Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Grease's Kirsten Wyatt Discusses Broadway, Taylor Hicks and American Idol

Kirsten Wyatt has been performing on Broadway along side of Taylor Hicks this summer. In the role of Frenchy, Kirsten has watched the ice cream cone descend many times and has listened to the teen angel’s plea to go back to high school. Kirsten has graciously granted Taylor’s Angels an insight into her background, her career and her thoughts on Taylor and American Idol. We thank Kirsten for this fantastic interview and wish her continued success in her career!

TA: Tell us about Kirsten. Where did you grow up and how did you get involved in the theater?

Kirsten: I did most of my growing up in Clarksburg, West Virginia. Both of my parents are music teachers/musicians so there was always music in my home. When I was around 10 years old my mom asked me if I wanted to try out for our community theater's production of "The Wizard of Oz." I remember people laughing while I was auditioning on the stage and I was hooked. After my raging success as the Farmer Munchkin I stayed involved in the community theater and was lucky enough to go to a public high school with a very active theater program.

TA: We have read that you studied music in Cincinnati-- besides voice, did you study any other instruments?

Kirsten: I was very fortunate to go to college at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music where I majored in Musical Theater. It is one of the most respected musical theater programs in the country and their specialty is turning out "triple threats." A triple threat is a performer who can sing, dance and act equally well. So while I was there my days were filled with acting and dance classes and I didn't have the chance to study any instruments besides voice. Although in high school I played both piano and French horn.

TA: Have you done any television/movies or did you go directly into theater?

Kirsten: My career has pretty much been exclusively theater although I would love to get a few more TV shows and films on my resume. I did do an episode of "All My Children" many years ago where I was embarrassingly bad. Please don't look for it.

TA: How many auditions would you say you went on before landing your first Broadway role? Were you already living in NY or did you move to NY in order to accept that role?

Kirsten: My first Broadway role was standing by for the roles of Sally and Lucy in the Broadway revival of "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown." (FYI- A standby is an actor who is off stage and goes on when the person usually playing the role is not able to do the show.) I have no idea how many auditions I had been on but I had moved to NYC right after I graduated from college the year before so it couldn't have been too many. I was pretty lucky.

Kirsten and DiDi Cohn( Frenchy from the Grease Film)

TA: You were part of a national touring company for a Broadway production-- what challenges did you face "on the road"? How long did that last? What are the advantages/disadvantages to being part of a touring company?

Kirsten: I have toured twice in my career. The first time was the national tour of "Urinetown the Musical" and I was on the road for 4 months. The second tour was a production of "The Boy Friend" that was directed by Julie Andrews. That tour was 9 months in total, although we were in Connecticut at the Goodspeed Opera House for the first three months so we weren't too far from home. The most challenging aspect of touring or being out of town for any job is having to be away from my husband. He is a jazz musician (tenor saxophone is his instrument) so he understands that touring is part of my business. It's part of his business as well and he spends a good amount of time on the road. We are both very passionate about what we do and we know sometimes you have to be away from home to do it. Technology has certainly made it easier - when Sean was in China last year we were able to use a program called Skype on our computers and it allowed us to video chat almost nightly. We also had a three week rule that we tried to stick to when I was touring the country - he would come out to visit or I would come home for my day off every three weeks. That, obviously, got pretty expensive - but worth every penny. Speaking of days off the other challenging thing about touring is that you don't really get them. All of your days off are spent traveling to the next city. That's when it is really beneficial to love the people you are touring with because there really is no one else around. I was lucky both times to tour with a great group of people. We were like one big happy, crazy family. And I am so grateful to still call a lot of those people I toured with my closest friends. Being on the road can be a blast. It can be hard to be away from home but you get to see the country, make a little money and you always have a TON of hilarious stories to tell.

TA: Tell us about the other plays you have performed in. Which one has been your favorite?

Kirsten: I have a few favorites. When I was in college I did a show called "Das Barbecu" which is a parody of Wagner's "Ring Cycle" done Country Western style. It was hilarious. There were only six of us in the cast and each of us played at least ten different roles. So whenever you were offstage you were frantically changing costumes to make your next entrance. Exhausting but really fun. I also really enjoyed playing Peter in "Peter Pan." That was a magical show. I had so much fun fighting pirates, being the leader of the Lost Boys and, of course, flying. But I will say it took sooooooo much energy. I had to live like a nun - not much talking, a lot of gym time and no booze. I think I can say I suffered for my art. My other favorite was a show called "High Fidelity." It was a very short lived show on Broadway (10 performances after we opened) but I really did have the time of my life. It was my first time creating a role and that was such a fantastic and unique opportunity. I learned so much during the process. And the cast and creative team were spectacular. We all really gave our hearts and souls to the project. Maybe financially it was a flop, but for me, artistically and spiritually it was a resounding success.


