“I used to sing it for a quarter,” he says of the song, the title of which describes the look that set him apart from the competition back in 2004 when he sang his way to the top on “American Idol.” Though he came in second to Carrie Underwood, the distinction earned him a spot as one of the top three “Idol” contenders from Alabama, along with Ruben Studdard and Taylor Hicks.
Nine years later, the Huntsville native hasn’t stopped indulging his creative passions. He’s recently been in the studio working on his next album and almost had a shot on Broadway. Now Bice is sharing the stage with Blood Sweat and Tears, joining the iconic rock group on tour as a special guest for a string of shows this month on the band’s tour — starting Thursday at the Oxford Performing Arts Center.
The Star caught up with the 37-year-old artist and talked to him about the experience of performing with the band whose songs helped him rise to the top, not being afraid to take chances, and why he will always be glad to wave the “American Idol” flag.
Q: How did the opportunity to perform with Blood Sweat and Tears come about? A: They knew I was a Blood Sweat and Tears fan because I did “Spinning Wheel” on American Idol … I guess they were a fan of the way that I performed the song. They said “Would you come out and sing some of you favorites?”
To me, (it’s) a band that sent the tone for so many different horn bands that really spanned other genres. They can go from doing a song like “Spinning Wheel,” and then you can turn around and go into something that’s really dark but lightheartedly funny like “When I Die.” They’ve got some great ballads, and then they’ve got some funky stuff.
Q: Before this opportunity came up, you’d been working on another album, and were scheduled to make your Broadway debut this year in the musical “Pump Boys and Dinettes,” but the opportunity fell through. A: I felt like the Lord had opened that door because obviously it put me in a tight spot from planning a year of my life off dedicated to that cast and that producer, and I needed something to just kind of recharge me, you know what I mean?
It’s very validating when your peers that are still your heroes say “Hey man, why don’t you come and have some fun with us?” That’s truly what I needed, I think more than anything. Just to divert my attention away from being a studio rat like I have for the past year and half.
Q: You spent your middle and high school years in England. Did your musical tastes change while you were away? A: Oh no — I was a Southern rock guy in England. Ever since I was a young boy, Lynrd Skynrd, Marshall Tucker, The Allman Brothers, .38 Special, Charlie Daniels and so many other different kinds of music were around my home. I just happened to grow up in an era of hair bands. When I was … 15, 16, living in London, it was hair bands and Southern rock ‘n’ roll. When I moved back to the States at about 17,18, it was grunge music and the Black Crowes and Southern rock ‘n’ roll. So I’ve never really strayed too far from that. Aside from country music, which is kind of where I feel at home — throw in a little bit of Bob Seger and Tom Petty … it’s a melting pot.
Q: Do you ever see or talk with any of your fellow Idols or with your season four contender Carrie Underwood? A: I haven’t seen her in years, but we tweet back and forth every now and again. And I talk to several of my other buddies — Constantine, etc. ... folks that are not from my season. I tweet back and forth with a lot of them, too. I’m about to go to Cancun and hang out with several of the Idols — we’re going to go do a show together down there. “Idol’s” been real good to me, and I’m very grateful for everything that’s been provided by that brand. Some people love you ‘cause you came from “Idol,” some people hate you ‘cause you came from “Idol.” At the end of the day you’re never going to please everybody if you’re not happy yourself.
Q: As an “American Idol” finalist from Alabama, you and fellow natives Ruben Studdard and Taylor Hicks are members of a very exclusive fraternity. A: Oh, of course. I’m friends with both of those guys. We text and tweet back and forth. I wouldn’t have gone on the show if it wasn’t for Ruben. I’ve got a lot of love for Ruben, and then Taylor went on and won the year after me. It’s just something great about Alabama, man. We had almost a three-year run locked down. I’m the only one who didn’t bring home the crown, but I tell you what — Ms. Carrie Underwood, that’s some hard competition right there.
Q: With all of the opportunities that you are afforded, how do you continue to stay grounded? A: At times you feel pulled to expand on some of your other passions, but also there’s a fear of if you ever let go of what you’ve got it will just go away. And I don’t think there was anything more freeing than just kind of stepping away … I love Nashville. I love the town and the business, but there’s nothing more freeing than getting out here on the lake and being around my family and getting to indulge in the things that really make me happy, which are my wife and my kids. It’s great to be up there onstage and pretend to be a rock star, but it’s really cool when I just get to walk in and I’m the star of my house. I’m just starting to stop and smell the roses a little bit more instead of worrying about the things that are or aren’t or might be or might not, ‘cause it’s all going to work out in its own way.