by Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2006 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
May 14, 2006.
While it is still up for debate whether
American Idol is a launching pad
for successful singing careers, no one can question that it has become a
cultural phenomenon. Now in its fifth season, tens of millions of people
watch each week to see ordinary Americans thirsting for their chance at
stardom. The followers of the different contestants become rabidly
faithful – just check out the internet bulletin boards sometime, the
people take this much more seriously than politics.
Last season’s show had the most
competitive top two until – well, this season – but it laid new ground for
the traditionally pop/R&B-vibed series. For the first time other styles
broke out, leaving a top two of southern rocker Bo Bice and country and
western girl Carrie Underwood.
The funny thing is Bice almost never went
for the chance to be on that stage for the insanely padded but ratings
gold two-hour finale of last season’s Idol.
He may have never been there right on hand to hear Ryan Seacrest announce
the new idol (“after this commercial…”). For that opportunity, Bo Bice
has to thank the woman who gave him life.
“It was a bet from my mom,” Bice
recalls. “She bet I wouldn’t go do it and I bet she wouldn’t drive down
to Orlando with me and sleep in the Florida Convention Center. I guess it
While in the long run, Underwood took the
narrow victory, Bice has a rabid following that wants to insure that he is
the most popular Idol runner-up
since Clay Aiken’s sales actually eclipsed winner Ruben Studdard’s. Life
got a bit in the way for Bice, he had medical problems and married his
longtime sweetheart, but finally in late 2005 he was able to fire the
first salvo in the Bo Bice rock star attack.
even releasing his debut, Bice was approached to sing the song “Brown
Skinned Girl” on All That I Am,
the latest CD by legendary guitarist Carlos Santana, joining a star
studded supporting cast which also included Steven Tyler of Aerosmith,
Mary J. Blige, will.i.am from Black Eyed Peas and Michelle Branch. Bice
was brought into the project by legendary music exec Clive Davis, head of
“That was just an incredible way to kick
off the new round of records. For one [thing], it came out on my birthday
– November 1st – which is really a nice birthday present,” Bice
chuckles. “To go from being just
an anonymous nobody to being track number eleven on Carlos Santana’s
album. It’s a huge achievement for me, you know? I felt like that Clive
allowed me to do that – to be on Carlos’ album; that was a big honor to
me. Carlos is held very sacred to Clive. It’s one of his pet projects,
of everything that he does. I was honored just to be asked to be a part
Soon after that, Bice released his first
post-Idol CD (though his fourth
overall…), a hooky rock-pop disk called The Real Thing.
Early signs seem to point to the idea
that Bo will be more in the Kelly/Carrie/Clay camp than the Diana DeGarmo/Ruben/Justin
Guarini go-directly-back-to-obscurity school as far as post-Idol
His first single, the toughened-up
“Guitar Man” pastiche “The Real Thing” is climbing the pop charts and
getting significant airplay. Songs were written for the album by Jon Bon
Jovi, Richie Sambora and Chad Kroeger of Nickelback, mining a more
alt-rock side of Bice’s talent than the more traditional southern-boogie
sound he perfected on TV. He still touches on that sound with “Remember
Me,” but he also mines from the veins of pop (“U Make Me Better”), hard
rock (“You’re Everything”), balladry (“Willing To Try”) and even a touch
of new wave (“Lie… It’s All Right.”)
“In making the album,” Bice recalls, “we
wanted to put something – and when I say we, this was again Clive Davis
was the executive producer. It was a large part his brainchild. There
were avenues that I hadn’t personally gone down. Some of the songs. But,
yet, in hindsight I’m very, very excited. To me, I feel like it made me a
better writer, a better performer, to not only just do other peoples’
songs and be part of a time capsule of the essence of what they want in
It still tickles Bice that people like
Bon Jovi and Kroeger are writing for him, as well as the fact that he has
been getting the opportunity to play with so many artists that he has been
a fan of for years.
you know, there’s so many things that you dream about,” Bice says, “when
you dream about being a rock star, or whatever you want to call it. But I
don’t think anything ever prepares you for getting to meet your heroes and
getting to perform with them. For me that was just like the icing on the
cake, because I never thought I’d be standing next to Carlos Santana or
with Lynyrd Skynyrd or any of these guys. Willie Nelson. These people
that I’ve got the opportunity now to perform with. It’s really the icing
on the cake.”
However, despite all the outside help,
some of the best songs on the album are the two which Bice had a hand in
writing himself. “It’s My Life” and the lovely, gospel-inflected “Valley
of Angels” stand out as an artistic statement – a statement that Bice
looks forward to adding to in the future.
“I’m a big believer in trying to put out
a quality product. It’s doesn’t matter if it’s my songs or whoever’s.
But also, I am a songwriter. ‘Valley of Angels’ is a song I wrote like
four years ago. [Songwriter Clif] Magness came in and just put a musical
bridge in it and let me kind of go wild playing guitar and doing the
solos. So I feel like ‘Valley of Angels’ – not just because it’s one of
my personal original songs, but the fact that I got to play guitar and
things like that – it really gave me a chance to shine in spots where I
feel like that’s what I’m about.”
As The Real Thing
works its way up the charts, Bice still
has trouble believing all that has happened over the past year and a
half. However, he is grateful for the opportunities.
“It’s really surreal,” Bice says. “All
this stuff happened so quickly. You know, to be a guy who’s worked his
entire life – at least for the past twelve years – in the music industry.
I’ve got three albums out before I put out this last one. It’s a dream
come true, but it’s a dream that we’ve been working towards our whole