TA: Who are your heroes and how do they inspire you?

Kirsten: I have been blessed to be surrounded by brilliant women my whole life. My mom, my sister and my mother-in-law are all amazing women who are able to maintain their individuality and take care of everyone around them at the same time. They are always kind and gracious but with strength. My Grammy Appolonia (my mom's mother) is full of light. She just glows. I think it's because she always tends toward the positive and always tries to see the best in people. Oh... and she also walks 3 miles every day. My Grandma Wyatt was a leader in both our family and our community where she served on the Board of Education. She taught me to always be true to myself no matter what. She passed away when I was 16, but her time with me was such a gift because she was such an amazing woman to look up to – she showed me it was possible to do it all.

TA: What would you say to inspire a young person wanting to become an actor?

Kirsten: I have a few things to say on the subject. The first is to learn everything that you can. Study anything and everything because you never know when it will come in handy. The best actors I know are smart and curious. The second thing I would say is to never try to be someone else. When I was first starting out I spent a lot of my time trying to be more like other people when I performed – Kristin Chenoweth or Sandy Duncan or whoever I thought people wanted me to be. As I got older I realized that the best place to start was myself. It feels a lot more rewarding to perform that way. The other thing I have to say may sound a little harsh but I want to be truthful. This business can be full of rejection and frustration. If you are not completely passionate about being an actor then don’t do it. Although, I think the same should be said for anything you do. I’m always dumbfounded by people who say to me “It must be great to do what you love.” I always think to myself “It does feel great. Why don’t you do what you love?”


TA: How does it feel to have Taylor Hicks sing to you every night? Tell us about your "Teen Angel" and these past few months with him. What has this whole experience been like?

Kirsten: Taylor has been so awesome to work with every night. I feel like we work well together and I think we’ve been pretty successful in creating our own unique version of “Beauty School Dropout.” We’ve had a blast making up all our little bits which have kind of evolved over time. He has been great for our show and we are so thankful that he chose to spend some of his time with us at “Grease.”

TA: It was just announced that another American Idol finalist, Ace Young, will be joining the cast of Grease. What are your thoughts on the additions of cast members who have not studied and trained as you have? What do you think of the “draw” that American Idol has had on Broadway?

Kirsten: We are all really excited to have Ace on board. He sounds fantastic and has been nothing but sweet and professional in rehearsals. Plus, he’s super cute. :) I think the trend of having “American Idol” contestants or people who are box office draws but who may not be as experienced is a good thing overall. The bottom line is it gets people to the theater. My hope is that after that experience people will say, “What a great Broadway show. Let’s go see another one. And another one. And another one…” And eventually theater will be a steady source of entertainment for them – whether it’s on Broadway or in their hometown.

TA: Are you living your dream? What are your future goals?

Kirsten: I am, without a doubt, living my dream. I have a beautiful and amazing husband. I have a loving and supportive family. I have a ton of friends who I consider family. I have a great apartment. And I have a fabulous job where I perform for 1100 people every night doing exactly what I love to do. Of course I have other dreams and aspirations - be on a TV show, own a home, travel the world. But I am so grateful from the tips of my toes to the top of my head for all the opportunities I’ve received. “Grease” has been such a fantastic experience for me. At some point during every show I look out and remember being a little girl sitting in the audience saying to myself, “I want to do THAT!” And here I am… it’s pretty freaking awesome.

Media: Cydter
Editing: DidNotExpectThat

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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Laura Osnes.... Living Her Dream

Taylor's Angels had the pleasure of interviewing the beautiful Laura Osnes, who plays Sandy in the Broadway production of Grease. You will be surprised to see how much this young actress has accomplished in her career and how she is living out her dream.

TA: Tell us about Laura ! Where are you from? When did you become a triple threat?

Laura: I was born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I started taking dance lessons when I was five and did my first show in second grade. I was a Munchkin in the Wizard of Oz! My parents encouraged me to follow my dreams and I quickly discovered that theater was my passion. I started taking voice lessons at 12 and continued to do shows professionally in Minneapolis until I graduated high school. I knew performing was what I wanted to do, so I went on to study musical theater at the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point for a year. Ever since I can remember, I've wanted to be a famous Broadway actress, when I grew up. It's such a blessing to be living my dream! I never guessed it would happen so soon in my life and through a tv reality show.

