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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Clay Conner....Southern Inspired

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All of the Soul Patrol has gotten to know and love Clay Connor over the past few months. He was a big part of Taylor Hicks' concert tour this summer. Clay has released his own CD and we interviewed him to introduce his incredible talent to the Soul Patrol.

Clay Connor was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. Clay then moved to Jacksonville,Alabama and that is where his musical career took off.Clay formed a band called Cool Beans in 1994 and they created the CD "Pipe Dreams". Clay has since played with the Taylor Hicks Band,Daniel Hutchens and Eric Carter of Bloodkin.Clay has returned to Birmingham, Alabama and has released his own CD with his band The Crimminals called "Maryland Ave".

TA: Tell us about yourself musically and personally.

Clay: I have been playing on the road for 12 to 13 years with my band, Taylor Hicks and Bloodkin. I also enjoy sports!

TA: What performer has been your musical inspiration?

Clay: Danny Hutchens from Bloodkin is incredible, so was Lowell George.I also love my man Jay Farrar from Son Volt.Songwriting is a big part of it.

TA:What other touring opportunities have you had?

Clay:I did an acoustic tour out west with Bloodkin.Taylor and I have played off and on for years.

TA:You have just come off a grueling tour with Taylor. Was there one particular highlight or concert etched in your mind?

Clay: There have been several real incredible moments.The show with Dan Akroyd was pretty rockin in Canada.But it had to be the Wharf at OB when Jon Cook came out and did "Abraham-Martin and John". It was special.

TA: How did your other band members handle your absence during the summer as you toured with Taylor?

Clay:They don't miss me, are you kidding?

TA:If this was your first experience riding in a tour bus, how was it?

Clay: It was pretty cool to say the least.You get to know people very well like Stephen.

TA:How long have you known Taylor Hicks and what has been your association with him?

Clay:I have known him probably 10 to 12 years.He is probably one of the funniest people I have ever met.God Bless him.
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The "Hand Off" . Taylor Hicks and Clay Connor.
(Picture Credit: Miriam Greenberg)

TA:For those who live in your area , where might we find you performing on a Friday or Saturday night?

Clay:Local bars and pubs.Also I go to the beach and play at the Flora-Bama.

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(photo credit: Cassidy)

TA:What are your plans for your future music? How can the Soul Patrol help forward your career?

Clay:I just want to spread my music nationally.I am trying to get some labels interested in my new CD and for people to buy it.

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TA:Where can we watch Clay Connor perform this fall?

Clay:Hopefully everywhere Myspace has my dates.

Clay Connor - The Nick - Birmingham, Alabama 7/19/07

Clay Connor's new CD Maryland Ave:

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Here is a track from the CD ....enjoy!

Get your own at Profile

To purchase Clay Connor's CD please visit: We thank Clay for answering our questions and wish him much success with his CD and upcoming projects.
See you on the road Clay!

Written by: Teri Noboa (Cydter)

Determination....An Interview With Josh Smith

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We had an opportunity to ask Josh Smith some questions this week. In the process, we learned just how determined this 27 year old guitarist is. He is a native of South Florida, who moved to L.A. to further his career. Josh just completed a seven month tour with Taylor Hicks and the Soul Patrol was mesmerized with his versatile guitar playing. His first CD release in seven years, "Deep Roots" is a fantastic collection of traditional blues tunes.

How did you get the gig with Taylor Hicks?
Loren called me for an audition and the rest is history.

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Who else have you toured with? How did that compare with Taylor?
I toured internationally and nationally with Virgin recording artist Ricky Fante for over 2 years along w/many national tours of my own music. It is all pretty much the same but this tour has had the best fans. I have done studio work and gigs around L.A. with a number of people as well. Most of that is Pop and Hip-Hop.

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Any funny bus stories you care to share with the Soul Patrol?
Nope. We usually slept.

The tattoos on your arm are quite intricate. Is there a story there about the meaning behind the tattoo?
I actually have many tattoos on both arms. Most are music related with the exception of a flaming heart on my wrist (matching one my wife has on her wrist), a 335 Gibson on my arm in honor of my son Riley B and also his namesake BB king, a Marshall style amp on my arm with my daughter's name (Mackenzie) instead of Marshall. The largest tattoo is a dragon with a Samurai. This one is still not finished.

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How long have you been in music?
I started playing guitar when I was 3 and lessons when I was 6. I began playing in clubs/bars when I was 13. I had 4 CDs of my own music out by the time I was 20 but the blues genre is a hard one. I moved to L.A. 5 years ago when I was 22 in the hopes of being a sideman and doing studio work. I had my first touring gig one year later. I have been lucky and have played with many people over the years from BB King to Chris Layton & Tommy Shannon from Double Trouble, Jimmy Thackery. I have been friends with Keb'Mo for about 15 years. He is the one who actually encouraged me to move out to California.

Who is your inspiration?
BB King, Freddie King, Albert King, Sam Cooke, Stevie Ray, Bruce Springsteen, Danny Gatton and many more.

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Do you play any other instruments?
I can play just about anything but guitar was always what I was meant to play.

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What do you do to prepare for a show and then unwind after a show?
Nothing much for either. I am usually the most boring ,as I don't drink so I usually end up back at my hotel trying to get in a video chat with my family.

Tell us about your CD.
I always wanted to make a traditional blues & roots CD. I am really proud of it. It gave me the chance to work with some really great musicians here in Los Angeles. It has been well received.

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Taylor's Angels wishes to thank Josh Smith for spending some time with us and we wish him the best in his future endeavors!

Please leave comments for Josh to read in our comment section!

For more information on Josh Smith visit:

Listen to Deep Roots !

Published by Teri (Cydter) and Taylor's Angels

Photo Credits: Josh Smith, Phantom, Ragsqueen

Video Credit: PaytheDevil