His crazy dance movies, big laugh and antic American Idol performances may have earned Taylor Hicks millions of Soul Patrol fans. But just a few days after winning season five, Hicks stepped out of his goofy oddball mode during a visit to Rolling Stone's office. Calmer and clearly exhausted from weeks of competition, the gray-haired twenty-nine-year-old shared some mixed feelings about the show that boosted him to national fame. His Idol stint, he now says, was like "dancing with the devil."
At an US Weekly lunch earlier in the day, Hicks looked back on the endless days of rehearsals and filming B-roll interviews and revealed some behind-the-scenes details: The contestants barely got to meet the celebrity guests (Prince came and went, though Hicks made an effort to track down Stevie Wonder and spend some extra time with him) -- and the judges were distant too. "I would see Simon in the hallway and he'd say, 'Good luck' and give me his Cowell scowl." Taking Cowell's sometimes harsh on-air criticisms could be a challenge: "I just kind of bit my tongue through the whole process. I decided to let viewers decide what they felt about Simon, as opposed to me."
Hicks occasionally rips his own performances, especially his rendition of John Denver's "Take Me Home, Country Roads." "I saw that clip and thought to myself, 'Man you are flat all the way through that song." Though he admits that he sometimes spent Tuesday night after the show at Burger King voting for himself, he also cast a few for his competitors. "I'd vote on the performance as opposed to who I liked as an artist," he says. "I voted for Elliot, for Chris a couple of times, for Katherine. It was funny because we'd be in the apartment or somewhere and I'm like, 'I'm voting for you, you know.' And they're like, 'What?'"
Next, Hicks will join the Idol finalists for a July U.S. tour, and he'll start recording his first major release -- which he hopes will include some of his original songs. (Hicks has already recorded two self-released albums, In Your Time in 1997 and Under the Radar in 2005.) Listen to his interview with contributing editor Jenny Eliscu for more details about his pre-Idol career, his next steps and his favorite Who song.