Clay Aiken is the sort of artist who gets a gut reaction. Some fans love him. Others, especially those who hate "American Idol," seem to despise him. Talking with Aiken, though, it would be hard not to like the guy. He laughs easily and seems comfortable. He answers questions without hesitation. When Aiken competed in "American Idol," he was a 25-year-old finishing up his degree in special education. He says he wasn't prepared for the negative aspects of becoming an instant celebrity.
"At the very beginning I, literally, was scared to death of it - hated it," says Aiken. "Then it became a major annoyance. Then it became a chronic annoyance!" Aiken laughs. "Slowly it's just kind of become, 'That's just how things are.' People say, 'Oh, you knew what you were getting when you got into this.' No, I really didn't. I went on a reality show. I wanted to be in a competition and by the time this started happening it was kind of too late to drop out of 'Idol.' I didn't ask for it."
He says it took a little while to find his groove in the business.
"I imagine it's like any job," says Aiken. "The first few months of doing a job are a learning curve. ... You get past that anxiety of not knowing what you're doing, of not knowing how you're doing, of not knowing if you're going to get fired by their bosses if they screw something up. At some point you just get comfortable with it. It's been eight years since 'Idol' now, which makes me cry to think about how old I am! But I know the audience a little bit more, myself a little bit more, the business a little bit more."
And from thedailytimes.com
And therein lies Aiken’s genius — he’s a song aficionado. He plays to his strengths, and he has a keen ear for what songs will serve his sound the best. It’s a skill that made him runner-up on Season 2 of “American Idol” and gave him a career that’s eclipsed that of the man that beat him, his close friend Ruben Studdard.
He’s accepted the public fascination with his personal life. He doesn’t like it, but he’s stopped fighting it, he said.
“It frustrates me, but I’ve figured out that’s how it happens,” he said. “It’s something that, eight years ago I hated and wanted it to stop, and four years ago I hated it and wished it would stop, and now I hate it and realize I’m not going to be able to. Do I wish the focus was on the music? Yes. Do I understand this morbid fascination with what I do outside of music allows me to continue doing things in music? Yes.
“Now, looking back in this rearview mirror, while I don’t like this attention being on it, I do understand that the morbid fascination with what I do outside of work has allowed me to work, more so than I know of some people who have boring lives, or even the great musicians who don’t have the fascination of them as people. But it’s a Catch 22, because I’d love for it to go away.
“That’s one of the reasons I moved to North Carolina, because I couldn’t leave my house in LA without being followed or getting my picture taken,” he added. “I hate that when I go there to visit my son, it’s like that — but I also have to wonder: If it did go away, would my ability to continue to tour and sing and perform also go away?”
Is he an artist? Some say yes; Aiken himself shies away from making such a claim. He doesn’t, however, downplay his ability to take a song and turn it into something that sounds amazing. After all, he’s earned the right to be proud of what he can do, and some would say he’s entitled to that pride. But don’t mistake pride for arrogance — hearing Aiken talk, you get the idea that it has nothing to do with arrogance and everything to do with confidence.