh.

Aiken got his big break in the music industry in 2003 on the second season of the hit TV competition show “American Idol,” taking the runner-up spot. Since his time on the show, he has released five albums, including his first solo CD, “Measure of a Man,” which sold three million copies and debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 list. That album — which went double platinum — was the highest-selling first album for a solo artist in a decade.

Aiken took the second-place prize for the second time on another reality TV show this past spring. On NBC’S “Celebrity Apprentice,” he was the runner-up to Arsenio Hall, becoming an audience favorite and beating out contestants Debbie Gibson, Aubrey O’Day and Lisa Lampanelli.

“The tasks weren’t hard. It was the show’s schedule that was grueling,” Aiken said, adding that a room filled with 18 Type A personalities didn’t make it easy, either.

“Arsenio and I found ourselves stepping back and letting the others be ... water finds its level and that’s probably what made us more successful,” he said.

Aiken raised $300,000 for his charity of choice, The National Inclusion Project.

Aiken’s popular holiday concert came about after he released a Christmas CD, “Merry Christmas with Love,” in 2004.

“I think Christmas songs work well with my voice,” he said. “And I do love the music. Back in 2003, when I was putting out my first album, I knew I was never going to be Justin Timberlake or anything. I was born a decade or two late, and Christmas music, that’s really the kind of music that’s timeless.”

And this is a show that’s about something special, he said.

“When I do regular shows throughout the year, those shows are really about me. This show is about something more than you. It’s about the season,” he said.

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With Broadway, "Celebrity Apprentice" and New Holiday Tour, Clay Aiken Anything But Idle

With Broadway, 'Celebrity Apprentice' and new holiday tour, Clay Aiken anything but idle

By John J. Moser, Of The Morning Call

7:28 PM EST, November 30, 2012

When Clay Aiken gave his first concert in the Lehigh Valley in 2004, it was a year after he came in second to Ruben Studdard on the second season of television's then-highest rated show, "American Idol." His debut album, "Measure of a Man," had gone double-platinum with the hit "Invisible."

He set a then-record with the fastest sellout ever of Musikfest's 6,500-capacity RiverPlace stage.

Aiken returned to Musikfest in 2005, and in 2006 and 2007 performed at Easton's State Theatre. And he'll be back again in the Valley Dec. 4, bringing his "Joyful Noise" Christmas show to ArtsQuest's Musikfest Cafe. The show is sold out, although the venue is one-tenth the capacity of RiverPlace.

Most artists might view that as a precipitous career drop, but Aiken says it was expected — and he's comfortable with it.

"The thing with being an 'Idol' contestant and having a huge-selling first album and having my first single ever debut at No. 1 on the Top 100 — everything's sort of downhill from there, always," Aiken says in a phone call from New York.

"Most people work and pay dues, play small venues to sell a few albums here and there, and they work their way up to — if they're lucky — one day, many years down the road they'll sing for stadiums and arenas. My very first two or three tours were me singing to 20,000 people in an arena. And so nothing's ever going to top that."

Aiken says that career has given him the opportunity to do projects he wants to do rather than chase popularity. "I don't have to try to search for a new audience, necessarily, by doing stuff that gets on the radio," he says. "I get to do stuff that I want to do, like … doing a Christmas tour."

It's not as if Aiken hasn't done anything high-profile lately. He starred on Broadway in "Monty Python's Spamalot" in 2008-09 and was a contestant — again finishing second (to Arsenio Hall) — on Donald Trump's NBC-TV show "Celebrity Apprentice" this year.

Aiken has done Christmas-themed tours since his turn on "Idol," and with good reason. His sophomore album, 2004's "Merry Christmas with Love," was the fastest-selling holiday album of all time. (He's not sure it still is, but "you can say it if you want to; I'll wear it," he says with a laugh.)

He hasn't hasn't done one since 2007, but says he felt it was time for another.

"The holidays just don't seem correct without a holiday tour for me. People who have worked for me since the beginning have all said, 'You know, it doesn't feel like the holidays unless we're doing this.' And people — audience members and fans — have said, 'When are you going to do a Christmas tour again?' So we wanted to get back on the road this year and make the season bright again," he says, laughing.

In prior Christmas tours, Aiken sang with a band or with "dancers and singers and actors," but this tour has a 20-piece orchestra. "I think it is kind of my favorite way to do it, because it feels like more of a holiday if you have the strings and the French horns."

Aiken also has felt lucky for the opportunity to sing covers of standards such as "Moon River," "What Kind of Fool Am I," Roy Orbison's "Crying" and "Unchained Melody," a song that got him acclaim on "Idol," on his last CD, 2010's "Tried and True." The disc was re-released as "Steadfast" in March after his "Celebrity Apprentice" appearance.

"I think my voice and my musical taste has always been a little bit older than I am," says Aiken, who turned 34 on Nov. 30. "And that album was really just an opportunity to sing stuff that I had grown up listening to — my mom listened to when I was a kid. And my voice was just, I think, more suited to that type of thing than it is to sort of the more pop stuff.

"I don't even know what pop sounds like anymore. … I think I gotta do stuff that is right for me, versus trying to fit myself into some box or into some sort of pop sensibility that I don't necessarily fit into."

"Spamalot," Aiken says, was a "strategic choice."

