SYLACAUGA, Ala. – NBC’s The Voice will have competition on the air waves starting in 2018. The show that started it all, American Idol, is set for a much-anticipated return to network television in March 2018. FOX canceled the program after its 15th season last April.

The 16th season, however, will not be returning to FOX. ABC now holds the contract for the next season of Idol. Rumors of judges and hosts have swirled around in the media, but only one judge has been locked in: Katy Perry.

Over the first 15 years of the show, local names were a critical part of American Idol. Frankly, the show has been dominated by talent from the Yellowhammer State.

The proof is in the pudding.

Or should we say lyrics?

Alabama has produced two winners in Ruben Studdard and Taylor Hicks, and six top-10 finalists. That statistic is impressive considering the state population, just under 5 million, is less than the population of the greater Atlanta area.

Many of these stars have gone on to have great success in the industry. Some had musical backgrounds before Idol, while some had little to no experience performing.

Taylor Hicks is one finalist and winner that has succeeded with a very good career in music and other forms of entertainment following his American Idol win.

But where exactly is he now and how has has life changed for the Alabama native? SylacaugaNews.com reporter Jeremy Law (JL) sat down with Hicks (TH) to discuss life before and after becoming an American Idol, and his overall experience on the show.

JL: Before you won American Idol, how extensive was your music background?

TH: I was performing locally and regionally. I started that when I was 17 playing in small venues. I had about ten years of roadwork before American Idol. But for me, it was: get a break into the business or bust. I am very fortunate and very blessed to have caught a break. I think opportunity creates luck, and I tried to create as many opportunities as possible.

JL: When you walked into the audition room for the first time, did you think you had the talent to go all the way and become the next American Idol?

TH: I definitely thought I had the experience. I was one of the older contestants on the show, and I think that definitely helped with song choices and being able to perform as well as I did. I think my previous experiences definitely helped me with American Idol.

JL: At what point during the season did it sink it that you had a realistic chance of winning?

TH: I think it became real when I got spoofed on Saturday Night Live after a performance. I think that definitely helped my chances. I think I was in the final four and I got tons of calls and texts about being on Saturday Night Live, and that is when it really dawned on me. I knew how big of a deal SNL was in pop culture, and that is when I knew I had a pretty good chance at winning the title.

JL: Talk about the process of American Idol.

TH: It’s a 24-hour gig on TV for seven months or for however long you stay on the show. So, it was tough. I’m coming up on over ten years in show business, but I am definitely thankful I was on that platform and able to work in the business I love. If you love what you do, it doesn’t feel like work and I am blessed to be able to do this.

JL: The state of Alabama has had plenty of success on the show. Did you find yourself rooting for the Alabamians on the show?

TH: I’m all about my Alabama people that have talent and have put Alabama in a good light. As a state, we are very prideful folks. I always like to tell people Alabama folks will let you know if you can do three things: cook, throw a football, or sing. The state has done very well on the show and I could not be prouder of that fact. I think it’s a piece of pride and it shows how much the people in Alabama support their talent and that is what has made all of the entertainers off of the show successful.

JL: Outside of music, what are some of your hobbies and what do you enjoy doing?

TH: I like watching college football and I really enjoy scuba diving. It’s pretty much football and diving when I get some time off. Those are my favorite things to do.

JL: You said college football. Would that be Alabama or Auburn?

TH: It’s both. (wink wink) I have to keep all of the Alabama people happy. I tell people the night I won American Idol was the only night Alabama and Auburn fans ever agreed on something. But I love college football. I’ve also written a theme song for the Paul Finebaum show just for a little college football action.

JL: Who is your favorite musical artist of all time?

TH: It’s Ray Charles. He’s the best.

JL: Where are you now and what can fans expect from you in the future?

TH: I am actually touring the country shooting the second season of the show State Plates.* But right now, I am in the studio in Nashville recording an album that is set to release in the fall. A single will be released in the fall. So, I’m actually on the road non-stop shooting the second season of State Plates and recording a new record.

Over the years, Hicks has become one of the most beloved Idol winners. His debut album sold more than 298,000 copies in its first week, and he has sold over one million albums since his career launched. With a new album set for fall, that number is bound to increase.

Not too bad for the Birmingham native. As Alabamians, we can be proud.

Will the 16th season have a taste of the state of Alabama? We will see March 2018 on ABC.

*State Plates is an award winning culinary series hosted by Taylor Hicks on the family entertainment network INSP.

Jeremy Law for SylacaugaNews.com | © 2017, SylacaugaNews.com/Marble City Media LLC. All Rights Reserved.