Taylor Hicks on the Final Four and Playing the Harmonica for Carrie Underwood

In less than three years, Taylor Hicks has won American Idol, released two albums, toured the country and co-starred in a Broadway production. (Whew!) But while the winner of American Idol’s fifth season might have a hectic schedule, he still makes time to follow the show that launched his career. So who does he think will take this season’s top spot? He refused to reveal a favorite, telling RadarOnline.com it’s “too early” to guess. But he did give us his expert opinion on the possible advantages each singer might have as the weeks tick away. “I think obviously Adam [Lambert] has the stage experience and the wonderful range,” he said, “I think Danny [Gokey] has a great signature sound, I think Kris [Allen] is a great performer and singer and I think Allison [Iraheta] is a very talented singer for her age.”

Hicks also defended the show’s controversial decision to add Kara DioGuardi to the judges’ table. “I think she represents the songwriting side of the judges. You have Paula, the performer; Randy, the musician; Simon, the business idea; and then Kara, the songwriting idea,” he explained. “So I think she’s helped the contestants find their own voice within the songs.”

Hicks’ sophomore album, The Distance, debuted in March, and he’s currently criss-crossing the country in the touring production of Grease (he plays Teen Angel in the show.) Stars from Chubby Checker to Frankie Avalon have taken on the role in the past, but Hicks says that instead of turning to those alums for guidance, he was dead set on making the part his own. From co-designing his costume to injecting a harmonica solo into one of his songs, Hicks has definitely added some of his signature soul to the part.  So will he return to Broadway after his stint as the doo-wopper ends? Only time will tell. “People have said that I would be a good Billy Flynn in Chicago,” he hinted.

Hicks had the chance to realize a longtime dream last week: to sing—and play guitar—on the AI set. “I was really thankful and blessed to be able to get back on the stage at Idol,” he said. “It was awesome just to get back up there to perform and play instruments. [My season] was the last season when they did not allow singers to actually perform [with] their instruments.” It’s clear that Hicks will always consider himself part of the American Idol family. He sings with Elliot Yamin on The Distance and even has some future Idol duets in mind. “It would be kind of cool to do a collaboration with Kelly Clarkson,” he mused, “and play some harmonica on a Carrie Underwood album.”

(Photo: Wenn)

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