Saturday, October 31, 2009

Taylor Hicks ~~ 11.11.09 ...Remember our troops

Share Your Troop Stories with Taylor…

From Taylor Hicks.ning

Veteran's Day (November 11th) is a holiday to observe and pay our respects to military personnel, both past and present. As most of you are aware, Taylor is a big supporter of our troops, and will be running a special video campaign leading up to Veteran's Day. Starting Monday, October 26th, you will have the opportunity to upload your own personal videos, sharing your stories of those you know who have served in the military, or those who are currently serving. On Veteran's Day, Taylor will choose a select number of your videos to feature on his U-Stream video player. In order to upload your videos to the U-Stream account, follow the directions below.”

How to upload:

1) Sign in to your u-stream account. (If you're not a member, you can easily create an account.) Click here to go to U-Stream

2) Record your video and include #taylorhicks in the title. (This will automatically link your video to Taylor's ustream account.)

3) Check back on November 11th to see if your video was added.Taylor Hicks U-Stream account:

Share your personal stories of veterans or troops serving now in our Armed Forces. On 11.11.09, join Taylor on Ustream video player for a Veterans Day remembrance honoring our own special heroes.

Remember our troops... honor their service!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Taylor Hicks ~~ A year of blogs...what's next?

A year ago today, Evancol posted our first blog content, “Beginnings,” appropriately about music:

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life
- Auerbach

Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.
- Victor Hugo

Music is an outburst of the soul.
- Delius

Its language is a language which the soul alone understands, but which the soul can never translate.
-Arnold Bennett

Music, once admitted to the soul, becomes a sort of spirit, and never dies.
-Edward George Bulwer-Lytton
Posted by evancol at 2:19 AM

I first signed on two days later with “We’ve Come So Far” about the many changes that had taken place, not only in Taylor’s life, but in our own lives in the previous two years.

It ended with a look to the future:

October 30, 2008:

What’s next? We went to Broadway to see Taylor as he invited us to do. Now, he is bringing Broadway to many of our hometowns! Spring will bring us new Taylor music. We see exciting prospects for the journey ahead. We’ve said it before…we will be there.

We know one thing for sure…our way will be inspired by Taylor Hicks. His quest for something more in his life has made our lives richer. Someone has said that it is not the destination but the journey that matters.

We’ve come so far. We still have far to go. Taylor recently wrote with the release of Early Works, “Thanks for coming on the ride.”

Thanks, Taylor, for taking us!

What do you see on the road ahead?
Posted by san at 11:55 PM

The road this past year did bring us new music from Taylor and took us many places—coast to coast and back to Birmingham.

And back to American Idol.

If I had to choose my own favorite blogs from this year, they would be those in April and May around the release of “Seven Mile Breakdown” and Taylor’s appearance on American Idol performing his country rock single. That was an exciting time and fun writing!

I can’t tell you how much joy I have gotten the past year from writing about Taylor Hicks, his music, and my experiences. A blog was something I bugged Evancol about since the day TTHC went online!

As we have shared our thoughts, I hope that our dialogue has reflected our respect and affection for Taylor Hicks and our support for good music. I hope it has opened new doors in our minds and in our hearts.

Thanks, Taylor, for taking me along to some amazing places in the past year. The journey continues.

Thanks, Evancol, for giving me a place to share the experience. I owe you a lot!

Thanks to everyone for reading and leaving your thoughts. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

Here we go for two! What’s next?

Fun travels to all!

Photo by raj6, "Taylor at WorkPlay."

Friday, October 23, 2009

Taylor Hicks ~~ Music -- What is it, really?

Have we perfected ourselves right out of the music game?

I was intrigued with an article sent to me about the latest recording by Michael Buble, who is stepping away from “perfection” and going for the “groove” in an “old fashioned” way of recording.

Imagine the concept—musicians all playing on the floor in the same room and recording it LIVE! And he admits that the idea was not well received by the “experts,” and that it is risky, and may not be “commercially” successful!

There was something more important to Michael Buble—the music—real and moving.

