Thank you to Nick Fradiani, who was kind enough to do this interview while on the road last week for a charity event.
I am so lucky to have met some incredibly talented and generous artists through my travels.
Friend-of-the-show JAX called in from our nation’s capital, where the next night she would perform at The White House for a special tribute to our troops on July 4th. The performance aired live on the Hallmark Channel. JAX’s entire family, including her father who was a firefighter and first-responder on 9/11 along with her brother, a current Marine, were in attendance.
However also in attendance were both President Trump and the First Lady. This of course subjected the New Jersey native to criticism from the President’s detractors; however JAX explained her stance on accepting the invitation to perform and what the event meant to her during our interview.
David Cook stopped by Hackensack Meridian Health Stage 17 to chat with me about his role on the hit Broadway musical “Kinky Boots,” his favorite spots while living in New York City and what he has planned for the rest of the summer.
Nick Fradiani called in to the radio show recently, ahead of a show he played at Toad’s Place in New Haven, to give an update on new music he was working on and his thoughts on the latest season of “American Idol.”
Back in 2016, I was chatting with David Cook during our broadcast backstage at The 58th GRAMMY Awards. That previous November I saw David headline Gramercy Theater, and hung out backstage with him and the legendary Steven Van Zandt after the show. Just a few months after, we were talking about the performance and Cook described to me why of his top 10 shows, at least half of the list is comprised of New York City dates.
“There’s just no pretense,” he explained. “If you’re bad, they’re going to let you know. And if you hit it, they’re going to let you know. I love that honesty.”
Later in the conversation, we were talking about Cook’s pending return to “American Idol,” the show that catapulted him to stardom. While he was in LA that week, Cook was taping a segment for the competition, which was in its final season on Fox. He mentioned running in to another “Idol” alum, Constantine Maroulis. So off the cuff, I asked Cook if he’d ever consider Broadway.
“They are some of the most grandiose productions, they’re amazing,” the singer said of the shows he attended. “If the opportunity came up and it was the right role, hell yeah I’d do it, for sure.”
About two years later, the opportunity came up and the role was right. Billboard broke the story on Thursday that Cook will make his Broadway debut in “Kinky Boots.” He’ll play the role of Charlie Price, the son of the factory owner who takes over his father’s business.
Cook’s run commences April 3 and goes through May 5. His new EP, “Chromance,” is out today (Friday).
Believe it or not, one of the more inspirational moments I experienced on The GRAMMYs red carpet involved interviewing Danny Gokey. You may remember the singer as the third finalist on the eighth season of “American Idol.” After an introduction so vast on a show so popular, it usually becomes difficult for artists to be known for anything other than appearing on the TV competition. That usually leads the contestants to either embrace it or spend the rest of their career attempting to erase it.
Gokey took a path less traveled: a career-reinvention of sorts. However his goal was far deeper than shedding a label or scoring a hit record.
“I got to create from what was on the inside of me at the beginning,” Gokey, standing alongside his wife Leyicet, told me. “What I tried to do was create an impact.
“We’re all created uniquely. I know a lot of times we deal with insecurities like, ‘Oh man, that person is getting a lot more looks than I am,’ but really people have to think, ‘No, what you do – no one else can do.’”
Gokey further explained that by people not conforming to others’ standards and staying true to themselves, they will be able to travel to places never imagined. And for the singer, that place was The 60th GRAMMYs, earning his first career nomination in the Best Contemporary Christian Music category for his album, “Rise.” Gokey attributes the album’s success to his record label, BMG, affording him the freedom to practice what he preached. It serves as yet another example that the most impactful art is the most honest.
Phillip Phillips is just like you and me when it comes to New Year’s Resolutions.
“I love sweets,” the “American Idol” winner confessed to me. “I love chocolate. I love hot deserts. And so I’m trying to…”
Phillips cut himself off before he could finish the sentence.
“It’s hard to give up the sweets,” he finally admitted. “But I’m trying!”
In addition to his own admitted indiscretions, Phillips noted that his wife’s cooking is just too good to pass up.
