Taylor Hicks has been an official American Idol for about two hours and — hoo boy — the Soul Patrol is looking weary. He plops down in a hotel chair as he waits for a pepperoni pizza that a Fox publicist has graciously ordered for him. Part shell-shocked, part elated, the salt-and-pepper-haired crowd favorite found time to tell EW about his single, his friends, and what will become of that purple velvet jacket.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So…did you know you had it? Because I don’t think anyone was all too surprised you won.
TAYLOR HICKS: I was nervous. I was nervous the whole day. I just didn’t want there to be a shocker, you know? I didn’t want there to be the shocking event. Every week I performed as well as I could, and it worked out. I am, indeed, the American Idol.
You are, indeed. Did you sleep Tuesday night after the show, or were you too nervous about the results?
I really couldn’t sleep last night because I knew what kind of great show we were going to have tonight. It was a wonderful, wonderful show, and I’m so excited to be having this opportunity. I’m living the American dream.
During Tuesday night’s show, Simon said you’d win. Did you kind of want to tell him to shut up before he jinxed you?
Yeah, I did not want the jinx factor to come out, for sure. And it didn’t.
I thought his comment might lose it for you because Katharine’s fans would be all up in arms and would vote even more often.
I was just waiting until the last moment to be crowned American Idol. Katharine is a great girl and a great talent.
Taylor, what’s going to happen to the purple jacket? Will it sit in a glass case somewhere? Perhaps will you build a shrine?
I am probably going to wear the purple jacket to the next movie I’m going to see.
Which will be…?
Hopefully I’ll get to see a movie in the near future. Probably X-Men.
I thought you guys got to see that, after Rebecca Romijn and Hugh Jackman went backstage to hook you up with bootlegs.
I got to see part of it, but I want to see it in a theater and get the whole surround-sound effect. Popcorn would be nice. That way it’s quiet and everyone is watching the screen instead of Tay Tay.
Well, Tay Tay, are you ready to lose all anonymity?
I think I knew what the American Idol stood for, and it’s going to be a pretty famous ride for a while. We’ll have to see what happens. I just want to make the best music I can.
How did you choose your two songs, ”Levon” and ”Living for the City”?
”Levon” was my first song I ever sang live on the show. ”Living for the City” was just such an arousing, awesome song. I was thrilled to be able to sing it again. Even the single, ”Do I Make You Proud?,” is good.
It’s no ”Living for the City.” How long did they give you learn the single?
Two days. Two days to Taylorize.
How did you Taylorize it?
I just took some of the lyrics and got into them and really felt it. I think it’s going to be a good single off the American Idol show.
The judges didn’t seem so into it.
It’s not up to me to choose the single. If it was up to me, I’d probably sing an original.
A Taylor Hicks original? Do those exist?
I have an album I released about a year ago, and it was called Under the Radar.
And was it indeed under the radar?
It definitely was — hopefully it won’t be now.
After the show went off the air, all of your boys — Chris, Ace, Elliott — ran up to you and picked you up in the air. It seems like you all got really close. Was it nice to share your victory with the guys before anyone else?
We all are such a family. It’s such a family-oriented thing you go through; it’s such an interesting process. We’re all friends, and what a great group of folks and what great talent.
How did you get hooked up with Toni Braxton?
It was so awesome. She’s such a great entertainer and performer.
I thought she was kind of flirting with you.
Well, uh, you know, I’m just trying to be the best performer I can.
Does that mean playing up to your new heartthrob status?
I’m ready for that when I can sleep for a couple of days.
(Read Jessica Shaw’s interview with runner-up Katharine McPhee.)