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TA: If you weren't singing, dancing and acting what would you be doing?

Laura: Hmmm.... Like I said, this is what I've always wanted to do. But if I wasn't performing, I'd probably be writing children's books or running a dance studio.

TA: We have read that your aunt made sure you auditioned for the Grease reality show. How was that whole experience for you? What was the best/worst part of being on a reality show?

Laura: I was playing the role of Sandy in a regional production of Grease and first heard about NBC's " Grease- You're The One That I Want" in the newspaper. My aunt found out audition information on the Internet and I soon found myself in LA for the cattle-call audition. Doing the reality show was such a crazy experience. I feel like I learned and grew so much, both as a person and as a performer. The best parts were getting to work with so many professionals and sing on national television! Also, the contestants got along surprisingly well and I still keep in touch with almost everyone from the show. All of us will forever have this special bond of going through the reality show experience together. The hardest part, besides the stress of such a competitive atmosphere, was being in a long distance relationship. At the time, my fiance was back home in MN during the taping in LA, so we were apart for three months.
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TA: How did your experience on this reality show prepare you for Broadway?

Laura: The reality show was much more stressful than the Broadway experience. I grew up doing theater, so for me, performing on Broadway has a sense of familiarity to it. However, having to sing for millions of people, on tv, being judged on my personality and my talent, learning how to "work the camera" and trying to be a class-act on television all at the same time was a juggling act , to say the least! I challenged myself to be the best I could be when I competed on the reality show. I feel like my confidence, my endurance and my talent developed. That definitely helped prepare me for the 8 show weeks and critic's reviews of Broadway.

TA: What other acting roles have you had? What have been your favorites? Did you ever dream YOU would be on Broadway?

Laura: My favorite roles: Dorothy in the "Wizard of Oz", Peter Pan in "Peter Pan", Sandy in "Grease", Chava in "Fiddler on the Roof", Zaneeta Shinn in the "Music Man", Princess Jasmine in Disney's "Aladdin". And YES, I always dreamed I would someday be on Broadway!
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TA: You are living your dream. How has your rise to fame affected you on a daily basis? What is it like having a "fan-base"?

Laura: It's crazy knowing I have fans across the country and I'm so thankful for them!! They really did help my dream come true by watching and voting for me week after week. I've met so many people at the stage door who have come to New York just to see Grease because they voted for me on TV! Luckily, I am still able to have a private life and rarely get recognized on the street. It's a good balance because I know I have so many supporters who will continue to follow my career, but it's not like I get followed by paparazzi.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

(photo by: paythedevil)

TA: How long did it take to put this productions together? What is your favorite scene from the play? How many costumes changes does Sandy have?

Laura: We had four weeks of rehearsal in the studio space and two weeks of tech rehearsal on our stage at the Brooks Atkinson Theater, which is a typical rehearsal process for a Broadway show. In addition, we had a month of preview performances, where the show was still being changed and altered before our official opening night. My favorite scene is "You're The One That I Want" because I get to let go and be someone completely different and sexy! We have the most fun in that number. I have 10 costumes, actually, all of which were made specifically for me. I have a dresser who steams all of my costumes before each show, helps me get in and out of everything, and makes sure I look just right before I go on stage.

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TA: We have learned that you and Max Crumm (Danny Zucko) will be leaving the show soon. What is next for Laura?

Laura: Max and I leave the show July 20th because our contracts are up. It will be sad to say goodbye to Grease because it's been a huge part of my life for the past 2 years. I plan to stay in New York and keep doing theater, maybe branching into tv/film at some point. But it will be nice to have a little break too, and take some time to relax in August.

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TA: How has Taylor Hicks changed the part of " Teen Angel" from others who have played the part before?

Laura: Having Taylor in the show is so fun. He's really down-to-earth and has made the role his own. In fact, they designed a completely new costume for him when he joined our show. The music director changed the number so Taylor could play the harmonica during the song. He riffs the number into a blues piece and the crowd always goes wild for him.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

TA: You and Taylor Hicks were both on reality shows. Have you had a chance to compare notes with him on this?

Laura: We have talked a little bit about our reality show experiences. He told me he wishes he would have done American Idol earlier to jump start his career. He's excited for Max and Me since we got "our break" at such a young age. We both believe that God has opened these doors for us for a reason and it's awesome to be doing what we love. Neither of us would have guessed it would happen, especially through reality tv shows.

