June 14, 2008
Clay Aiken – Biography
Full bio at: http://www.clayonline.com/biography
He has toured nine times, written a New York Times bestselling memoir, sold more than six million albums, produced and hosted television programs, starred on Broadway, and devoted considerable energy and resources to improving the lives of children all over the world. He has done all of this while maintaining an enviable humility and down-home charm. Appealing to both kids and parents, Aiken is that rare find — a celebrity with integrity.
In just a few short years in the public eye, Aiken has released five well-received albums.
About On My Way Here:
For his current album, On My Way Here, Aiken selected songs that he believes will resonate with anyone who has endured the trials of growing older and growing up. He chose songs that not only spoke to him, but mirrored his own experiences of learning who he is as an adult and where he belongs in the world at large. As he sings on the stirring title track, “I’ve seen the best, I’ve seen the worst, I wouldn’t change what I’ve been through. I’ve touched the sky, I’ve hit the wall, but I did what I had to do.”
With On My Way Here, Aiken is hopeful that listeners will identify with the message and the singer. “I would like to have signature songs,” he explains. Of how he selects which tunes to sing, Aiken says simply, “I like songs that hit me right in the gut.”
About his book, Learning to Sing:
Prior to his latest accomplishments, Aiken wrote a 2004 best-selling memoir, detailing the path his life has taken thus far, paying special attention to his spiritual development. Learning to Sing: Hearing the Music in Your Life, detailed his formative influences, telling the story of his childhood through his rise to fame in candid and revealing language that offered an unfiltered peek into Aiken’s private life. Readers and critics embraced his style and his message, making the book an instant New York Times best seller, a prestigious spot it occupied for seven weeks.
About UNICEF and other causes:
While all of these successes matter to him, what gives Aiken the most joy is his activism on behalf of children. As he has often explained, “My music career has allowed me to do the same thing I was doing before — work with kids. It has just given me a bigger stage, so I can enact change on a grander scale.”
In April 2007 he returned from Afghanistan where he toured schools and marveled at the resilience of the children he met there. His experience prompted him to launch the “$100,000 in 10 Days” campaign to continue offering lifesaving support for kids in that country. The campaign ended up netting $250,000 in fewer than five days.
And I particularly like this part:
“It makes me thankful for my life,” says Aiken of all his work abroad and with children in need. “These kids, many of them struggle with unimaginable hardships and yet they have positive attitudes. They don’t feel sorry for themselves. Kids who suffer the most never do. You see that, and it keeps all your own nonsense in perspective.”
May 3, 2008
I just realised that I have written quite a lot of posts about Clay, although when I started this blog, I consciously decided not to make it about Clay. I did consider putting in a category titled “Clay Aiken”, but I decided not to because there are already so many great fan websites and blogs about Clay. I thought what I’d do is just put in things that I thought would be worthwhile for my friends to check out. Turns out that means quite a bit about Clay.
And I’m going to do it again, because I like Clay’s responses in the interviews below. And because they tie in with my thoughts while visiting the MPH (that’s a bookstore chain in this region) Warehouse Sale yesterday. Browsing through the piles and piles of books, I realised that there are self-improvement books covering just about everything. My “read self-improvement books phase” ended quite a few years ago, so I’d actually not realised how ridiculous they have become. It’s all well and good to “improve” yourself, but there’s a line between striving towards a better you, and losing your sense of self completely. And this is especially if you live in an urban, image-conscious environment.
I think some of those self-improvement books cross that line, which is why I like what Clay had to say his experience in learning to be himself, and in the process finding success:
San Francisco Chronicle, May 2, 2008, Pop Quiz: Clay Aiken
(full interview here)
Clay talks about attracting extremes of love and hate, and being uncool (actually, I think it’s pretty cool of him to have the self-awareness to ultimately be himself, rather than someone who just melds in with the crowd, or someone who strives to be different just for the sake of being different).
Q: Why do so many people hate you? A: I have no idea why they hate me, and I sure don’t have any idea why they love me. I’m completely clueless all the way around. In some ways, I’m sure, to a lot of people I represent that dorky kid in high school and middle school that everybody thought was a loser. And now there are plenty of people in the world who are bitter because that dorky kid became successful and they did not. It’s kind of threatening when that nerdy guy you’ve been making fun of for all those years has somehow become famous …Whatever. I’ve been around people who are too cool for me for almost 30 years now. I don’t know. I don’t think I’m very threatening, but I do threaten the notion that you must be good-looking and athletic and cool in order to be successful. I kind of screwed that up for some people who thought they were going to fly by.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, May 2, 2008, Clay Aiken Interview…
(full interview here)
Clay talks about his upcoming CD, “On My Way Here” being something that was organically created to suit him this time around, rather than produced to fit some formula that fit radio (or at least this is my interpretation of what he says):
Q: Do you think your first single “On My Way Here” can do well on radio? A: The label thinks so. We never tried to find a single. We used to try to do that. We tried and tried. Nothing worked. We do things that are good for me, that sounds believable. If you saw the show the last time, I did a bit of “Sexyback.” It was totally a joke, totally tongue in cheek. If I tried to sing those songs sincerely and put it on the radio, that’d be a caricature. I know that… I wanted every single song to connect with me lyrically. Some of them are songs that don’t necessarily connect with me directly but a majority of people will experience. We produced a very diverse sounding album. If some of these songs were sung by someone else, they might end up on Q100… Lyrically, it’s all connected.
Note: Clay’s 2004 memoir Learning to Sing: Hearing the Music in Your Life also talks quite a bit on the subject of being yourself. It’s been a while since I read it, but I remember laughing, crying, and being very proud that he had the self-awareness as a teenager to realise that being yourself, and liking yourself, attracts others to you more than trying to be something you’re not.