“Despite the massive success of his first three albums, the Vancouver crooner had fallen out of love -- not with the music he was making, but with the way he was making it.”

Although he says he was very proud of his first three albums that sold 21 million copies, “there was something missing.”

“They sound really good; sonically, they're beautiful. They're all about perfection -- everything is recorded onto ProTools, and if something isn't perfect, you pull it out and fix it. There are no mistakes.”

And so, to “rekindle” an old flame, he listened to recording of Frank Sinatra, Elvis and the Beatles.

“And I would feel something -- I can't really explain it, but there was a great presence in some of those records. I kept wondering why they had this great presence and why I didn't always feel that when I was listening to myself, or to other records that are made today. And one of the first things I realized was that we live in a ProTools, American Idol generation. We've become used to listening to this absolutely perfect music, but the heart and the soul are gone. It's so antiseptic.

“At the same time, he admits, he was getting slightly tired of hearing an eternal refrain from fans and critics: That his live shows are more enjoyable than his studio albums. Putting the two ideas together led to his eureka moment. ‘I realized that maybe I could meet somewhere in the middle and capture the energy and the raw excitement that comes from doing it in a live setting.’”

The old fashioned way.

His fans were not the only ones saying live shows were better. Prolific music blogger, Bob Lefsetz, has said many times that he is blown away by live performances of artists whose recorded music he would not buy and listen to. He recently “discovered” Taylor Swift live at the Ryman and was moved to tears by the “real” music.

“Music done right is life itself,” Lefsetz said.

Have we ProTooled ourselves right out of music itself? If it no longer speaks to us, is it music? Or is it engineered sound…beautiful, yes, and listenable, and commercial.

Is it music?

Michael told his producer, David Foster:

“'I need to do this in a different way. It has to be far more organic. I don't want to record to a click track. I don't want to tape everything separately. I want to shove those microphones in the room and I want the band just to go in there and play. I don't care if the tempo speeds up or slows down. I just want it to feel great. I want those drums to be bleeding into the bass, and the bass bleeding into the strings, and them bleeding into my vocals. I want this to have some real edge.' "

He took a chance:

"I got my 18-piece big band, threw them in a room, chucked up the microphones, set up a little vocal booth, and we did Stardust with (a cappella septet) Naturally 7. My rhythm section was 10 feet away, and nobody wore (headphone) cans, and we played. We played the song three times and we ended up using the first take. It was so satisfying."

Who knew what the commercial success of “Crazy Love” would be?

We recently witnessed the “real” music of Taylor Hicks at WorkPlay and much has been written about it.

Could the “music” of WorkPlay have been produced on ProTools? Can you imagine Billy Earl McClelland in one room, Taylor in another, and Brian Less in another with the keyboards…making music like that?

What is music? Is it perfect sound? Or, are heart and soul essential ingredients for “music.”

How far can we go electronically and call something “real.” Call it “music.”

What is it? Really?

Engineered sounds, or a human experience?

Michael admits that he possibly erred:

“But I erred on the side of integrity. I tried to make a record that really moved me. And I hoped that if it moved me it would move other people.”

Music moving people—an old fashioned idea? Was that the magic of Sinatra, Elvis, the Beatles? Not the voices, nor perfect sounds.

Here is the uniqueness of Taylor Hicks and his music. Listen to recordings of “The Distance,” and “Early Works.” The music moves you. Taylor so lives his music that the recorded sounds capture the intensity of that human experience. Add the ProTools environment. The heart and soul—the real music—still comes through.

It just gets better on the live stage.

The live concert is the artist’s recorded music kicked up a big notch. Why artists tour. Why Taylor has said touring is where it’s at. Why Bob Lefsetz says give away the recorded music—live music is where it’s at. Recorded is the enticement to see it live?

OR, record it live?

Anyone for “Taylor Hicks—Live at the Fillmore!”

Sources: The Lefsetz Letter,
“Buble is Crazy” by Darryl Sterdan,

Taking a chance paid off commercially too for Michael Buble. “Crazy Love” is Number 1 on the charts in Canada.

~Thanks to KarinP for sending me this article on Michael Buble. It started the wheels turning.