Taylor's Angels wishes to thank Laura for taking the time to answer our questions. We wish her the best in her future endevours and hope to see her career continue to grow!

Written by: Taylor's Angels
Pictures: Laura Osnes

Friday, May 30, 2008

Wolftrap Ticket Exchange - Go see Bo Bice!!!!

Due to the very recent announcement that Taylor will no longer be performing at Wolftrap and is being replaced by Bo, Taylor’s Angels has heard the requests of many of you who want to find a Bo Bice fan to whom you may sell your tickets.

Therefore, we are hosting a web page for such exchange and this information will be posted on all of the Bo fan boards, as well.

If you have a ticket, or tickets, you would like to sell to Wolftrap, please email us at: taylors _angels@ Please let us know seat location , number of tickets and how much you would be willing to accept for these tickets. Your screen name, real name, and contact information will NOT be published.

When a Bo fan contacts TA and wants to know about how to purchase a certain ticket, or set of tickets, then TA will send the seller’s email address to them. We will also notify the seller via email the contact information for the prospective purchaser.

The ticket sale is now over. Thank you to all that participated!!!

TA will not accept or be involved in any monetary exchanges. We are merely hosting a board for ticket exchanges as a convenience for Taylor and Bo fans. We will provide contact information between purchasers and sellers and all further transactions will take place between the buyer and seller. We do not accept responsibility for these transactions. Please be careful when making any purchases or sales on the Internet. TA does not accept responsibility for the veracity of the seller or the buyer. We hope all transactions proceed smoothly and wish everyone going a safe and wonderful trip!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Taylor Hicks Finds Gold!! An interview with Loren Gold !

Taylor Hicks found a treasure,when he hired his musical director Loren Gold. Loren proved to have an instant chemistry with Taylor Hicks during his 2007 solo tour. This duo, along with the rest of the wonderful band, gave the Soul Patrol the ultimate concert experience.

Loren is a multi-talented professional touring/studio musician, musical director and recording artist. His impressive list of clients includes: Taylor Hicks, Hillary Duff, Mandy Moore, Vanessa Hudgsen, Jamie Lynn Spears, Kelly Pickler, Deborah Gibson, Dan Aykroyd,Chace Crawford and many more. He is a very well respected keyboard/piano player and is endorsed by: Korg, Yamaha and Hammond to name a few.

Taylor's Angels had the pleasure of interviewing Loren Gold. We missed Taylor's "Amigo" and thought the Soul Patrol would love to hear what he has been up to. We were pleased to find out that he has just returned from touring with Mandy Moore in Austrailia and the Phillipines! We hope you enjoy the interview as much as we did!


TA: Tell us about yourself. Where are you from? When did you start playing the piano and what peaked your interest in that instrument? How did you get started in the music industry?

Loren: I am from the San Francisco Bay Area. I started playing the piano when I was seven when my mom put me in Yamaha group lessons. I had older brothers who listened to music all the time, so I was surrounded by it.

TA: You have two solo Cd's "Keys" and "All Around Me". Where all the songs written by you? Which one is your favorite? Are they available for sale?


Loren: Yes, all the songs on those Cd's were written by me. I do not really have a favorite, although "Falling" from All Around Me is special because it was the first instrumental piece I ever wrote. I am really proud of "Keys" and all of the songs on that one. They are both available at iTunes and

TA: What exactly does a musical director's duties include and what kind of background is required ? How did you become the musical director for Taylor Hicks?

Loren: Musical Director has a lot of roles, those of which include initially getting the show/tour off the ground, making sure the music is being delivered properly to the audience, working with the artist, working with the band continuously, to name a few things.

Taylor Hicks and I met after he heard "The Runaround," a song I co-wrote. We hit it off after that, and he asked me to put his band together and hit the road with him.

TA: What is your inspiration for writing and composing music? Who is your favorite music artist and how have they inspired you?

Loren: I am inspired by many people. Musically speaking, The Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Billy Joel, Elton John, Brian Wilson sit at the top of my list, but there are many others.

TA: What have been some of the highlights of your career? What has been your worse experience in the music industry and why? You have been on the road with Mandy Moore and Kelly Clarkson for the last 2 months. Tell us about that.

Loren: There have been so many highlights. Performing my song on the Tonight Show was definitely near the top, playing to sold out stadiums, and releasing two solo Cd's - all very fulfilling!
The Mandy/Kelly tour was incredible, the crowds...the cities...and Australia!! I'll go back anytime...