"We wanted specifically to do it. We'd been asked for years to do Broadway stuff and we always said no. We said yes to 'Spamalot' because it was an opportunity for me to do something different and not just do the same old 'Clay sings this song.' "

He says he would consider other Broadway roles, but they, too, would have to be a good opportunity. "I've done that now, and it was easily in the top three things that I've ever done, but I don't want to go back to Broadway just for the sake of doing that," he says. "I want to go back and do the right thing."

He says he also turned down several TV spots for the same reason before accepting "Celebrity Apprentice." He says it also gave him the chance to win money for a foundation he created to promote the inclusion of children with disabilities (Aiken was a teacher for the disabled before "Idol.")

"I was disappointed as much in losing that as I was in losing 'Idol,' " he says. "Of course when you get down to the Top 2, you really, really would like to say you won. But interestingly enough, the people on each show that I became the closest with and became the most friendly with and really had the best relationship with turned out to be the person who I ended up in the final against.

"There was a part of me that really wanted to win, but it's hard to be upset when it's a friend of yours winning instead. … I was surprised; I kind of thought I had that one. But, you know, it's my lot in life to come in second place. I will never get in a competition with a black man again, I'll tell you that," he says, laughing.

Aiken says he would have been more upset about losing to someone such as singer Aubrey O'Day, with whom he feuded on the show. Or, perhaps, magician and "Apprentice" contestant Penn Jillette, who in a new book says he would rather be waterboarded than spend time with Aiken.

"This is for Bethlehem, Pennsylvania — you are a dirty interviewer for bringing that up!" Aiken says. But he says the book actually was written right after Jillete was voted off the show, and they have since developed a relationship — of sorts.

"I have a lot of respect for Penn as an entertainer, as a businessman who's really created a great career for himself," Aiken says. "He knows full well I don't want to take any long car rides with him, I don't want to talk to him any longer than he wants to talk to me. But he and I, we stay in touch. We have an interesting relationship."

As for the interesting career he has, Aiken says while he fully credits "American Idol," he hasn't followed it since Carrie Underwood won in 2005, two years after his show.

With "American Idol" now 10 years behind him, Aiken says it's hard to answer questions about it "because it's been so long. It's like I have a new normal now. … Remembering how I felt in that moment is impossible to tell you."

But he says he thinks the show offers less of a chance for a career like his these days.

"I think part of it is that the show's judges are the stars nowadays, whereas it used to be the contestants that were the stars," he says. "The contestants are just an afterthought now. They're just musical filler between judges' comments.

"And it's a disservice to the kids that go onto that show and hope to have a career like Kelly [Clarkson] or Carrie [underwood] — or even me. Because you just can't do that when you're an afterthought on a show."




What: "American Idol" runner-up sings holiday songs with an orchestra.

When: 7:30 p.m. Dec. 4

Where: Musikfest Cafe, ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks, 101 Founders Way, Bethlehem

How much: Sold out.

Info: http://www.artsquest.org, 610-332-1300

Copyright © 2012, The Morning Call

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Clay Aiken Talks About Career After "American Idol" and His Upcoming Christmas Show


December 1, 2012

Clay Aiken talks about career after 'American Idol' and his coming Christmas show

Posted by John J. Moser at 01:30:00 AM on December 1, 2012

When Clay Aiken gave his first concert in the Lehigh Valley in 2004, it was a year after he came in second to Ruben Studdard on the second season of television’s then-highest rated show, “American Idol.” His debut album, “Measure of a Man,” had gone double-platinum with the hit “Invisible.”

He set a then-record with the fastest sellout ever of Musikfest’s 6,500-capacity RiverPlace stage.

Aiken returned to Musikfest in 2005 and in 2006 and 2007 for shows at Easton’s State Theatre. And he’ll be back again in the Valley Dec. 4, bringing his “Joyful Noise Christmas show to ArtsQuest’s Musikfest Cafe. The show is sold out, although the venue is one-tenth the capacity of RiverPlace.

Most artists might view that as a precipitous career drop, but Aiken says it was expected — and he’s comfortable with it.

Aiken says his career has given him the opportunity to do projects he wants to do rather than chase popularity. And it’s not as if he hasn’t done anything high-profile lately. He starred on Broadway in “Monty Python’s Spamalot” in 2008-09 and was a contestant — again finishing second (to Arsenio Hall) — on Donald Trump’s NBC-TV show “Celebrity Apprentice” this year.

Aiken has done Christmas-themed tours since his turn on “Idol,” and with good reason. His sophomore album, 2004’s “Merry Christmas with Love,” was the fastest-selling holiday album of all time.

In a recent telephone call from New York City, Aiken discussed the show he’ll bring to Musikfest Café, his career since “American Idol,” the future.

Here’s a transcript of the call:

LEHIGH VALLEY MUSIC: Hi Clay. How are you today?

CLAY AIKEN: “Hey John. I’m well.”

Tell me a little bit about the show, the tour that you’re doing.

“Um, it’s our Joyful Noise tour, which is kind of the Christmas tradition, or has become, a Christmas tradition for me. I did it 2004 through 2007, took a little bit of time off to do Broadway and a few other projects and did not do a Christmas tour for a few years. And the holidays just don’t seem correct without a holiday tour for me. And so we wanted to get back on the road this year and make the season bright again [Laughs]. People who have worked for me since the beginning have all said, ‘You know, it doesn’t feel like the holidays unless we’re doing this, and people – audience members and fans – have said, ‘When are you going to do a Christmas tour again?’ So we decided to go out and do it again.

