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Fly Magazine

Clay Aiken
Published: December 2005
Story: Jeff Royer
Photo: press photo

When Fly Magazine tracked down “American Idol” alum Clay Aiken in late November, the spunky singer was one week into his annual Joyful Noise holiday tour.


Maybe it was all the eggnog, or maybe it was the fact that he’d been sitting on his butt all day doing interviews, but Aiken had more energy than a toddler with a sugar rush. He giggled, he bounced, he talked at about a thousand words a minute. In other words, even after selling millions of albums and becoming one of America’s biggest pop stars, it appears that Clay Aiken is still the same lovable goof we first met three years ago. There’s something strangely comforting about that.


Fly took the opportunity to pick the animated Aiken’s brain about his holiday tour, his pet goat, and what it’s like to be the world’s least likely sex symbol.


Fly Magazine: So, by this point in your career, have you gotten used to the lifestyle that comes with being a pop star?

Clay Aiken: Strangely enough, yes. It’s not something I ever thought I would get used to. When I first started doing it, it was like, “Oh wow! An interview! A signing! Yay!” Now an interview or signing is like, “Oh, god …” [laughs]


FM: [laughs] Well, let me ask you the same question you’ve been getting all day then: What can we expect out of the Joyful Noise Tour?

CA: We did the Joyful Noise Tour last year. We did a full-orchestra run with a 30-piece orchestra onstage and sang the songs from the Merry Christmas With Love album.

I didn’t want to do the same thing that every other artist who does a Christmas tour does. During the holiday season you can pretty much pick any day in most cities and go see some artist’s Christmas concert. [laughs] So I was trying to figure out a way to make it different, to maybe string all of these songs together with some type of dialogue, or figure out a way to make the stories connect. It changed from me talking to having someone else do it, to having characters do it, to having specific characters doing it. It became a storyline, really.


FM: Do you feel like you’re able to wrap your head around everything that’s happened to you so far?

CA: Yeah. It took a while. I don’t ever want to get to a point where I can wrap my head around it all. If I ever get to that point, I think it’s time to quit. Every day there is something new and different and there’s something exciting.

There are plenty of times I could stop and say, “Wow, look at what I’m doing now!” I could stop right now and think, “This is completely different,” even though I have done 55 interviews today. [laughs] It’s still something I wasn’t doing in North Carolina two years ago. I have to be thankful for it. It becomes a little more routine and you become accustomed to it, I’m sure like any job. When I was a teacher, the first time I did it was much harder than the third and fourth times. This is kind of the same way.


FM: Another thing that’s changed is that you’ve become this full-on sex symbol for a lot of people!

CA: That part scares me! I haven’t wrapped my head around that. [laughs] That just frightens me. I’m worried about America’s taste! [laughs] That’s probably something I’m not ever going to quite get. It’s flattering, so I won’t complain, but I’m baffled.


FM: In a position like yours, everybody’s so interested in your personal life. Suddenly I’m reading things about you, everything from stories about your childhood petsto speculation on your sexual orientation and everything in between. Does that weird you out?

CA: It’s tough. At the very beginning of the process, it’s quite a shock. You don’t understand why people are asking these things. I had a goat – who cares? And I didn’t tell anybody that. There are times that I look on the internet or read a message board and they’ll know things about me that I didn’t know. [laughs] “I never told anybody that! How did they find out?” So at first it’s a shock. And then later on it’s not as shocking but still upsetting. And then after a while, it’s just like having a gnat in your nose. You just want to kill it. [laughs] It becomes unfortunately a negative part of what you do, and you need to kind of live with it. But if you could get up your nose and kill it, you would do it. [laughs] It’s not so easy sometimes.


FM: You’re almost becoming as known for your humanitarian work as you are for your music. Why is that so important to you?

CA: I kind of came into this not necessarily wanting to or knowing how to be a celebrity or whatnot. I mean, I was a teacher! And I made a promise to myself as I did it. “If I’m gonna do it, I’m gonna try to be something other than self-serving.” I think that every single person who’s in this industry and who’s a celebrity and making money off the public – I make my money directly from the public – has the responsibility to pay them back in some way. I think each person in my position is a role model whether they want to be or not. Somewhere out there are kids who look up to you. And some people take that seriously, and some people don’t. To me, I don’t understand why people don’t take it seriously.

UNICEF does amazing work. I thought I was a worldly person, and then I started working with them and realized I don’t know as much of my world as I need to. And if I don’t know as much about my world as I need to, then many, many, many people don’t. So I’m thrilled to be in a position to be able to talk about it. And so I’m gonna.


FM: Do you think about the kind of things you still want to achieve in your career?

CA: Everything that’s happened so far has been because I’ve kind of been available to opportunities. I don’t like to set plans. It’s kind of a strange thing to hear come out of a teacher’s mouth, but I don’t like to set goals because I think when you set specific goals you end up losing sight of other opportunities. I had the goal of wanting to be a teacher. I wanted to continue being in education for a long time. Had I made that a hard, fast goal, then I would not have had the opportunity to do this now.

We do want to have an album out in the first half of next year, and then we want to make sure we can go out on the road again at some point. But other than that, I kind of just let what happens happen. Let go and let God.


FM: So if somebody wants to put you on another TV show and make you the world’s most famous dancer or something, you can do that next!

CA: [laughs] I said I’d be open to opportunities and I’ll take a look at them, but just because I’m looking doesn’t mean I’ll do ’em!