My recent Clay Aiken interview was decidedly unexciting because I didn’t prep properly or ask him anything terribly compelling. Totally my fault.  I forgot to ask him about watching “Idol” (the publicist gave me the “last question” signal and I blanked) or anything related to his sexuality (a touchy subject of course. I’m sure I could have asked it in an innocuous way and got him to gab a bit.). To salvage the story, I had to glean stuff from USA Today (for the “Idol” stuff) and Miami Herald (where he addressed his sexuality openly) for the story below, set for print Friday.

Over nine seasons of “American Idol,” Clay Aiken remains one of the most indelible characters from the show. A dorky-looking special ed teacher who shocked the judges with his vocal skills during his audition more than eight years ago, he almost won the competition and at the same time, developed an incredibly loyal fan base.

While Aiken has created two albums of original music, he still has a penchant for covering classic songs, leading to his current album and tour dubbed “Tried and True.” The concept was picking great songs from the 1950s and ’60s that fit his voice and style.

“I liken it to trying clothes on in a store,” said Aiken, on the phone last month to promote his concert Feb. 16 at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. “We started with 150 songs and narrowed it down to 75. I went to the shower and the garage and sang them all.”

A couple of songs he didn’t think would work ultimately made the album: Perry Como’s “It’s Impossible” and Herman’s Hermits’ “There’s a Kind of Hush.” The Anka song had a bossa nova styling “that exudes a coolness I don’t necessarily have,” he noted. But he found an arrangement that worked for him.

Aiken is also known for gabbing between tunes: “I will play a little more than an hour. But if I’m feeling really chatty, it can go much longer.”

Last fall, Aiken toured with season two winner Ruben Studdard but didn’t make it to Atlanta. That, he said, was “more of a show than a concert. We did a lot of shtick.” This time, there will be no MC Hammer routine, no baggy pants or shiny baubles, he said.

For years, Aiken was the target of late-night comedy jokes over his sexuality until he came out in 2008. He is now is a spokesman for GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network.

Before going public, “I was out to everyone I was working with,” Aiken told the Miami Herald recently. “I wasn’t out to people I don’t know. All of my friends who are gay aren’t out to people they don’t know.”

Though it may have cost him some fans, he said coming out gave him a freedom he didn’t have before and “fears I had didn’t come to fruition.”

Aiken generally avoids watching new seasons of “Idol” but did catch fellow North Carolinian Victoria Huggins last month when she auditioned. He remembers competing in a gospel-music contest with her many years ago.

“She won in her age category, and I won in my category,” Aiken told USA Today last month. “Her mother and my mother have stayed in touch.”

He’s afraid if he continues to watch, he’ll become addicted. “I’m going to get tied up in it and my palms are going to get sweaty every Thursday night on elimination night!’” he said.


A source has been emailing me about a site that tracks Aiken ticket sales assiduously. Ticketmaster enables people to pick their seats. Only rear orchestra seats are available right now in the  2,750 capacity Cobb Energy Centre. Mezzanine and tier seats are not available at all. This site surmises that Cobb pulled 1,900 seats from the mezzanine and tier, leaving just the orchestra area, where about 400 seats are for sale out of 850 as of today. If these stats are accurate, it appears the tour is selling relatively slowly given the size of the venues. (When I reported he looked like he was nearly sold out last Friday, I was not aware of how Cobb may have purposely blocked out seats from sale.)


Clay Aiken

Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre

8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 16

$42.90 to $58.80 with fees.

I would so love to see Clay in concert but I can’t right now. So if anyone goes to see him in concert please comment and tell me how the concert was.