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Clay Aiken Spreads Joy

Crooner launches holiday tour, readies next record

November 2, 2005 12:00 AM ET

Halloween has only just ended, but Clay Aiken will kick off his second annual holiday tour in support of last year's Merry Christmas With Love tonight in Vancouver. The 2005 edition of the Joyful Noise Tour will bring the 2003 American Idol runner-up to thirty-six cities, closing with a pair of dates in Clearwater, Florida, on December 29th and 30th.

"You'd think I'd be Christmased-out," says Aiken, "but being on the road for two months is really a great buildup for the holidays." Not content to merely relive his Christmas past, the pop crooner has made some big changes to the festive show, scrapping the thirty-piece orchestra in favor of a musical-theater presentation. "It's an original story, in that I sat in my pajamas one day and wrote it," he says, laughing. "But it follows the same type of story arc that you might expect at Christmas: One character is not too thrilled with the holiday, and another character helps bring the Christmas spirit to that person."

Joining Aiken onstage will be his former high-school choir teacher in one of the lead roles, as well as an eleven-year-old boy who auditioned in Aiken's native North Carolina. According to the singer, community theater groups in each city will round out the cast "to give it a local flavor."

Speaking of, there will also be city-specific Clay Aiken Christmas tree ornaments available at each show. "It's feasible that someone could decorate their entire Christmas tree this year with forty different ones," says Aiken. And will he? "I don't know if I'm that narcissistic."

When the tour concludes, Aiken will get back to work on his new studio album, the proper follow-up to his post-Idol rush job, 2003's Measure of a Man, which went multiplatinum. For the past five months, he's been working in Los Angeles with Jaymes Foster-Levy, sister of acclaimed producer David Foster (Celine Dion, Whitney Houston), taking his time sifting through song submissions with hopes of releasing the collection during the first half of next year.

"I'm not much of a writer," he admits. "I can pull off a few lines in a song -- and I know there are a lot of people out there nowadays who say they've written a song and that means they've written a line or so. I may go in and change a line or two myself, but I don't think it's fair to take credit. But, this time, I do want to make sure that what I sing represents something that I know something about, and something I feel."

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

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