TA: What are the pros and cons of being on the road? How does your family deal with it?

Loren: I try to find a balance...I love playing live and meeting different people who are touched by the music, and I enjoy being at home in the studio as well - writing and producing.

TA: We all learned some strong lessons from Taylor Hicks after reading "Heart Full Of Soul". Did you learn anything from your association with Taylor? You were a perfect match and complimented each other in every way. What did you walk away with from that whole experience with Taylor?
Taylor Hicks and Loren Gold Compared to What from cydter on Vimeo.

Loren: It was a great experience, especially performing all those great songs of his every night! And I have to say, we both share a love of 70's one hit wonders....we couldn't help ourselves from adding new songs every week or so. We would just sit in front of my computer and say, "lets do that one...yeah, lets do that!!!"

TA: What are your plans for the future? Where can we expect to see Loren Gold?


Loren: I will be touring, writing, recording, and producing music all summer. (details soon at www. lorengold. com)

Believe it or not, I am also keeping fit at www I personally connect with other people in my group, and we keep each other motivated. If anyone wants to join me, come check it out. This program changed the life of my buddy Jason Scheff from the band Chicago, so I'm diving in as well!
Thanks to all the Angels for their support. I hope to see you all out there this summer!!

Check out upcoming information about Loren Gold on these sites:

Taylor's Angels wishes to thank Loren Gold for this interview. And we wish him much success in his future endevours!

Written by Cydter
Video Credits: Paythedevil,Stacyr311,jedda007
Photo Credits: Ragsqueen

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Little Memphis Shares his Soul with Taylor Hicks


It first rang out over the cotton fields of the Mississippi Delta and then migrated to the streets and clubs of Memphis. It went on to influence the sound of music all over the world. Memphis, Tennessee is the home of the blues and the birthplace of rock and roll. Being raised among such rich musical history, it is easy to see why the talented Brian Less is affectionately known as “Little Memphis”. His extraordinary talent has been nationally showcased over the past two years since his good friend, Taylor Hicks, won American Idol in 2006. First as the keyboard player with Little Memphis Blues Orchestra (LMBO) and then as the organist with the Taylor Hicks national touring band, Brian Less has proven himself worthy of his nickname. His incredible musical talents coupled with his sincere appreciation of his fans have made Brian a favorite among Taylor Hicks’ Soul Patrol.

But how did Taylor Hicks come to appreciate the musical abilities of Brian Less? The story is fascinating.

The Taylor Hicks band played a gig in Mobile, Alabama several years prior to his catapult to fame with American Idol. Taylor and a friend stopped into a bar that night after their performance and took note of the keyboard player, Brian Less. Taylor immediately remarked to his friend, “I want that kind of piano player in my band”.

Coincidentally, two weeks later, the Taylor Hicks band was in Nashville, Tennessee for another important gig. This time, Taylor’s bass player tried to convince him to allow a friend of his to sit in with the band on the keyboard. Taylor adamantly refused, stating that they had to be at their best that night. But as fate would have it, Taylor finally agreed and Brian Less strolled into sound check. Immediately recognizing him, Taylor Hicks said to him, “were you playing in Mobile two weeks ago?” With the answer of “yes”, Taylor immediately asked Brian to join the band without the first note being auditioned.


The talent of Brian Less has always been evident to Taylor Hicks. Perhaps that is why, after winning American Idol and forming a top-notch touring band, Taylor once again asked Brian to join the now famous Taylor Hicks band this time on the organ. Brian quickly became a fan favorite and friend of Taylor Hicks’ Soul Patrol as they traveled from coast to coast on Taylor’s first solo tour in 2007.

(video credit: Catwoman52)

Recently, Brian was gracious enough to sit down and answer some questions posed by Taylor’s Angels. His words give you a greater knowledge of his musical background and insight into Little Memphis himself.


Taylor’s Angels: At what age did you begin to play musically and did you ever think it would become your career?

Brian: I started playing when I was 5 yrs old. I knew I wanted to make it my career when I was probably 10 or 11.

Taylor’s Angels: Besides the keyboard and organ, do you play any other instruments?

Brian: I play "at" the drums and bass guitar.

Taylor’s Angels: How did you get your start in music?

Brian: My parents put me in an after school piano program in kindergarten, I guess I caught on.

Taylor’s Angels: Was your family supportive of you when you decided to become a musician?