Thanks to Wonder for the photo above: "Taylor at WorkPlay"

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Taylor Hicks ~The Birmingham Blogs ~Leave me with the music

Taylor Hicks is never the star. It is the music.

Watch him on stage. He is lost in the music. He closes his eyes and channels the passion and essence of the music. He is oblivious of his own stage presence. He makes faces as the music inspires. This is not about Taylor Hicks.

It is always about the music, and the music never takes a back seat.

“I gotta be honest. For me, you can take it all, but leave me with the music.” Taylor Hicks

Now, days after WorkPlay, what remains paramount in my mind is the music—the funky sounds of “chicken pickin”, with Josh Smith, the wailing sax of Jeff Lopez, the fired up keyboards of Brian Less and the deep, emotional, and strong vocals on songs like “Maybe You Should” by Taylor Hicks.

Music industry blogger, Bob Lefsetz recently wrote about the power of the music as he attended a concert by the Hollywood Philharmonic:

“... Dudamel [orchestra conductor] did not deal with the music from a distance, he charged right in, bringing the orchestra with him. And not having attended a classical concert in eons, I didn't know they now put the conductor on the big screen, from the musicians' perspective, so you can see him in action.”

“The passion! This isn't someone searching to be famous, to get rich, it's clear he's moved by one thing only, the music! At times he jumped up and down, smiled, but when he closed his eyes in reverie to the music, seeming to channel heaven, not only were you turned on, you connected. For this is the experience of listening to one's favorite tunes.”

“The passion! This isn't someone searching to be famous, to get rich, it's clear he's moved by one thing only, the music!”

Taylor never deals with music from a distance. He dives right in and takes everyone along with him. He is moved by one thing only—the music!

Take it all…but leave me with the music. That is the real legacy of WorkPlay…music to inspire the next WorkPlay, the next song, the next journey. Music to touch our lives.

While in Birmingham, Taylor talked to Alabama Public Television Profile host, Wendy Garner, about his music saying that touching lives is what it is all about. I think that Taylor knows that when he walks off the stage, sweat pouring off his face, that he has touched lives and made them happier. He’s made himself a little bit happier too. The music is what he lives for and what challenges him—make it new, make it better, make it touch lives.

It is the magic of Taylor Hicks--touching lives through his music.

It is the greater good that trumps success, money, CD sales, or sold out venues.

Someday, I think Taylor will look back, not at how many CDs of The Distance he sold, but on places like WorkPlay and remember “Dust my Broom” with his mentor Billy Earl McClelland, and his jazzy duet with friend and musician, Ona Watson. I believe he will look back on the music and the people with whom he shared it. He will remember Brian, Josh and Jeff and the good sounds he made with people like the UAB Gospel Choir.

I believe this is how Taylor Hicks will measure his success and his time well spent. His legacy and his life’s joy will be his music and sharing it with others.

He will remember the WorkPlays.

May Taylor have many more WorkPlays.

May we all have more WorkPlays in our lives!

Thank you, Taylor and Birmingham, for WorkPlay.

Thank you, everyone, who made Birmingham memorable.

I was blessed to be there!
Photo by Natalie Goik: Taylor at WorkPlay.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Taylor Hicks ~ The Birmingham Blogs ~ Soul Patrol's Woodstock

I was at WorkPlay!

As I sat on a plane coming home, I thought about what I would say about WorkPlay. The memories were vivid and the music was still playing in my head…and my heart.

I made notes about what I wanted to say about “Grease,” my visit to see Vulcan, and the very beautiful town of Birmingham.

From WorkPlay, I could still feel the music pounding in my heart and the excitement made my head spin. Yet, I couldn’t find the words for what I had experienced. I could describe who was in the band, who joined Taylor on stage, what songs Taylor sang, how he looked and what he wore, how the crowd reacted—but that was superficial in the real schema of WorkPlay. That was only a snapshot of the moment.

WorkPlay was so much more.

Taylor had fun at WorkPlay, and he took us along on the gig!