“Um, it takes on a little bit different life every single year. There’s always a little bit of a different iteration to the show. We’ve done it with just a band – me and a five-piece band. We’ve done it with me and dancers and singers and actors. And this year we’re doing it with an orchestra, which I think is kind of my favorite way to do it, because it feels like more of a holiday if you have the strings and the French horns and all that stuff – just sounds more like Christmas to me than anything else.”

How big of an orchestra?

“I think this year is a 20-piece.”

Wow, quite a show. As I prepared for this interview, I reminded my self that you had the fastest-selling holiday album in the SoundScan era [with 2004’s “Merry Christmas With Love’]. Is it still?

“I don’t know. I know they told me something like that back in the day, and it’s not something … it’s not like I look at polling or anything [laughs]. I haven’t paid attention to it. But I’ll wear it. You can say it if you want to [laughs].”

[Laughs] OK. But clearly you have –there’s an audience out there for you singing holiday songs. So it’s a good thing. Let me ask you about your latest proper CD, “Steadfast” [released in March]. What made you decide to do the re-recording of some songs and the covers of others?

“You know, I think my voice has always been – my voice and my musical taste – has always been a little bit older than I am [he turned 34 on Friday, Nov. 30]. And that album was really just an opportunity to sing stuff that I had grown up listening to – my mom listened to when I was a kid. And my voice was just, I think, more suited to that type of thing than it is to sort of the more pop stuff. Or I don’t even know what pop sounds like anymore. Um, and so that, for me, was a kind of a project that I enjoyed doing because I wanted to sing songs that fit my voice. And I appreciated it and enjoyed doing it because it’s just … I think I gotta do stuff that is right for me, versus trying to fit myself into some box or into some sort of pop sensibility that I don’t necessarily fit into.”

It didn’t sell as well as your other discs. Was that expected? Were you disappointed? What were your feelings on that?

“Well, you know, it never was a wide release. It was a PBS-exclusive, actually. ‘Steadfast’ is the same albums as ‘Tried and true,’ which came out two years before. But when it came out two years before, it was an exclusive to PBS. So when the exclusivity ran out on it, it happened to run out about the time I was doing [the TV show Celebrity] ‘Apprentice.’ So they decided, ‘Well, let’s just repackage it and release it to a larger audience.

“It’s not necessarily a radio album. So that, of course, kept it from being heard as much or known about as much. And at the same time, the thing with being an ‘Idol’ contestant and having a huge-selling first album and having my first single ever debut a No. 1 on the Top 100 – everything’s sort of downhill from there, always. So I kind of look like my career has taken, in many ways, the opposite trajectory of many artists, in that most people work and pay dues, play small venues to sell a few albums here and there, and they work their way up to – if they’re lucky – one day, many years down the road they’ll sing for stadiums and arenas and what not. My very first two or three tours were me singing to 20,000 people in an arena. And so nothing’s ever going top that [laughs]. So it’s kind of the opposite thing for me, but I love being able to be in a position where I can do projects like that and I don’t have to try to search for a new audience, necessarily by doing stuff that gets on the radio. I get to do stuff that I want to do, like that one. Like doing a Christmas tour.”

And that’s very perceptive, and I was actually going to ask you that question. You played Bethlehem’s Musikfest festival in 2004, the year after you won “American Idol,” and at that time it was the festival’s fastest-ever sellout for a 6,500-seat arena. And now you’re coming back and playing a venue that will hold 650. And I realize it’s a Christmas tour, and I was going to contrast that – as you said – with your initial impact.

“Right. You want me to comment on that again? [laughs]”

Well, I guess not [Laughs]. You answered my question before I asked it.


But let me ask you about a couple of things you commented on, there. You mentioned you had done Broadway. Anything else in the future for you in those regards?

“You mean in regards to Broadway? Um, we’ve explored it a few times. I didn’t get to sing with ‘Spamalot.’ It wasn’t a singing show. And I would love to do another musical where I got to sing. Right now, there are very few Broadway shows that require a male to sing. Most of them have males singing, but not necessarily singing shows. Most of them are shows about women. You’ve got ‘Wicked,’ and those girls sing their faces off every night, but the guys don’t sing much. And so I’d love to do a show where the male character got to sing. And we’ll keep our eyes open for something like that, but there’s nothing right now. It’s not necessarily a goal to get back on Broadway just to do it. It’s I would like to do it and do the right thing. ‘Spamalot’ was a strategic choice. We wanted to specifically to do it. We’d been asked for years to do Broadway stuff and we always said no. We said yes to ‘Spamalot’ because it was an opportunity for me to do something different and no just do the same old ‘Clay sings this song.’ And I’ve done that now, and it was easily in the top three things that I’ve ever done, but I don’t want to go back to Broadway just for the sake of doing that. I want to go back and do the right thing.”

How about any acting roles in general? Any TV or movie roles that are out there?

“You know, if the right thing came along, I’d do it. I’m not … there’s something about acting. I’ve done several guest star things on different shows, and it’s a draining process. I mean, being someone who has started out on live TV and everything I’ve done has had a live audience, really, almost every performance I’ve ever done has had a live audience. When I step into a taped situation, and there’s not an audience – I don’t know. I mean, it’s definitely right for some people. Some people love that. I enjoy, I love, I need the audience. So if the right thing came along and it was taped, I would consider it, but I’m not necessarily looking for TV and movie things because it’s not what my personality wants, needs [laughs]. I need an audience.”

What took you to ‘Celebrity Apprentice’? What made you do that show?