Brian: If it wasn't for the support from my family, I wouldn't be where I am today.

Taylor’s Angels: Have you enjoyed the fame? What things have you been able to do or not do because of it?

Brian: I don't see myself as famous. I am more well known which allows me to meet a lot more “music appreciaters”!

(video credit: cuckoomimi)

Taylor’s Angels: Where do you see yourself as a musician in 5 to 10 years?

Brian: Playing in a band.

Taylor’s Angels: If you were not making music, what would you be doing for a living?

Brian: Probably something in Law Enforcement.

Taylor’s Angels: We have heard that your parents live in Memphis (Cordova). Did you grow up there? Have you ever played on Beale Street?

Brian: I grew up in Germantown. My parents moved to Cordova when I left for college. I have played on Beale Street a few times.

(video credit: cuckoomimi)

Taylor’s Angels: What are your hobbies other than music? What do you do when you are not playing?

Brian: Well, my wife, family, dogs, and friends pretty much take up all of my time. I enjoy football ("Roll Tide"), and seeing the country with my spare time.

Taylor’s Angles: Do you have any advice for someone trying to make it in the music industry?

Brian: Be yourself, play from the heart, and bands come and go. As long as you keep playing you will succeed.


We thank Brian for allowing us the opportunity to know more about him, and wish him the best of luck in his career! We also invite you to leave comments for Brian or share wonderful memories of our friendship with this incredibly talented man.

Edited by Tina (DidNotExpectThat)
Media by Teri (Cydter)

Special thanks to Cassidy for arranging this interiew and for some fantastic photos!

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Inspired by Taylor Hicks.... An Interview with Taylor Hicks

Happy New Year, Soul Patrol!!! In the spirit of the holiday season, you have all joined us as we reminisced 2007. On behalf of all Taylor's Angels, I want to thank each of you for enjoying our thoughts, our guests' thoughts, and for supporting us in our cause to Tay-It-Forward.

Less than a year ago we formed only because we were fans of Taylor Hicks and we wanted to help one person join his official website. To say that that one act of kindness mushroomed into something none of us ever imagined would be an understatement. With your help, and ONLY with your help, we all sent over 400 people who could not afford to go to Taylor's concerts, we have given back to our troops, we have discovered and supported new charities, and, most recently, we all came together to help out one of our favorite promoters of Taylor's show when he and his family lost everything. When I look back on 2007, the profound generosity of so many people who I only know through my computer just floors me. And when I remember that all of this came about for one reason: because we all share respect, admiration, and love for the music of Taylor Hicks.

Because of our belief in his music, we have each been inspired to come together and to do so much good work. We have been inspired to travel places we might not have otherwise visited and to become friends with people on the other side of your state, your country, our globe.

This very day one year ago, I didn't know the significance that 2007 would have for me. I had no idea there would be a second Birmingham show, much less that it would be the show that made 2500 people cry during Taylor's encore song and that it would be the last one of a week of Taylor shows that I'd share with a wonderful woman from Canada who I had never met until then. I also had no inkling that I would be flying next to and staring in awe at the magnificent Mt. Hood as my plane was descending into Portland; or that I would visit the beautiful venue formerly known as Woodstock in the breathtaking range of the Catskills; hadn't dreamed I'd learn how to play video poker in Vicksburg or that I would even visit the battleground there alone with a fabulous woman I had just met the night before, and I certainly didn't think that I would be able to hug for the first time someone I was about to grow close to over the internet and the phone; didn't have a clue some awesome chick from California would rope me into a killer game of "Name That Tune" somewhere and everywhere between Biloxi and New Orleans; I had never heard of a "HOB" but I was in for a real treat at the one in New Orleans. And Taylor's Angels wasn't even a twinkle in anyone's eyes. Not only did I have no idea what was in store for me, but, every bit of it was inspired and driven by an appreciation of man and his music. Slowly but certainly, going to a new location became more than just catching Taylor in concert, it has become a chance to see a different part of our big and wonderful world, and, most importantly, a time to reconnect with my new friends and to embrace even newer ones. That is the true spirit I take with me when I go to a new city to see one of Taylor's shows. The concert is the icing on the cake.

So, what do I resolve to do (or not do) in 2008? I don't know. I wish I could have 2007 again. That much I do know. But, as the saying goes, I will not cry because it is over, but I will smile because it happened.