Friday night brought us a speechless-at-first Taylor at home doing what he loves. We got a very healthy dose of everything Taylor Hicks, from the AI tour favorite, The Beatles’ “Don’t Let Me Down,” which Taylor teasingly delivered with a sly grin and lifted eyebrow, to the newest sensation, “Maybe You Should,” when I reached for the Kleenex.

Much of Taylor’s live concerts are about the instruments.

We saw his deep bow to the bluesy jazz guitar of Billy Earl McClelland and his own wailing harmonica starring on “Dust My Broom,” which went on for a musical eternity, but ended too soon.

Brian Less brought his keyboards front and center with lightning fast fingers that rocked the stage as Taylor happily looked on, proving that there was much more to this show than his own stunning, raspy vocals.

The mournful flute of Jeff Lopez playing “Dixie” leading us off in “Nineteen” said what no voice could.

And we were reminded that we were, in fact, in the heart of Dixie.

On Saturday night Taylor created a SHOW that expanded the scope and depth of even Friday night’s happening. It was a rich extravaganza of people and music of which he could be proud, giving generous attention to those who shared the stage with him. He again surrounded himself with musicians of incredible talent, whom he prominently showcased like Ona Watson, Birmingham club owner who often gave Taylor a stage in his struggling years. Taylor returned the favor in the way he knew best—sharing his stage now and recognizing one of the hometown people who had been there when…

Taking a page from the rich gospel music heritage of his hometown, Taylor featured the UAB Gospel Choir on the inspiring encores, "New Found Freedom" and "My Sweet Lord."

It was the feel good sounds from my childhood when I spent every Sunday morning in church…and it WAS Sunday morning by that time!

There were also smiles for the banter and outright shenanigans of Taylor and his musicians!

When Taylor introduced his guitarist and musical director, Josh Smith from Ft. Lauderdale, Josh corrected him. Josh said that he had waited three years to tell Taylor he was from Jacksonville, not Ft. Lauderdale. And then, with a devilish grin to the crowd, Taylor asked Josh if he had paid him enough during those three years to make it “close enough?” Josh good naturedly agreed that Ft. Lauderdale was “close enough!”

There were so many layers of music and entertainment creating the WorkPlay experience. We were not just entertained; we were touched and taken along. We were given a glimpse of what this time meant to Taylor. We shared what it meant for many of us—being together and spending time with Taylor performing live.

This was Taylor and his people together again in Birmingham!

I think that WorkPlay will be a reference point—a milestone—that Taylor and his fans will look back to for a long time.

Like the Soul Patrol’s Woodstock.

Now, I was never a hippie and knew little about Woodstock at the time, but it became an icon of our generation. It was also an icon for the music and those who performed there.

As Woodstock was a coming together of people and music of an era in its own unique way, WorkPlay was a real connection between Taylor Hicks, the music and the people who came to share it. Taylor stood in the center of a mega melding of superb artists sharing their music with an over the top enthusiastic crowd in the moment and loving it—a fast fusion of hearts and souls through music.

Just like there will never be another Woodstock, there will never be another WorkPlay!

Yet, it is easy to believe that there will be other Taylor Hicks concerts where we will look back and say,

"There will never be another..."

I may have missed Woodstock, but I can look back and say…

I was at WorkPlay!

~~The legacy of WorkPlay is not the performance of Taylor Hicks. The legacy of WorkPlay is the music.

“I gotta be honest. For me, you can take it all, but leave me with the music.” Taylor Hicks

It is always about the music.

Next, The Birmingham Blogs ~~ “Leave me with the music,” my final thoughts about WorkPlay and the Birmingham experience.

Photo by San, Taylor at WorkPlay, 9.25.09.

An extensive collection of all the media from WorkPlay is available on our message board, Connections.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Taylor Hicks ~ The Birmingham blogs ~ City of Iron

The biggest star in Birmingham is not Taylor Hicks!

It is the iron man who stands high above the city with outstretched hand holding a spear.

