Simon Cowell told Taylor Hicks in his audition that he would never make it through the next round, but the salt-and-pepper-haired soul man proved the brutally honest judge dead wrong. Not only did Hicks make the finals, he was the only finalist who didn't linger in the bottom two or three, and on Wednesday, he was crowned the show's fifth winner (see "Soul Patrol Rides On: Taylor Hicks Wins 'American Idol' "). At 29, Hicks is the oldest "Idol" winner and the second victor from the Birmingham, Alabama, area (the city's Ruben Studdard won the competition in 2003, while runners-up Diana DeGarmo and Bo Bice both have resided there).
MTV: What was going through your mind as Ryan Seacrest opened the envelope?
Taylor Hicks: I was just telling myself, "Don't fall to the floor, don't let your knees buckle." I'm living the American dream. Believe in your dreams. I want to thank all the people who voted for me, because this is my dream and it's come true.
MTV: What did Katharine say to you afterward?
Hicks: She congratulated me and I congratulated her. She's such a beautiful young lady and wonderful entertainer, and she's going to have a bright future in whatever endeavor she chooses.
MTV: What do you think was your biggest advantage going into Tuesday night?
Hicks: I think what really helped me was the second slot of the performance order. That's something that I really thrive on, the wrap performance. As a performer, I was just lucky [to be] on the flipside of the coin.
MTV: What inspired the pink jacket?
Hicks: I saw that pink jacket about eight weeks ago in a store and I was thinking, "If I get voted off, I'll still be able to perform in the finale and I'm buying that jacket!"
MTV: You've been an evangelist for soul music. Has that been your goal?
Hicks: It has been. My vision as an artist, when I first heard Ray Charles at 12 years old, was to try to inject some more feeling and soul and depth into my music and hopefully be able to touch the lives of other people. And "American Idol" has given me this outlet to do that.
MTV: Do you think you have opened the door for other older singers still chasing their dreams?
Hicks: Definitely. I had no idea America would embrace gray hair as much as they have.
MTV: Why do you think Birmingham has fared so well on "Idol"?
Hicks: People just play music in Birmingham, and ... there is work in Birmingham, and the work makes you better as a musician and entertainer. "American Idol" gives me and somebody like Bo and Ruben and a lot of other people in the South an outlet to really get their talent heard and ... seen. Plane tickets to Los Angeles and New York for showcases can get pretty expensive when you live in the South.
MTV: What kind of an album do you plan to make?
Hicks: An album with soul. It's gonna have a lot of feeling. I'm an instrumentalist as well as vocalist, and I'm going to play harmonica and guitar on it.
It's just going to have to be a really good representation of who I am as an artist. There are going to be some things that I'm going to want to do creatively that I've never been able to get to do before "American Idol," possibly a little bit cutting-edge. ... There could be some original music on it, but I really just want really good songs. There are also a couple of albums obviously that I've done before "American Idol" that I'm very proud of and hope to re-release on a bigger scale, possibly even re-record.
MTV: Will you live Birmingham or Los Angeles?
Hicks: I'll probably live on my tour bus. I might have some little lake place somewhere where I can sit on a porch and just stare at a tree and some water. But as far as what I've always wanted to do, I've always wanted to be on a bus. My home has been the road since even before "American Idol." My Birmingham apartment has been there and it's been nice to come home to, but I've been only there for a few days and then I'm on the road. A tour bus with some good, cold, iceberg lettuce is probably where I'm going to stay.
MTV: What would be your dream tour?
Hicks: I love Van Morrison, I love Bob Seger, I love Paul Simon, and if Ray Charles was around, I'd been knocking on his front door. John Legend and John Mayer, they've got good feeling in their music. I love hip-hop, anything that channels the soul I'm into.
MTV: How have you been dealing with your groupies?
Hicks: I just shake hands, sign autographs, kiss babies and say, "Soul Patrol!" I did get a couple of pictures, I think they were sisters, and they had Soul Patrol tattooed and my autograph on their neck. Those might be my two biggest Soul Patrollers.