With so many surprises that last year held for me, I hesitate to even try to make any New Year's resolutions for 2008. I don't want to be so rigid that I don't have room for more surprises. None of us knows what 2008 holds for us, but my wish to each of you is that your year is as full of the gifts, happy times, and new friendships as mine was last year. My committment to each of you and to myself is to continue helping all of you spread the goodwill that we all accomplished in 2007.


So, instead of coming up with a list of resolutions, I will make a committment. A committment to the Soul Patrol, on behalf of the man who inspired me in so many ways. And I can't think of a better way to begin that commitment than with some words from Taylor himself. So, in appreciation to each of you for the good work that you did last year through Taylor's Angels, we would like to help you start the year off right and re-committing yourself to the Soul Patrol by bringing to each of you an interview we had with Taylor Hicks, the man and the reason we have all been inspired in so many ways. We would also like to share with you some exclusive and never-before seen pictures of Taylor taken by our own Tina-- I think you'll find them as fabulous as we do. Enjoy the interview and pictures and have a fabulous New Year!!! I hope to see each of you in 2008-- I just don't know where yet!

TA: Who is your hero living or dead? What is it about his person that makes them your hero?

Taylor Hicks: I have many heros. Ray Charles is the first that comes to mind. He was definitely my biggest musical inspiration growing up. Ray Charles defined rhythm & blues, soul, and authentic rock 'n' roll. I respected the genius.

TA: What else about him aside from his music, has been an inspiration and motivated you to keep on with your ultimate life goal.

Taylor Hicks: His drive. With so many hardships in his life it would have been easy to give up but instead he pushed himself to do more and achieved greatness!

TA: Taylor , what do you consider to be your greatest strength, and what is the source of the strength of your character?

Taylor Hicks: Perseverance and Self Confidence. You have to expect things of yourself before you can do them. Confidence comes with proper preparation; everything else is beyond your control. I once heard that a successful person is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others throw at him or her. I definitely apply that to my own life and use every experience as a learning opportunity.


TA: It is perhaps three important attributes personified in you that have endeared you to your fans. In your book, Heart Full of Soul, you elaborate in detail on two of these including your passion for music and your perseverance against all odds. However, the third attribute that you consistently display is one of a caring and compassionate spirit combined with humility. Can you elaborate on these qualities and the experiences in your life that have helped shape your views and actions, which in turn has touched so many, particularly children and those less fortunate, in immeasurable ways.

Taylor Hicks: Being humble is so important. It is so easy to loose sight of the things that got you to where you are. I strive on staying grounded and not get “blinded by the light”. You also have to be selfless in your actions. I believe that actions speak louder than words. Give and you shall receive.

TA: If you had children, what would be the most important things you would want to instill in them?

Taylor Hicks: I would tell them to always be giving, loving, kind, and most importantly respectful. And always say yes when their parents ask them to do something!

TA: Do you have a favorite or daily mantra? If so, what is it, when did you adopt it and what does it mean to you?

Taylor Hicks: I don’t have a mantra, however, every morning I start my day with breakfast. To me, breakfast is the most important meal of the day, it provides the energy I need to start my day off right!

Written and Published by Leslie Mozingo
All photos taken by Tina Shaddix

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Stephen - AKA Taylor Hicks' "Merch Guy"

Everyone who attended one of Taylor Hicks’ concerts over that last seven months surely encountered the smiling face of Stephen, the wonderfully friendly man usually positioned behind the merchandising table. Stephen’s effervescent personality always drew us into the area, whether it was to purchase more Taylor Hicks memorabilia or to simply say “hi” and receive a hug from a dear friend. One of the guys who traveled with Stephen during the long seven month Taylor Hicks tour described him in this manner: “The one thing that is very interesting about Stephen is that he is extremely intelligent and well versed on a variety of subjects. During the down time on tour, he was always reading a book. This is what makes him such an interesting person and so well-suited for his job. He can relate to others on so many levels. He is extremely conscientious and always goes the extra mile to help the crew and the fans as well.”

Stephen was gracious enough to answer some questions for Taylor’s Angels and to allow us all to get to know the “Merch Guy”.

TA: Most of the Soul Patrol knows you as the “Merch Guy”, but we know very little about you personally. Where did you grow up, what are your hobbies and do you have any musical abilities?

Stephen: I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on Elvis’ birthday the year he died. My family moved around quite a bit when I was young. We moved from Louisiana to California to Florida then back to California, where we settled in the South Bay area of Los Angeles. I lived there until I was 22 years old and then moved to the Bay Area for a couple years. Now, I have ended up in Virginia.