“Um, honestly, my foundation just said to me, ‘Listen, you’ve got to stop turning down things that raise us money. I had tried game shows and these type of things that asked in the past, and we had kind of just pushed it off. And my foundation said, ‘Listen, you have got to stop.’ We were considering it. We were considering it for the same reason we considered ‘Spamalot.’ We were thinking this might be right – this might be a good opportunity for people to see a different side of me, and see me as someone who actually could string three sentenced into a paragraph and speak intelligently and actually have a brain versus what they have seen, which is just two seconds of an interview here or there.

“So I was interested in it for that – for that opportunity. Just to show a different side of myself. But what pushed it over was when I told the board of my foundation that I was considering it, and they found out that they end up possibly getting a half-million dollars off of it. They said, ‘You gotta do it! You gotta do it!’ You know, it was a culmination of a few things pushing me toward it.”

And in retrospect, how do you feel about your experience on the show? I mean, were you disappointed in losing?

“Um, you know, I was disappointed in losing that just as much as I was – well, not even as much. I don’t know. I was disappointed as much in losing that as I was in losing ‘Idol.’ I mean, of course when you get down to the Top 2, you really, really would like to say you won. But I had to come – interestingly enough, the two people – the people on each show that I became the closest with and became the most friendly with and really had the best relationship with, in both situations turned out to be the person who I ended up in the final against. I mean, there was a part of me that really wanted to win, but it’s hard to be upset when it’s a friend of yours winning instead. You know, had I ended up against [singer] Aubrey [O’Day] in the final, I might have been more upset about it [laughs]. Because I wasn’t as close with her as I was with Arsenio [Hall, who won]. But I was happy for Arsenio. I mean, I was surprised; I kind of thought I had that one. But, you know, it’s my lot in life to come in second place. I will never get in a competition with a black man again, I’ll tell you that [Laughs].”

[Laughs] Have you heard or read about the stuff in Penn Jilette’s new book [“Every Day is an Atheist Holiday,” which came out [in November] and what he says about you? [Among other things, Jilette says in it that he would have preferred waterboarding over spending time with Aiken].

“Um, yes. They’re mostly things that he said … first of all, this is for Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. You are a dirty interviewer for bringing that up!” [Laughs]

[Laughs] I’m sorry.

“But, uh, most of the stuff that he said in the book … you know, the lead time on books is so long, he wrote that book and did the stuff that he did a year ago. It takes about a year for a book to come out from the time you start it. So most of the things he said were rehashes from right after he got kicked off the show, or some things he’d done in the interviews. I have a lot of respect for Penn as an entertainer, as a businessman who’s really created a great career for himself. He knows full well I don’t want to take any long car rides with him, I don’t want to talk to him any longer than he wants to talk to me.”


“So it doesn’t bother me at all. But he and I, we stay in touch. We have an interesting relationship. So yeah, I’ve heard it. But none of it really – most of it is rehashes of the same bull---t he said back a year ago.”

And of course you mentioned “Idol,” and I have to ask you about it. Its coming up on the 10th anniversary, I think, since you appeared on the show.

“It is.”

How do you look back on that experience now?

“Um, with binoculars [Laughs]. It is a long time. You know, a lot of the stuff, it’s hard to answer a question like that because it’s been so long. It’s like I have a new normal now. And then, obviously, I would not be doing anything in this field at all if it weren’t for ‘Idol.’ So I will have a lifelong appreciation for that show. But remembering how I felt in that moment is impossible to tell you ‘cause it’s been 10 years.”

Yeah. Do you have any awareness of the show these days? I mean, do you watch it at all?

“I haven’t watched it in the longest time. I think it’s been Carrie Underwood’s year [the fourth season in 2005] since I watched it.”

Wow. I was going to say, apparently the show doesn’t have the impact that it did when you were on. I think the last three winners no longer have record contracts. Except for last year’s winner, Phillip Phillips. The three winners before him all have been dropped from their record contracts . So apparently the impact is not there that it once had.

“I don’t keep up with it, so I don’t know whether you’re right about that or not.[Laughs] But I think part of it is that the show’s judges are the stars nowadays, whereas it used to be the contestants that were the stars. And the contestants are just an afterthought now. They’re just musical filler between judges’ comments. And it’s a disservice to the kids that go onto that show and hope to have a career like Kelly [Clarkson] or Carrie [underwood] – or even me. Because you just can’t do that when you’re an afterthought on a show. And you can’t do it when you’re on a show that’s one of four or five.”

True. It’s interesting – I just interviewed Lee DeWyze, who is playing the same place that you’re going to be playing, and he said essentially the same thing – that the contestants are no longer the stars of the show. And he’s one of those who has lost his record contract, by the way.


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A couple of new interviews. The first I cannot bring the actual text over, as it is a pdf file:

The Sound: Interview with Clay Aiken



Clay Aiken brings his Christmas show to Shippensburg

Clay Aiken brings his Christmas show to Shippensburg



5:55 PM EST, December 5, 2012


It was a lovingly maternal push that helped a young Clay Aiken realize that maybe he should share his voice with others.

He’ll be doing just that Saturday night when he makes a stop at the H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center at Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania as part of his “Joyful Noise” tour.

As a child, Aiken said he was always singing.

“My mom said I was singing before I was even talking,” he said during a telephone interview from New York City.

But by the time he was in middle school, he didn’t want to participate in choir.

