Given Doobie Brothers singer Michael McDonald's rich baritone voice, one could say the band's hit "Takin' It to the Streets" was Taylor-made for this year's "American Idol."
And after singing the tune in the semifinals and recording it for the American Idol Season 5 Encores album (see "Forget The Competition — 'Idol' Top 12 Unite For 'Encore' Comp"), "Idol" winner Taylor Hicks is including "Takin' It to the Streets" on his first major-label solo release too.
The song will accompany the original number "Do I Make You Proud" on Hicks' debut single, due June 13, according to his new labels, 19 Recordings Limited and Arista Records.
"I Taylor-ized it," Hicks said of "Do I Make You Proud," the power ballad he performed on the final two nights of the "Idol" season last week. "I was glad that I could make it my own, and luckily enough, I could relate. The lyrics meant a lot."
The inclusion of the Doobies song comes as a bit of a surprise, as it was not one of the favorites Hicks picked to perform during the final week (see "Soul Patrol Rides On: Taylor Hicks Wins 'American Idol' "). That honor went to Elton John's "Levon," Stevie Wonder's "Living for the City" and Elvis Presley's "In the Ghetto," one or more of which could end up on Hicks' full-length album. The release is due later in the year and is just in the planning stages (see "Taylor Unveils New Game Plan: Stare At Trees, Eat Lettuce, Record LP").
The 29-year-old Alabama native said he would be open to singing other songwriters' material, which has been the standard for past "Idol" albums, and he would even collaborate with a hip-hop artist. "As long as it can translate a feeling, that's kind of where I come from in music," he said.
Hicks will start recording the album on off nights during this summer's American Idols Live Tour (see " 'American Idol' Top 10 Add 20 More Shows To Summer Plans"), which is still in the planning stages.
"I think there's a duet in store, and I think I'm going to get to play harmonica and guitar," Hicks said. "I'm looking forward to it. This is the most talented year of 'American Idol,' and I love working with talented people, because the more talent that you work with the better off that you are and the harder it makes you work as an artist."
As Hicks has started putting together his Idols Live set, it's given him a chance to reflect on some of his song choices this season. "Country Roads," the John Denver tune he sang during the country theme week, for instance, was his least favorite.
"I was flat the whole song," Hicks said. "That was one week I was nervous that I was going to go home. I thought about singing [Hank Williams Jr.'s] 'Country Boy Can Survive,' and I should have."
There were also several songs Hicks wanted to sing, but he never had the chance.
"Van Morrison stuff, Bob Seger — I think I got 'Night Moves' cleared but I didn't decide to sing it — Paul Simon stuff," Hicks said. "I wanted to do [Ray Charles'] 'Georgia on My Mind' but it didn't fit. I tried to fit 'Try a Little Tenderness' into the love song week and that didn't fit."
As much as song selection was discussed throughout the season, though, Hicks said it wasn't his biggest challenge. That was having patience.
"The whole idea of hurrying up and having to wait, from a production aspect," he explained. "As a performer and a musician in my own realm, so to speak, I was usually doing stuff on my own, doing this, doing that, calling the shots, and I had to really compensate that, and I've definitely learned how to be patient."
The Idols Live Tour kicks off July 5 in Manchester, New Hampshire.