Since I was nineteen years of age, my hobbies have pretty much involved being a part of the live music scene on as many levels as I could get myself into. Obviously, the easiest way for me to start that was going to as many shows of as many different bands as possible. I was initially drawn to the jam band scene for their supposed sense of community and family. I didn’t really find what I was looking for because the hippies of today are not the hippies of the past. But what it did instill in me was a love of being part of the live music experience and traveling the country to experience as many different adventures as possible.

I don’t have any musical abilities as far as playing instruments. Call this what you will, but I feel like it is an ability to be able to contribute your vibe and appreciation for music when it’s exceptional, because it is infectious and makes the live music experience better for everyone you are around as well.

TA: We read that you were the tour manager for Robert Randolph and Vusi Mahlasela. How does that compare to merchandising and which do you prefer?

Stephen: Being a tour manager was great. It was a completely different experience with the two bands. I was able to learn a different part of the industry which I’ve been able to apply to merchandise and touring in general, and that has been invaluable. Truthfully, I prefer merchandising because it allows me a higher level of interaction with the people at the shows that are being affected by the music. That is one of the major reasons why I love working in this industry. At the same time, I don’t close myself off to anything in the future because this whole experience has been very serendipitous, and everything that has happened to me has happened because it was supposed to.

TA: Have you been the "Merch Guy" for any other groups?

Stephen: I have done merchandising for Pseusopod, North Mississippi Allstars, Medeski Martin and Wood, David Gray, and Taylor Hicks. I also do merch for local venues in Charlottesville, Virginia when I’m not on tour.

TA: How did you get the gig with Taylor Hicks and what was it like working with him?

Stephen: I got the gig with Taylor through Musictoday, the company that was handling Taylor’s merchandise. I had worked there in the past and still have good friends there. Word came down that Taylor was looking for a merch manager. So someone let me know about it, I sent over my resume, and after a phone conversation that was that.

TA: What was your favorite city or cities during the Taylor Hicks tour? Did you get to do any site seeing?

Stephen: During the Taylor tour, we obviously went all over the country, and I had such great experiences most places I went. My favorites every time I go through are Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, New Orleans, New York, and Los Angeles. Some places I thought were great that I went through for the first time on Taylor’s tour were Orange Beach, Alabama, Vicksburg, Mississippi and Omaha, Nebraska.

I always try and get out and especially see the cities that I haven’t been to before, or cities that I have a particular affinity for. It’s also always nice to put yourself in spots where you can really get the local flavor of where you are, so I make it a point to make that happen if I’m able.

TA: Were there any inspirational or touching moments on the tour?

Seeing the way that Taylor’s music touches so many people of every different walk of life and how that music brings joy into their lives has been awesome. Since I am out talking to people every night I meet and hear so many great stories. It makes me thankful to be out with a guy like Taylor who cares so much about his fans and makes a difference in so many people’s lives.

TA: What is the funniest thing that happened to you on the tour?

Stephen: I would have to say that it was hanging out with Clay Conner and our friends at the FloraBama/ LiMBO show. If you were there, you know!

TA: What does the future hold for you?

Stephen: For right now, it looks like I’ll be staying with Taylor for a while. The music, the fans and the man himself are all great and it’s a good organization to be a part of.

TA: What are your duties at the Taylor Hicks Headquarters and what are your plans to improve the site?

Stephen: As far as my duties at THHQ, with Musictoday I am developing new and fun features for the site to hopefully keep people interested and coming back to see what we are going to add. It’s been a long process but I think the site has improved greatly over the past few months. We still have a few tricks up our sleeves that are on the horizon and we think once we roll them out there will be a lot of excitement and hopefully it will bring the community as a whole closer together.

TA: Do you have any surprises in the works regarding merchandise for the Soul Patrol on Taylor’s next tour?

Stephen: Of course I do, but if I told you what they were they would hardly be surprises!

TA: What is your overall opinion of the Soul Patrol?

Taylor’s fans are some of the kindest and most supportive fans that I have ever encountered in the live touring world. The Soul Patrol truly helps me remember why I am part of the live touring world and have taken this road in life.

Taylor’s Angels thanks Stephen for answering our questions and for allowing the Soul Patrol to see him in a different light. We wish him much success and look forward to seeing the exciting changes coming to the Taylor Hicks Headquarters. We also look forward to seeing Stephen’s smiling face on future Taylor Hicks’ tours!

Written by Tina Shaddix (DidNotExpectThat)

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