Taylor Hicks previews his guest-starring turn on LAW & ORDER: SVU

Wine Pairing Dinner Hosted by Chef Carla Pellegrino and Ben Flajnik at Bratalian RestaurantAMERICAN IDOL winner (season 5) Taylor Hicks is taking on a new role: as himself, in tonight’s all new episode of LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT.  Taylor, along with fellow AI alum Clay Aiken, and Ashanti play celebrity judges of a singing competition; when one of the show’s singing coaches (Billy Porter) is accused of sexual abuse by a 4-year-old student, Olivia and the gang from the SVU are brought into investigate.

In celebration of this foray into acting for Taylor, I spent some time chatting with him about the show, getting into acting, and what the singing competition means to artists these days (and why he’ll never stop watching AMERICAN IDOL).  All that, and we still had time to chat about music and working in Vegas with a nightly show!

Looking at an episode of SVU, featuring the singing competition so many years down the line from where they started. It’s amazing to me that 15 years later, the singing competition show is so relevant and at the forefront of conversation.
I’m coming up on 10 years in show business – I’m very proud of that.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit - Season 15That’s incredible – you look at how many people these day who don’t make it 10 years.  I think it’s a testament to what shows like AMERICAN IDOL can do.
I think the reason why it was so successful is first of all, it allows middle-America to have a say-so and have a voice.  It also allows middle-America to decide who their own stars are going to be.  I don’t believe it’s a Hollywood driven thought process by an A&R agent at a label.  We’re talking about middle-America having a say-so.  I think that’s what makes it still relevant.  I’m very thankful for all of the A&R reps that gave us Led Zeppelin, but I do believe with these voting shows, and the interaction of social media, I think it’s really allowed middle-America to have their own voice and be their own A&R reps, so to speak.

Talking about SVU – there’s another show that has been in the zeitgeist for 15 years.  How did it come to be that you were going to be involved?
I was approached by the wonderful people at SVU to kind of play myself, and play a talent show judge, a television talent show judge, and I jumped at the chance.  SVU is one of my favorite shows, and obviously has staying power.  SVU, being one of my more favorite shows, it was just an honor to do it.  When something like that comes up, you kind of make it happen.

I know you and Clay are involved, Ashanti – tell me a little bit about what happens?
The part of the episode is that me and Ashanti and Clay are talent show judges, and Billy Porter plays a singing coach, and our contestant is Carly Sonenclar.  So there’s this big conspiracy on whether the coach is abusing the contestants, so it’s a really juicy episode, and I’m super excited to be a part of it.

Do you think, playing yourself, playing a judge now – could you be on the panel?  Could you be a judge?
I could, yes.  Obviously, I started performing when I was about 13 or 14, and I started touring professionally when I was about 16 or 17, so I’ve had about 10,000 “nos” before I got one “yes” and I’m very in-tune with that.  I feel like at this point in my career I could definitely give some good constructive criticism.

I think the important word there is constructive criticism – if you say no, but don’t give a reason to back it up, people aren’t going to improve or work harder.
I totally agree – I think that you obviously have to have experience and you have to be able to back your constructive criticism up.  I totally agree with that.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit - Season 15Having this role in SVU, does it make you want to do more acting, explore that world a bit?
I totally, wait, I’ve said totally too many times [laughs].  I have had an acting coach and have been auditioning for scripted TV for about a year now.  I’m really studying this particular part of acting, and waiting for the right role to come along.  So yes, it definitely is something that is on my radar.

Do you focus on a drama or a comedy?  Is there a world or a show that you could see yourself on?
A dramatic comedy, something along those lines.  It just depends on the right role, and if the right role comes along where I can really excel, I would jump at the chance.

Congratulations on the long-term residency in Vegas!  That’s fantastic.  I’ve never been to Vegas; I feel like I’d need a month out there to take it all in ha!  What has it been like for you out there?
To be a part of the historical landscape of entertainers that are performing here now, and have performed here, it was an honor.  It’s a wonderful place.  I’m such a live showman, and I’ve hung my hat on my live show, my whole life, basically, and this is a great outlet for me to perform nightly, for people from all over the country and all over the world.  And then also to be working on a soulful country record that I will release next year – it’s a wonderful gig, it’s a wonderful show, and I enjoy it very much.

Taylor Hicks performs onstage during Bama Rising: A Benefit Concert For Alabama Tornado Recovery at the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex on June 14, 2011 in Birmingham, Alabama.Doing a show nightly, I’d imagine it gives you the freedom to experiment with old music, new music, change it up with shows?
It is exciting.  To have your own showroom in Vegas, it’s an honor.  I take full advantage of it.  As organic a musician as I am, I try to keep it fresh as much as possible.  As a matter of fact, I’m about to go pick up my dad and stepmom up.  My stepmom has never been to LV before, so I’m excited for her to see all of these really fun fantastic things that Vegas has to offer!

I’ve been to the Vegas airport, and my sister won $20.
[laughs]  I would think you wouldn’t necessarily need a month!  You can go to a show, four or five nights, three or four nights, you would be good.

Working on a country soul album – do you have influences these days that you’re looking to inspiration?  Or music from the past that influences you?
I love the new Keith Urban record and Randy House record.  Just soulful country.  That’s something that I’ve gravitated towards.  Obviously, being from Alabama, it’s been a part of my musical upbringing, and luckily for me, modern country incorporates a lot of different aspects of music, and it’s really open right now, so I’m very excited about it.

Doing a show nightly, do you get a chance to sit and watch TV, enjoy shows?
Yeah, I’m a big college football fan, obviously being from Alabama, I pull for the Tide and the Tigers.  A lot of NFL, a lot of football consumes me this time of year.  I felt like I might be one of the first BREAKING BAD viewers.  I caught that show a long time ago, and I got everyone, all my family, watching that one.  I love series – HOUSE OF CARDS, MAD MEN, they’re all favorites.  I do try to do that, and I do have a little time when I’m in Vegas to catch up on shows, for sure.

Do you watch AMERICAN IDOL these days?  See how it’s changed?
Oh I watch it religiously.  I enjoy watching that show, obviously from the winning perspective.  I’m very proud of IDOL and its shelf-life. You know?  It’s the benchmark.

For so many years a lot of shows tried to be AI, and haven’t worked – it’s a testament to IDOL that they’ve changed with the times successfully.
Very much so!  I could not be any more excited about IDOL and where it is right now and where it’s going.