“Vulcan, Birmingham, Alabama's colossal statue is the world's largest cast iron statue and considered one of the most memorable works of civic art in the United States. Designed by Italian artist Giuseppe Moretti and cast from local iron in 1904, it has overlooked the urban landscape of Alabama's largest city since the 1930s.”

The Roman god of the forge is the revered symbol of Birmingham’s rich history as an industrial town. He was cast originally for the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. After returning to Birmingham, there was uncertainty about what to do with the metallurgic giant.

When the hollow statue was filled with concrete and weather badly corroded the iron man and caused Vulcan to crack, he was repaired, partially recast, and relocated to the top of Red Mountain, a peak between Birmingham and Homewood. Given his own grassy knoll, he is the central attraction in a panorama of Birmingham history.

I am a history nut, so I love to explore the past everywhere I go. Vulcan looks over the beautiful “Magic City,” founded in 1871 and so-named because it grew so quickly. Located on rich mines of coal, iron ore, and limestone, Birmingham became a leading producer of iron and steel.

Birmingham was a city in turmoil during the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. The Civil Rights Institute, across the street from the 16th Avenue Baptist Church, houses a dramatic look at Birmingham’s tumultuous past.

“The opening of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute in 1993 did more to heal the city from within and in the eyes of the nation than any other single event. With the opening of the Institute, the city was able at last to tell its own story, and by telling, soothe the wounds of the past.”

I find the real look and get the feel of a city on its streets. In a walking tour, I discovered a beautiful section of Richard Arrington Drive with trees, flowers, quaint eateries and mounted policeman. In two blocks, I passed two beautiful churches. There were many old buildings just waiting for a new life that seemed to be just around the corner.

There is no doubt that Birmingham is Taylor’s town. At the Birmingham Weekly, I briefly talked to the editor who told me that Taylor used to tug at his sleeve and say, “Come on, you gotta cover me.” And he would tell him, “Taylor, I always cover you!

He was covering Taylor again in that week’s edition with “From Idol to Angel,” where Taylor talked about his vision for “The Distance.”

“I wanted to go back to my roots and write a really organic, serious record and I feel like I accomplished that. I didn’t rally care about how much radio would love it –I wrote it because I wanted the songs to be great, and I wanted people to understand me as a songwriter.”

Hometown reporter for The Birmingham News, Mary Colurso, who has also “covered” Taylor since American Idol, made her Idol choice clear:

“Over time, it's become clear: Taylor Hicks is the most dynamic, interesting and consistently entertaining member of Birmingham's "American Idol" trio.”

Birmingham is in the musical heart of the South with Nashville and New Orleans influences. The legends who made it in those towns, foster the dream that, “If they can do it, I can too.” And three American Idols from The Magic City have followed that dream and captured that magic—Bo Bice, Ruben Studdard, and Taylor Hicks.

In part of Saturday night’s concert at WorkPlay, Taylor showcased the area’s rich gospel music culture when the UAB Gospel Choir joined him on stage for the encores, “New Found Freedom” and “My Sweet Lord.” Young people grow up singing in the many churches.

The city breathes to a musical beat. There are numerous clubs where unknown musicians can hone their art, like Ona’s just down the street from Five Points entertainment district and The Oasis, where Taylor says he learned the visual aspect of performing by walking on the bar. Another is WorkPlay, a place I would soon know well.

Birmingham felt like a town, not a city. It has that comfortable feeling of a place you could move to and be at home.

It is no wonder that Taylor always says, “It’s good to be home.”

Taylor Hicks was home at WorkPlay and the Soul Patrol was in for a treat.

“The Soul Patrol Woodstock”—next.
Photo by San: Taylor at WorkPlay, 9.25.09

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Distance Between Us Will Fade

Last Friday and Saturday night, I watched Taylor Hicks give two of the best performances I have seen him give in all the time I have followed him. These nights were made much more special because I had the privilege of joining forces with SOS, NFF and TOSP to bring Workplay to our members who couldn’t be there via a new type of cellcert. We pulled it off, albeit with a couple of false starts and some glitches along the way … we will do it better next time, but for less than a week of coordination, we did ok.