“She makes them for other people, but I have to eat them,” he continued. “I make sure it’s not poisonous. I’d rather take my life than anyone else’s, you know what I mean?”
All kidding aside, Phillips’ wife Hannah is influencing more than his diet – she also played a role in the singer’s new album, “Collateral.”
“These songs came alongside a lot of struggle and also a lot of light and a lot of love with getting married,” Phillips explained after I asked about the title. Almost four years passed between his second and third LPs; part of that time can be attributed to a legal battle between the artist and 19 Entertainment, which produces “Idol.” The parties settled the dispute this past June, thus paving the way for new music.
“I just want them to have a connection with it,” the Georgia-native responded when I asked what he hopes listeners will take away from his latest body of work. “These songs I’ve had for, some of them for three years, some of them for a little less than that.”
While talking about the album, Phillips described its sound and content as both varying in genre and tempo. He mentioned one song in particular, “Dance With Me,” which Phillips wrote for his wife. It was released ahead of the full album and its cover art was a photo of the two’s first dance from the wedding. The idea to use it came from one of the couple’s friends.
As soon as Hannah relayed the suggestion to Phillip, he was on board and they selected a picture from the wedding photographer to use. No word on if the friend received one of Hannah’s confections in return.
Our old friend Jax called in to the show from her new home in Los Angeles and we had a lot to chat about it. I ran the New York City Marathon this year and she completed it last year so we compared notes on the 26.2 mile trek before moving on to Jax’s new music and the next season of “American Idol.”
Phillip Phillips told an old tale for his new tune: the time-tested fable of turning lemons into lemonade; overcoming adversity.
It has been a minute (read: a few years) since we’ve heard from the “American Idol” winner and that isn’t a coincidence; Phillips was embroiled in a legal battle with former management, 19 Entertainment, claiming his contract wasn’t fair and thus he should be allowed to exit it. The dispute is now settled and the Georgia-born artist is moving on with plans to release a third album through Interscope Records.
“I’m a pretty patient and relaxed guy,” Phillips told me recently in an interview on Stage 17 when I brought up the lawsuit. “It takes a lot to get me angry.”
Phillips joked that under normal circumstance, the only thing that might irritate him is food that doesn’t taste good. And while the tussle in court might have left a bad taste in his mouth, the singer didn’t let that stop him from channeling that emotion in to his new single, “Miles.”
“Yunno, you gotta stand up for what you believe,” Phillips said regarding his inspiration behind writing the track. “You might feel like you’re stuck in something but there’s always hope and a little light at the end of the tunnel of it.”
The normally-jovial and light-hearted Phillips was sure to punctuate the statement with perhaps a phrase that he should use to title his next LP.
“Life is good!”
“So You Think You Can Dance” is returning for season 14 to the 18-30 age group with an old friend of the show’s back in the mix: Mary Murphy.
“We’re putting people on the Hot Tamale Train!” an exuberant Nigel Lythgoe commented on my radio show last Friday. The show’s co-creator and judge called from Los Angeles in what is now seemingly an annual tradition after the competition’s renewal. “I’ve got to say, I’ve supported Mary. I’ve got a great chemistry with Mary that I love. She can beat me up and hurt me and I can be rude to her, and that’s all part of the fun of the show.”
Both Lythgoe and Murphy were in Brooklyn earlier this month for auditions alongside Vanessa Hudgens, the former Disney star who as of late saw herself star both on Broadway and in “Grease: Live”.
“She’s just the triple-threat,” gushed Lythgoe about Hudgens. “They can act, they can sing, they can dance. Therefore for a start, they recognize the amount of work that goes in to being a great performer, and number two the talent that is required.”
The former “American Idol” producer was pleased with the talent he saw in Brooklyn, going as far as to make a rather bold prediction.
“I would suggest, and I’m not going to name names, that one of the kids we saw there is going to be the overall winner,” Lythgoe said. “There was a young man there that was outstanding.”
There have only been two other contestants that made Lythgoe feel that way: Carrie Underwood and Season 11 “Dance” winner Ricky Ubeda. Not a bad group to join.