“I didn’t want to sing,” he said. “I really liked singing, but I wanted to do something else in sixth and seventh grade. I wanted to be on the yearbook staff and that was an elective. I didn’t want to waste my elective on choir.”

However, his mother, Faye Parker, knew that her child could sing and needed the right outlet.

“My mom called the choir teacher and said ‘Listen, he won’t do choir and he needs to do it,’” Aiken, 34, said.

So his mother and teacher arranged for Aiken to come in during the mornings before school.

“And from there, I never really stopped singing,” he said.

Was he meant to be a singer even then? Aiken said he’s not sure.

“I don’t know if I was any good back then or not,” he said. “I’ve heard recordings of me as a kid and I think, ‘Oh my god, I’m awful.’ But I still think that sometimes now.”

Those who watched the second season of “American Idol” in 2003 found out during auditions that Aiken, a teacher at the time, clearly had the makings to be a star. Especially when his audition consisted of a that-voice-came-out-of-that-guy of reaction from the judges about Aiken.

Although he came in second to Ruben Studdard, “Idol” launched Aikens’ career, taking him around the world and even to a stop on the Great White Way.

“People kept clapping and I kept working,” he said.

Aiken promises with the “Joyful Noise” tour that “It’s all holiday, all the time,” Aiken said with a laugh.

This is the fifth time Aiken has taken his holiday music on the road, each time, he said, with a different twist. This year, it’ll just be him and an orchestra on stage.

“There’s something about a French horn that makes it seem like Christmas to me,” he said.

For Aiken, the holiday season doesn’t seem to start until he does the Joyful Noise tour.

“For me, this starts the holiday season off,” he said. “... Even if I decorate the house and deck the halls full out, I still don’t feel like it’s the holiday unless I’m doing the show.”

If you go ...

WHAT: Clay Aiken’s “Joyful Noise” Tour

WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8

WHERE: H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center at Shippensburg University, 1871 Old Main Drive, Shippensburg, Pa.

COST: $39 to $57

CONTACT: Call 717-477-7469 or go to www.luhrscenter.com

Copyright © 2012, Herald Mail

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Christmas with Clay

Christmas with Clay

Singer to perform in Easton on Dec. 12

8:31 PM, Dec. 5, 2012 |

Written by Josh Davis

For Go! Magazine

If You GO

When: 8 p.m. Dec. 12

Where: The Avalon Theatre, Easton

Cost: $50-$80

Call: 410-822-7299

Web: avalontheatre.com

EASTON — You may have seen Clay Aiken on “American Idol,” bought one of his chart-topping records, seen him on Broadway or even bought his best-selling book. (The guy is everywhere these days.)

On Dec. 12, the multitalented 33-year-old performer brings his 20-piece orchestra to the Avalon Theatre in Easton for an evening of contemporary and classic Christmas music. Aiken answered questions for Go! magazine ahead of that performance.

As someone with a best-selling Christmas album under your belt, what do this season and its music mean to you?

Doing this Christmas show and the Christmas music with it has kind of become a tradition. People ask me what my holiday traditions were as a kid, and I grew up near all my family, so we saw each other every weekend practically. Christmas, of course, is a time to be with family, but I don’t know that my Christmas traditions were any different than most folks.

I don’t remember too much about Christmas music; we didn’t really sing anything at Christmas. I sang Christmas stuff at church, and that was kind of how I formed my opinion about Christmas music, and I think a lot of people do the same thing.

This Christmas tour has sort of become my new holiday tradition, and it doesn’t really feel like Christmas for me unless I’m doing this show.

On your latest album you tackled a lot of what are considered “standards.” Is it at all daunting to you recording a classic like “Misty” or “Moon River”?

Those were much easier for me than some of the others. As far as being daunting, doing a song that no one has ever done before was probably more stressful for me than doing these songs that I grew up listening to, because my mom played them all around the house. Those songs like “Misty” and “Who’s Sorry Now?” — those were a part of my childhood more than anything, you know? So they fit my voice and were a natural fit for me much more than some of the newer stuff was.

What can you tell our readers about the current tour?

This is our fifth year doing it, and for me it’s what gets me in the Christmas spirit; I don’t feel like it’s the holidays unless I’m doing the show, and there are a lot of people who have come to the tour one year, two years — three, four, five — that say the same thing, so that’s our goal. We do traditional holiday songs and some more contemporary original stuff, but it’s all holiday, all the time.

I hear you’re bringing a 20-piece orchestra. Can you talk about what it’s like having that large of a group backing you up?

The orchestra thing seems more like Christmas; there’s something about a French horn that feels like Christmas, you know? We’ve done this show with all kinds of different incarnations. We’ve done it with a five-piece band, we’ve done it with dancers and actors and snow coming out of the ceiling, and this time we’re doing it with the orchestra, and it just feels more like the holidays to me.

You’ve done reality TV twice, made records, you appeared in “Spamalot” on Broadway, you wrote a best-selling book — what’s left?

You know, everything that I’ve done in the past 10 years has been because we kind of stayed open to different opportunities. I think a lot of people come off of those shows and say, “I’m going to be a singer, and that’s what I’m going to do; I’m going to focus on singing, singing, singing,” and then that doesn’t work out for them, and they were never open to different things. I think one of the things that’s worked out for us is we’ve tried to remain open to different possibilities.

I feel like I’ve done everything but play linebacker for the Steelers. I don’t think that’s going to happen for me, but if they called, we’d consider it!