It isn’t the cellcert I am proud of, although I am really glad we didn’t flop! It is the admin/owners from the 4 boards, boards with different members, different philosophies and definitely different opinions, putting all that aside to bring fans together to celebrate Taylor. It is the members of the four boards who embraced the idea and supported it from the word go. It is the SPIRIT I saw in everyone who participated. There wasn’t concern over what board would get credit for anything, efforts were made to share media with everyone at the cellcert as it came in, and the members interacted with people from other boards as if they were old friends. It was all the right things a fan base can be.

I got a lot of feedback from people about how great they thought it was that the boards were working together and that it was TIME. I think it’s past time, and I hope we can keep that spirit alive going into 2010.

I want to thank everyone who participated in the cellcerts, the people who expressed encouragement and offered kind words, and especially the admin teams from the other boards, as well as my own. I am proud to have been a small part of such a dedicated and enthusiastic group. I think we were all reminded how much fun it is to share the magic that is Taylor Hicks…. And Taylor was right, the distance between us DID fade away.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Taylor Hicks ~ The Birmingham Blogs ~ On any stage...

On any stage, Taylor Hicks will give his all.

The Birmingham stage would get it all and then some. And Birmingham loved Teen Angel and Frenchy!

While fans came from all over to see Taylor live at WorkPlay, they also joined locals to see Broadway Across America’s touring production of “Grease” at BJCC, a beautiful entertainment complex in Birmingham.

I expected everything to be special in Birmingham and “Grease” was no exception. I have seen it a “few” times in cities from New York to LA. I thought I had seen it all. I know now that “seen it all” never applies to anything that Taylor Hicks does.

When Taylor made his lofty entrance, the crowd went wild. They knew Taylor, and he knew them. He played the hometown crowd!

His gestures were exaggerated, eyes wider and more playful, and the smile bigger.

The couple next to me had come to see Taylor. They commented that he only had one song. They were happy when I said that he would do his own song, “Seven Mile Breakdown,” at the end.

The “Grease” showstopper is always the interaction between Taylor and Frenchy when she cuddles up to him and says in cooing voice, “I voted for you!”

In Birmingham, Frenchy’s line was literally a showstopper.

Frenchy went over the top with it, not cuddling up to him, but standing back and grandly announcing that, “I VOTED FOR YOU!” and then ran her finger down his chest.

As the crowd exploded, Taylor could only turn to the audience with a smile that had to be seen and acknowledge Frenchy’s performance with hands outstretched and fingers “asking for more” applause. And then Frenchy looked at her Teen Angel standing on his hometown stage and began applauding!

It was a priceless moment of performers connecting with the people who put them on the stage.

It was Taylor Hicks reveling in the love from Birmingham.

My first night in Birmingham had been smashing! I knew it would only get better.

I was about the meet the biggest star in Birmingham, and it wasn’t Taylor Hicks!

Next, The Birmingham Blogs~~The Iron City
Photo by san, Taylor and Billy Earl McClelland at WorkPlay, 9.25.09

Thursday, October 1, 2009

That Legendary Music Icon ... Ellen ???

If you are a seasoned old timer like me, you long ago realized that AI is less about a "singing competition" and more about making some 19 and Sony/BMG folks richer.

It's about the ratings, stupid !!

AI could not have said it clearer than when they recently announced the addition of Ellen Degeneres to the judging panel. I'm sure Ellen loves music, probably owns some CD's, and certainly has the power to promote anyone she chooses. What I'm not sure about is what exactly qualifies her to judge musical acumen. She doesn't sing, doesn't produce, doesn't write or do any of the things that would give her musical opinion any credibility.

What Ellen does do is bring star power. She comes on the tail of a long time, highly rated talk show with lots of viewers. And there is the rub ... drawing new viewers and saving the ratings that have begun to slide since Season 5. She has shown her ability (a la Clive Davis) to tell America they got it wrong.

Be sure to check out this great blog piece for a deeper look into what Ellen brings to AI:

Idolizing Ellen

By the way, if you don't know, Rewind of Season 5 is just starting to air. Watch Taylor's victory again, even sweeter now that you have followed him and know his story.