Did you ever read this magazine? InTune is a magazine for and about musicians. They interviewed Clay Aiken in 2004. Although it is OLD, it is an interesting interview.
Feat of Clay: How Clay Aiken lost on American Idol…and became a star
By Dianne Spoto Shattuck
Though it’s only been a year since the world first began achin’ for Aiken, it seems he’s a real natural at the fame game. The North Carolina native appeared to be coming out of nowhere when he first sang on Fox TV’s second edition of American Idol: The Search for a Superstar. Affectionately coined “the little guy with the big voice,” Clay won the hearts of millions across the globe in a matter of months.
So much so that people forget he was actually the runner-up to grand-prize winner Ruben Studdard. But Clay may have won the larger prize – the hearts of a legion of fans. He has enjoyed a whirlwind year of success starting wit his debut single, “This is the Night,” which made history by going number one on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. His debut album Measure of a Man (RCA) is one of the best-selling pop albums of all time. Clay’s hit “Invisible” (written by Desmond Child, page 19) has enjoyed repeated rotation on radio and spent most of last year at number one on MTV’s TRL.
But that’s just the beginning. Fellow American Idol pal Kelly Clarkson and Clay will co-headline a world tour this year. In between rehearsals and appearances, Clay took a moment to tell us about his crazy new life since American Idol and his addiction to McDonald’s hamburgers.
Hi, Clay! How’s it going?
I’m super-busy these days. I’ve been working on rehearsals with Kelly Clarkson all afternoon for our upcoming tour. It’s very exciting.
Do you ever lose your voice after all those long rehearsals?
No, I’m lucky. Believe it or not, I actually didn’t have training in high school. I sang in choirs, and with my mom at home and with family members – it’s a musical family I come from. But I never really had proper training. I guess I’m a self-starter that way.
Do you have any special singing techniques or is it all natural?
Well, I think there are different ways of singing. Some are good for your voice and some are bad. You know when you scream, how there’s that feeling, the way it comes out of your throat? When I sing I make sure I don’t get that feeling. I don’t push it – I just let it happen, instead of screaming and trying to be loud. Let the sound resonate inside your head and you get a natural volume without straining.
You know when little kids are playing around, trying to be opera singers and they have that funny high opera voice? “Laaaaa!” [laughs] That, believe it or not, is the right way to sing. When I was working with kids in my hometown of Raleigh, I used to tell them that. “Try to pretend you are an opera singer.” Then I’d say, “now yell really loud.” And they’d yell, and I’d say, “Feel that tight, forced feeling? That’s the wrong way.” But they opera way is the good way. That’s what I think of when I sing.
Did you always want to sing?
When I was growing up, I didn’t originally want to be a singer. I wanted to be a teacher.
Were you a fan of any particular singers growing up?
I never was a fan of a particular person, but of the music itself. I used to sing to the radio all the time but not follow one particular artist. I had certain styles of music I loved – like ballads and fast songs with a good beat that make me smile – but I never attached myself to one artist. I always love music that emotes and singers that can emote.
How about now? What are you listening to these days?
I’m not really listening to music right now. I’m so busy I just don’t have the time. The only music I hear right now is me and Kelly ’cause we rehearse all the time! [laughs]
You sound very happy today. Are you always this happy?
No! Some days I’m just “over it!” [laughs] It’s a crazy life, I’m not gonna lie. I only get five hours of sleep a night, though it’s not a huge problem for me now. If you told me this last year, I would have screamed and yelled, “No way, I’m not doing this!” [laughs] But my body is so used to that now that I always wake up after five hours, no matter what time I go to bed. I often go to bed at 2 AM and get up at 7.
What’s a normal day like in the life of Clay Aiken?
This morning I got up at 7 AM. I watched some TV in the morning, checked my email. At 9 AM I ran an errand. My rehearsal didn’t start till 2 PM this afternoon so I had some time to myself early on. I didn’t eat breakfast though. My mom will be mad to read this part! [laughs] I only eat once a day. I just get so busy. I try to push myself to eat more. I’ll probably go to the McDonald’s drive-through later. I still love McDonald’s.
Is it possible to go to McDonald’s being as famous as you are?
It’s not a big deal here in Los Angeles because so many people are famous that everyone is just used to it. But in my hometown of Raleigh, NC, being famous is a little surreal. I went to the McDonald’s drive-through there not long ago and they tried to pull me through the window and get me to autograph everything in sight! I have to have somebody with me when I go out in public, like to the grocery store and stuff. There are definitely parts of my life that are surreal.
Well, I just appeared on “Saturday Night Live.” That’s unreal! That show is a national institution, and I was just a part of it!
Cool! What else is surreal?
This past Wednesday was the one-year anniversary of the day I flew to LA to do American Idol. It’s funny: Going to the grocery store and not being able to get inside, or seeing my face in magazines, is not as surreal as the fact that it’s only been one year. I can’t believe it.
And now I’m going out on my own tour, which I can’t believe. I was on tour with the rest of the American idol cast, and to have 10,000 screaming fans was amazing – but they were screaming for all of us, not just me. What freaks me out is this upcoming tour will be the first one solo. It will be just me, not the whole group. That is unreal to me.
What has your experience taught you that can help others fulfill their dreams?
I think my story in a number of ways is one of perseverance and believing in who you are. In middle school and high school, it’s tough deciding who you want to be – and it was for me, too. But I realized earlier than maybe most people that the years I spent trying to prove myself to others, I spent alone. Everybody goes through nerdy times. And as soon as I stopped caring about what I was wearing or how I did my hair and started caring about what I wanted in my life and who I was, and being proud of who I was, the aura around me changed, and people started to want to be around me more. You can tell when someone is happy with themselves and confident, and you can tell the ones who aren’t. It shows and it affects the way people treat you. That’s what happened with me – people changed their attitudes toward me and they wanted to be around me more.
Give me an example of a time when you believed in yourself.
I auditioned for American Idol and actually got cut and sent home the first round. But I decided to audition again in Atlanta, and made it in, but then got cut again! I was finally allowed on, and I made it. But you know, I didn’t even win the show! People forget that Ruben won! But I kept going. I could have gone back to Raleigh and done something else with my life, but I decided that this was what I wanted to do. So that just proves that if you know you can do something and want to do it, keep trying. If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s to persevere and believe in who you are – even if others don’t.
Here are a few people Clay looks to for inspiration:
My mother’s the person that’s been there since the beginning. She has always been the parent that was supportive, yet she never pushed me. Some parents get overly excited with their kids and take it too far till it’s not fun anymore. My mother always helped me out but never pushed me.
He had the demeanor of a person I’d like to be. I’ve always looked up to him and aspired to be like him.
I admire her not because of her music necessarily, but because she’s one of the few who’s been able to be successful in all areas of the industry: music, TV, film, stage, music publishing, you name it. And she’s done it all yet stayed under the radar – you don’t hear controversy, her name’s not in the tabloids, she doesn’t offend anybody. She’s a family entertainer, someone we can all look up to.