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High Five: Clay Aiken's Five Ways Reality TV Changed His Life

Clay Aiken’s 5 ways reality TV changed his life

By Sarah Rodman


DECEMBER 06, 2012

“I’ve joked that I will never be in a competition with a black man again,” says Clay Aiken with a good-natured laugh on the phone from New York City. Indeed, the singer is now a two-time runner-up, having been bested by Ruben Studdard on the second season of “American Idol” and Arsenio Hall on the recent season of “Celebrity Apprentice.” Aiken is currently making merry on a holiday concert tour that hits the Wilbur Theatre Sunday. We recently chatted with the North Carolina native about five of the many ways reality TV changed his life.

1. “I cannot go anywhere without someone telling me I should’ve won. Now I’m completely confused as to which time I lost that they’re talking about,” he says with a laugh. “It used to be so easy.”

2. “I’ve made some really incredible friends; both Ruben and Arsenio are two people who I’ve stayed in touch with regularly,” he says of his competitors.

3. “I had my degree in special ed. and I was teaching kids with autism and that was going to be my plan. And so this is a substantial difference. I’m now on my 13th tour.”

4. “I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to speak out on a lot of causes that are important to me,” says Aiken, a longtime UNICEF ambassador who also heads his own foundation aiding children with disabilities. “Nobody cared what I said before. Heck, they might not care now but they have to listen a little more.”

5. “Reality TV was a crash course in dealing with jackasses,” he says of the various personalities on the two shows as well as the criticism that followed. “I don’t know anybody on earth who has a thicker skin than me.”

Clay Aiken performs at the Wilbur Theatre, Sunday at 7 p.m. Tickets are $39-$50. 800-745-3000,www.ticketmaster.com.

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NUNN ON ONE: Clay Aiken Talks "Idol," Holiday Standards

NUNN ON ONE: Clay Aiken talks 'Idol,' holiday standards


2012-12-12 2012Tour--PRphoto-color.jpg


Clay Aiken broke out into the world of music and television on the second season of American Idol. His first release, Measure of a Man, sold more copies in its first week than Madonna and Beyonce's debut albums combined.

He wrote a best-selling book Learning to Sing: Hearing the Music in Your Life and released Merry Christmas With Love in the same week.

Aiken caught the acting bug on Drop Dead Diva and headed to Broadway in Monty Python's Spamalot.

Steadfast is his most recent album, being released this year and coinciding with his appearance on Celebrity Apprentice, where he finished second.

Nunn tracked him down to chat a bit about his current projects and upcoming show.

Windy City Times: Hey, Clay. Are you out on tour?

Clay Aiken: I am. I'm in New York right now.

WCT: This is a holiday tour?

Clay Aiken: Yes, this is our Joyful Noise tour. This is the fifth incarnation of that. We have done it several times over the years. This is a new generation of the same theme we've had in the past.

WCT: So a lot of Christmas songs?

Clay Aiken: It is all holiday. We tried to put songs like "Invisible" in, and it just doesn't make sense to sing that and "Oh Holy Night" and "Away In a Manger" in the same set.

WCT: Fans of the album Steadfast won't hear much of that then…

Clay Aiken: Fans of Steadfast will get the same type of sound. That particular album, Tried and True, was a full orchestra big-band type of show. We do this particular show with a full orchestra. The reason I did Tried and True, which later was called Steadfast, was because I like that type of orchestra sound and it's where I love to be.

The Christmas music is in that same space for my voice, at least. It is not me trying to be cool and hip and sing Justin Bieber-y type songs. It is me singing what works for my voice and the style. I was born 20 years too late in some regards. If I had been born 20 years earlier I would have been able to sing in the '60s and '70s. Christmas music stays timeless in that way.

WCT: Were you raised on a lot of standards?

Clay Aiken: Oh, yeah; my mom had that stuff playing all the time. She used to sing so it is in my blood somewhere.

WCT: Did you have a musical background growing up?

Clay Aiken: No, not really. My mom and my uncle sang a little bit but never around the family or anything. I think when you are a kid and want to sing around people at four years old people think that is exciting. Even though you might not be that good, you are encouraged to do it. I was encouraged because I was willing to do it then I fell in love with it. That's how it happened.

WCT: You fell into being a contestant on American Idol?

Clay Aiken: Pretty much. I was nagged into doing it. Someone told me that I needed to go so I went and got cut the first day. I thought, "Well, shit! I ain't gonna get cut like this! I might not be the best in the country but I am certainly better than these fools that made it through on the first day." I went back the next week and tried again in Atlanta.

WCT: It must be fun looking back at some of those episodes.

Clay Aiken: I look back with binoculars. It has been so long ago I can barely remember it.

WCT: What do you think about this new Idol? It looks like a different ballgame now.

Clay Aiken: I haven't watched it since 2005. It has been a long time since I've seen the show. So I don't know too much about it.

WCT: I enjoyed watching you on Celebrity Apprentice and you almost won.

Clay Aiken: I need a T-shirt that says "Almost Won!" That has been my lot in life. It should have been fun to watch because we gave you enough drama.

WCT: You have been involved with so many fundraising organizations. What ones are working with currently?

Clay Aiken: I do what I can. I am focused the most on the National Inclusion Project, which is what I played for on Apprentice. It is an organization that I started to include kids with disabilities into programs for kids without disabilities. I've been an ambassador for UNICEF since 2004. I have also done some work with GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) and organizations that have tried to stop bullying with LGBT youth in schools.

WCT: Were you bullied when you were younger?

