For Clay Aiken, it's all about being comfortable.
"I really loved the TV aspect of 'American Idol' and the idea of doing something different for people every week," said Aiken, calling from a tour stop in Pittsburgh. "In high school, I would always say, 'I can do other things, too.' That's followed me into adulthood. . . . I have a lot of different irons in the fire."
Aiken's current priority, aside from his 2-year-old son, Parker, is his current "Tried and True" tour, which stops at the NYCB Theatre at Westbury Saturday.
"Tried and True" features songs from the '50s and '60s. How did you get an attachment to songs written before you were born?
The biggest reason is my mom. She loved that music and would sing these songs around the house. . . . Another reason is that in that era people really sang well. They were singers instead of artists where the producer makes them sound like a robot the whole time.
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It should make for a different tour than your last one with Ruben Studdard.
It lets me be more flexible. We even let the audience take a song and choose the style. We had a calypso style the other night. . . . The important thing for me is to make sure the songs all fit the show and feel like they're from that era. We even take contemporary songs and give them a lush, orchestral arrangement. . . . We've done "Invisible" that way, and even "Footloose" and "Baby One More Time."
You don't have a record label at the moment.
The industry is more interested in immediate hits rather than careers that last. If I was going to sign a deal, it would be a short-term one, not for multiple albums. I don't really want to be in the studio as much right now. I love touring. I love what I'm doing.
The music industry has certainly changed.
It's in the process of reinventing itself and we have to look at things in a different way. A few years ago, you had to have a major label behind you. Now, it doesn't necessarily behoove you to have one.... just won the Grammy for Album of the Year and they're on a tiny, tiny label in Durham, near where I'm from and that's not exactly a music industry mecca. With everything changing so fast, I don't think it's a good idea to be in a long-term deal. It restricts you.
You've spent a lot of time recently talking about bullying.
I got bullied my entire life, so it hits close to home. I've always been tracking that cause in particular. Unfortunately, last year it got a lot of attention because so many gay males tragically took their own lives. That wasn't a new thing. Bullying has been happening for decades but it just got more attention... The group I've joined GLSEN focuses on an area where most people won't disagree. No matter where you are on the ideological spectrum, no one believes that kids shouldn't be safe at school. Nobody thinks that kids should be abused or called names so much that they want to take their own lives. That's not OK.
WHAT: Clay Aiken
WHEN | WHERE: 8 p.m. Saturday, NYCB Theatre at Westbury, 960 Brush Hollow Rd., Westbury
INFO: 516-334-0800, livenation.com