When Clay Aiken takes the stage at DPAC next week, it’ll be for a holiday tradition he’s more than happy to resume.
Aiken, who rose to fame as the runner-up on the 2003 “American Idol” season, headlined Christmas concert tours for four straight years, from 2004-2007, before making the jump to Broadway with a starring role in “Spamalot.” This year’s 20-city Joyful Noise tour is the singer’s first swing back into holiday music since then.
“I’m glad to be getting back to it for the first time in five years, because it’s always my been my favorite show to do,” said Aiken, a Raleigh native who now lives in Durham. “It’s not really Christmas for me unless I do this show, and so I’m happy that Christmas is back to normal for me now.”
This year’s Joyful Noise shows will be a little different from Aiken’s past Christmas concerts, he promises.
“We change the concept of the show every year,” he said. “It’s been everything from me and a five-piece band and bantering with the audience and singing Christmas songs, to a few years back when I had the choir from Stough Elementary and the choir from Southeast Raleigh High School come in and perform with me. One year we did it with actors and dancers and a big production, and the next year we kind of stripped it down.”
“This year is more of a return to the roots,” Aiken said. “It’s a little more laid-back, sort of an ‘evening with’ atmosphere. But, we’ve got an orchestra – the strings and the horns and all that jazz – which kind of makes it more lush, and I think adds to the Christmasy-ness of it.”
Christmas music is definitely close to Aiken’s heart. He released his first Christmas album, “Merry Christmas with Love,” in 2004 and it sold more than 1 million copies. He followed that with an EP of four Christmas songs, “All is Well,” in late 2006.
Aiken has sold more than 6 million records total, starting with “Measure of a Man” in 2003. His memoir, “Learning to Sing,” made it to the No. 2 spot on the New York Times bestseller list in 2004. He also made the Forbes Magazine list of the 10 Top-Earning American Idols.
Losing to Arsenio
Earlier this year, Aiken was a contestant on “Celebrity Apprentice” on NBC. And just as he did against Ruben Studdard on “American Idol,” Aiken again came in second place. He lost out to former talk show host Arsenio Hall.
“I think that’s just my lot in life,” Aiken joked. “I think second place is really where I belong. And I will never get in a competition with a black man again, that’s for sure.”
Even though the Christmas shows change from year to year, Aiken says fans at Thursday night’s DPAC show can expect to hear old favorites mixed with a few surprises. “The overwhelming majority of the songs are from my Christmas album and Christmas EP, and some are songs I love and do every year,” he said. “This year we have some I haven’t done in a while.”
The next Andy Williams?
There is no new Christmas album in the works for Aiken presently, he says, but he doesn’t rule it out.
“We’ve talked about it a few times,” he said. “That’s kind of my wheelhouse, I guess. That sound. And it’s something that I love doing.”
Aiken says there are plenty of Christmas songs he loves and would like to record. His manager (and fans) would love to see it happen.
“My manager has said in the past that I should just become the new Andy Williams and be all about Christmas every year,” Aiken said. “It is something we have certainly discussed, maybe for next year. I’d love to do it again.”