Clay Aiken: Believe it or not, I really wasn't. I am just ripe for being bullied. I am the most bully-able person you will ever meet. I'm red headed, gay, skinny and pale, which should have made me bullied all the time. But I found something that I loved and was passionate about. I sang all the time and had something I could focus my energies on. So that helped me a little bit.

Now I have been bullied as an adult a lot, but as a teenager I didn't have too much trouble with it.

WCT: What took you so long to come out of the closet? Were you worried about your career?

Clay Aiken: I kind of take offense to the "what took you so long" question, to be quite honest, because I think LGBT people need to stop worrying about what other people do. Every individual who is gay has an individual path. They take a certain time to come out. I came out to my family and friends five years before I was encouraged to do it publicly. Had I had my own way I would never have told anybody because it was really nobody's damn business! Nobody else has to come out publicly.

I think that gay men and women who have come out have a false impression that since they came out it is easy for other people. It is an individual journey for every single person. I have to watch myself now that I am out to make sure I don't say, "Since I did it, Lance Bass, Neil Patrick Harris, and Ricky Martin all did it, then everyone should do it." That's bullshit. Every single person has personal reasons for making the decisions that they make. Coming out is 100 percent a personal journey. It's not done for the benefit of anybody else at all. I didn't come out for anybody else. I had to work through my own issues with my family and the people around me.

WCT: How is your son, Parker, doing by the way?

Clay Aiken: He's doing well, thank you.

WCT: Do you want to do more Broadway shows like Monty Python's Spamalot?

Clay Aiken: I enjoyed it a lot. I didn't expect to enjoy it as much as I did. But I did; I kind of fell in love with it. I don't have any plans to do it right now but would love to at some point, only if I got to sing. I didn't get to sing in the last one. That was not a singing show. There are not many shows for guys to sing with so many being for women. Instead of doing one for the sake of doing one then I will wait for the right one.

WCT: Your fellow American Idol competitor Kimberley Locke is playing at a gay bar named Roscoe's three days after your show in Chicago.

Clay Aiken: Is she? She has carved out quite the niche for herself. She has an incredible voice—no question about it.

WCT: What are you doing after the tour?

Clay Aiken: We are going to take a break. Doing a tour takes so much more than actually going out singing. It has been several months in the making so things we were planning on doing we had to put on hold for the tour. I don't have time to talk much with my manager because of the show. I am sure we will just reassess in January to see what is going on and possible, and take it from there.

WCT: I look forward to hearing "Mary Did You Know" at the show.

Clay Aiken: Oh good, and thank you!

Clay Aiken rings in the holiday hits at The Arcada Theatre, 105 E. Main St., St. Charles, on Dec. 15. Tickets may be purchased at www.clayaiken.com or www.oshows.com .

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Clay Aiken's Three Favorite Christmas Carols

Clay Aiken's three favorite Christmas songs

By Piet Levy of the Journal Sentinel

Dec. 13, 2012 12:56 p.m.


Besides his appearances on "American Idol" and "Celebrity Apprentice," (on both of which he famously, and unjustly, came in second place), Clay Aiken has earned a reputation in recent years as a musical Mr. Christmas, thanks to the success of 2004 album "Merry Christmas With Love," (the fastest-selling Christmas album documented by Nielsen SoundScan), and by performing old holiday standards on several different tours across the country.

"I say sometimes to people that I was born about two decades too late for my musical style," Aiken told me in a recent phone interview. "Christmas music is timeless...and my voice fits the older-sounding, crooner-type stuff."

This year's holiday tour comes to the Northern Lights Theater at Potawatomi Bingo Casino Dec. 16 (local Claymates have already snatched up all the tickets). As he's done in the past, an orchestra of Milwaukee musicians will provide Aiken with musical backing, and a handful of real-life holiday stories will be shared, including a couple that happened to and will be read by locals.

And of course, there'll be a lot of Christmas songs. We asked Aiken to name his favorites, and while he says they typically "change from minute to minute and day to day," he said there were three he loves to perform the most.

1. "Don't Save it All for Christmas Day" - "I do it at the end of the show every night. The message is so valuable and important. We're so friendly around the holidays, we get shoes for homeless people and are nicer usually, and then January comes around and we forget about that stuff. That song is about not letting that happen."

2. "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" -- "We change some of the chords and we do a different version of it. I never loved it as a kid, but the producer that did the song for me in '06, the arrangement of it is spectacular, and I love it for that reason."

3. "The First Noel" -- "It's the first Christmas song I recorded, for the 'American Idol' Christmas album. Again, the producer did a really great job of it. Especially on this tour with the orchestra, its got this really triumphant and incredible brass choir that happens at the end. The brass section just blows the roof off. I love the sound."

Clay Aiken performs at 8 p.m. Sunday at the Northern Lights Theater, Potawatomi Bingo Casino, 1721 W. Canal St.

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Clay Aiken Talks Music, Fame, Philanthropy

By KARA SILVA - ksilva@shawmedia.com

Clay Aiken talks music, fame, philanthropy

'American Idol' finalist to perform Christmas Special at Arcada

Clay Aiken has come a long way since his days on “American Idol.” Among the more successful musicians to come out of the ‘Idol’ woodwork since his 2003 debut on the show’s second season, Aiken has experienced his fair share of bucket-list worthy moments and brushes with greatness. From singing for the president to kicking off the national anthem at the World Series, the North Carolina native said his success as a singer “was never expected."

