Thirteen years ago, Clay Aiken was runner-up on “American Idol.”
In the years since, the 37-year-old has started a family, published a New York Times best-selling memoir, moved 6 million albums and sold out 11 nationwide concert tours.
His visit to the Chandler Center for the Arts on December 16 is his first concert since 2012 and his only show in the near future.
“We’re doing it because we got asked to go and I thought, ‘You know what, it’ll be fun to sing with an orchestra,’ so I said OK,” says Aiken, who will be backed by a 22-piece orchestra.
While he says he can’t help the occasional dip of the toe back into the water, he’s on a bit of a singing hiatus.
“It’s not what I’m focusing on now. I’m pushing 40 and realized that everyone has a second chapter in life,” Aiken says. “I’ve have maybe seven already, but this is a new one.”
The singer’s new chapter began in 2014 when he ran for Congress in his home state of North Carolina. While he won the Democratic primary, he lost to the Republican incumbent in the general election.
Aiken says he always had an interest in politics and issues. Even though he lost, he did not leave without a few lessons learned.
“I learned more about politics than I ever wanted to,” he laughs. “I never necessarily expected to win because it was a very Republican district, but I hoped to be able to get enough people to pay attention to the race—and it worked!”
His involvement didn’t end there. He continues to have discussions with people across the world and appears weekly on Meghan McCain’s radio show, “America Now,” to offer his opinion and listen.
Listening more than talking, Aiken believes, is one of the most important things a person can do right now.
“As soon as someone disagrees with us, we stop listening to their opinion,” he says. “We delete them from Facebook. We stop following them on Twitter. We keep them out of our lives. I think what’s more important than that is trying to start discussions and get people talking to each other. That’s sort of where my focus is right now.”
That doesn’t mean that Aiken will not enjoy his Chandler Center for the Arts gig.
“Christmas has always been my favorite show to do,” says Aiken, who toured for five years after his 2004 Christmas album.
“We often did it with a full orchestra and people are always in festive or emotional spirits when they come to a Christmas show.”
As for his favorite holiday song to perform? After much deliberation, Aiken settles on “O’ Come, O’ Come Emmanuel.”
“It’s an old, somewhat stale hymn if you open it up in the hymn book, but it’s a completely different arrangement of it that I just think is beautiful,” begins Aiken, before proclaiming his love for any orchestral arrangement with French horns.
“If the French horns are playing, I’m happy,” he says. “That triumphant horn sound just kind of does it for me.”
Music may have taken a backseat to music, but he doesn’t forget the turns his journey has taken. On his Twitter account, he jokingly refers to himself as “America’s No.1 No. 2,” about being crowned runner-up on not just “American Idol,” but “The Apprentice.” He told “The View” that host Donald Trump was “gracious” on “The Apprentice.”
When he came in second on “American Idol” he didn’t think twice about it. But after his spot on “The Apprentice,” he says he thought, “This seems to be my place in life.”
Christmas with Clay Aiken, Chandler Center for the Arts, 250 N. Arizona Avenue, Chandler, 480.782.2680, chandlercenter.org, 8:30 p.m. Friday, December 16, $52-$72.