Twenty years ago, the world was introduced to Ruben Studdard And Clay Aiken through the hit show, “American Idol.” Both singers helped to bring attention to the reality show and were able to establish respectable careers following the show. To celebrate their initial run on “American Idol,” Studdard and Aiken have reconnected for the tour, “20 Years: One Night.”
Studdard and Aiken will make an appearance in the Atlanta area on May 6 at the Mablehouse Theater in Mableton.
Both singers recently sat down with ADW to discuss “American Idol” memories and their new tour.
You both are celebrating 20 years of “American Idol.” How did this tour come about?
Clay: Ruben did the lifting to get it to happen. So I have to tell you that Ruben talked me into it. We stopped performing for about 10 years or so. And I talked him into doing a show on Broadway back in 2018. And he said, ‘You know what, listen, it’s our 20th anniversary come on let’s get back on the road.’ We realized folks are really sort of hungry for nostalgia. Right now. They’re very interested in things that are safer and familiar. And so it seemed like the perfect time to do it.
Ruben, what has it been like to hit the road 20 years later?
Ruben: It’s been fun. The first ever tour that I did was with Clay. So this is giving us an opportunity to look back. Be thankful. Thank the fans that gave us the opportunity to do this job that we both love doing and just have a good time while doing it. There’s nothing like being on tour with people that you call family. So I appreciate that.
With “American Idol,” it’s like you both helped to raise a generation. How does it feel to perform for a crowd of all ages?
Ruben: I think it’s really wonderful. There aren’t very many artists who can connect generations. “American Idol” was so special because it gave people the opportunity to sit around the television with family as a collective. And so there are young whose first memories as a child was watching Clay and I on “American Idol.” There are people who watched the show when they were four and five and they’re now in their 20s. So it’s just been great to see the reaction that people have and the kind of family oriented camaraderie that our show gives.
Clay: It’s kind of fun, but it makes us feel a little old [laughs]. But the audience is very diverse when it comes to age. And they’re coming with signs and T shirts. It’s surreal to think that there are people who were kids when we were on “American Idol” and are now grown. But we also have a whole new generation wanting to see us now. Ruben was very smart to want to do this tour.
What have you learned the most about this industry that you didn’t know when you first started American Idol?
Ruben: I think that especially from my perspective as somebody that was a music major in college, it’s more about the other side of the music business. If the best art isn’t something that’s going to sell, nobody at the record company wants to hear it. There were songs I recorded when I was on J Records that I used to say ‘I can not believe these people can not hear that this song is great.’ But, they know what they’re doing. They know how to market the music. They know the numbers, whereas we as creatives are only concerned about putting out good art.
Clay: The music business has changed so much in the past 20 years. Ruben and I were lucky to get in when people were still buying CDs, remember those things? Then digital music came at a time when record labels were still relying on people buying physical products. So we both were lucky to be able to say that we have sold millions of albums. Now, they don’t even calculate it that way anymore. It’s a different way that considers streaming. It’s a whole different world, but I don’t understand. So I don’t know what I’ve learned, because everything I learned is gone now anyway.
So what is it like performing in Atlanta?
Ruben: For me, it’s trying to figure out how many tickets I can have because my family is gonna get on my nerves [laughs]. I have so many memories in Atlanta. When I was a kid, I would spend my summers in College Park with my aunt. She taught at Mays High School. And then in high school, I went to Clark Atlanta for a program. So I have a lot of people who plan on attending. I hope that my family members will tell every body to buy a ticket and come to our show.