After 10 tours, a best-selling memoir, five albums, and a stint on Broadway, Aiken has a lot to be grateful for this holiday season. Currently on tour performing his Christmas Special, Aiken is stopping by the Arcada Theatre for a show Saturday, Dec. 15. The show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets range in price from $39 to $95 each. To purchase tickets, visitwww.oshows.com.

Kane County Chronicle features editor Kara Silva recently got a chance to talk with Aiken, and covered a range of topics from music and his upcoming show to fame and philanthropy.

Kara Silva: For your Christmas Special, What do you have in store for the show?

Clay Aiken: It’s our fifth year doing a Christmas show. We’ve been around Chicago each time we’ve done it, I think. It always takes on a little different incarnation every year. We’ve done everything from me and a band, me and dancers, actors, snow, big sets and getting a community theater involved. But this year it’s me and a full orchestra.

So, this year it takes on the orchestral vibe, and I think that makes it feel more like the holidays. Something about a French horn to me says holidays.

KS: As far as songs go are you doing original music, covers or a melding of the two?

CA: Well, most Christmas songs are somewhat covers, and most of the holiday songs are somewhat traditional, but we do some traditional songs and some that are little more contemporary. But all of them, even the more contemporary songs are holiday songs that have been done before by somebody.

KS: Who do you enjoy listening to, to get you in the Christmas spirit?

CA: Recently, since I’ve been doing the show, I kind of listen to my Christmas album to make sure I remember all of the words. And my memory is getting bad. We haven’t done this Christmas show in five years. So, I’ve been refreshing myself.

KS: Going back a little bit here, when you did “American Idol” all those year ago, did you ever imagine that you’d be this successful.

CA: I went on “American Idol” as a dare. So, no not at all.

KS: Being in the spotlight, does that ever get old? Are you used to the fame thing?

CA: A little bit of both. I’m used to it now in the sense that this is sort of a new normal for me. It’s been 10 years and this is how my life is now, and I can’t take a day off from being myself, so I’m sort of used to it. But at the same time I think it’s like every job. You have a job, you like your job I’m sure – or at least I hope – there are still days you don’t want to go to it (laughs). You’d like to have a day off here and there.

Everybody has things about their job that they love and they hate. Sometimes the attention and the not being able to go out of the house without being stalked is not my favorite part but you know, you deal with it.

KS: I read that growing up you always loved singing and performing, but was [being a singer] a dream of yours or is it something talent just sort of led you into?

CA: As a kid, I sang because I liked it. I don’t even know if I was any good. I was encouraged to sing, and I guess I did it because I did it somewhat well and I enjoyed it.

It was the thing that I had. I couldn’t play sports and I wasn’t that smart (laughs). But it was never a dream to make it a career necessarily. It was just a hobby.

KS: You have a degree in special education, and you originally planned to teach children with autism, and then you got sort of thrown into the limelight on “American Idol,” have you been able to let go of your former life?

CA: Well, I started a foundation back in ’03 – The National Inclusion Project – that includes kids with disabilities in the program and kids without disabilities; and we’ve been pretty successful. We have after-school programs, summer camp programs, sports programs and recreational programs. That has been pretty successful for me and a great opportunity for me to meld the two.

KS: You’re an ambassador for Unicef, and you’ve traveled to places beset by political unrest. What are you trying to achieve through these initiatives?

CA: I think the only thing I can achieve is awareness. I can’t bring peace to the Middle East on my own (laughs). I sort of came to this place in my career on the backs of people who voted for me or people who supported me. And I think I have a responsibility. I’ve got a microphone in my hand to say things that are important; to talk about things that need attention, and I think there are a lot of causes that don’t get the attention that they really need or don’t have the opportunity for change because people don’t know about them.

I’m on a platform and I am at a place where people look at me and listen to me and I feel like I can talk about myself all the time or I can talk about things that are important and not all about me.

KS: What has been the greatest thing that has come out of your success as a singer in the entertainment industry?

CA: Oh, God. I don’t know. Every time I do something I feel like it’s the best thing I’ve done or the biggest thing I’ve done. Every time I have an opportunity I think, ‘oh wow, I just sang for the president – that’s pretty cool.’

Then I’ll turn around and sing at the World Series. So, every time I get an opportunity to do something, it’s something that I never would have expected to have the opportunity to do, and so it’s hard to just pick one.

KS: Who are your musical inspirations and have you had the chance to meet any of them?

CA: I’ve never had any musical inspirations. I really didn’t. For a musician, I’m not a music junkie. Music is a big part of my life, but I’ve never had a musical idol.

I was always a news junkie more than a music junkie. When I met Tom Brokaw in the elevator of the Rockefeller Center one time years ago, I about passed out. I was so excited. So, I have really strange idols and very few of them are musicians.

KS: So, what’s next for you, what do you have in the cooker?

CA: Right now, we have this tour, and that’s what we’re going to stay focused on. When we’re on the road it’s hard to focus on anything else because every day is busy and I have 1,500 things to do every day for the show, so we have to put everything else on hold and on the back burner.

KS: Do you have any dream projects or collaborations you’d like to pursue in the future?

CA: I feel like I’ve done so much. I mean I loved being on Broadway. I’d love to go back and do something where I get to sing. I love Trisha Yearwood, and I want to sing with her at some point.

There are a lot of things that I’d still love to do, but I don’t have a bucket list anymore. My bucket’s pretty full.

Copyright © 2012 Kane County Chronicle. All rights reserved.

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