Bo Bice's Life After 'American Idol'

Now that the dust has settled, Taylor Hicks has emerged the winner of season 5 of "American Idol" and Katharine McPhee goes home the runner-up

But Katherine should take heart, because coming in second isn't necessarily the end of the road.

"Idol" finalists with the drive, charisma, and the chops to back it all up can parlay their new-found fame into a successful career.

At least that's been the formula for the 2005 runner-up, Bo Bice.

"I was never the guy that sat back and waited for things to happen," Bo said, speaking to from a tour stop in San Diego. "I was always motivated to try and help (things) along. It doesn't stop once you get your face on TV; that's the beginning of the hard work."

Bo went back to the set of "American Idol" this season to perform and to visit with the new crop of contestants. He described the experience as "kinda like going back to your old high school."

The long-haired singer from Huntsville, Ala., had very simple advice for the contestants. "I told them all to practice," said Bo. "That's the best I can give anyone in that situation — don't take it too lightly. Practice, practice, practice."

Shortly after coming in second to Carrie Underwood in last season's competition, Bo signed with 19 Recordings, the record label formed by "American Idol" creator Simon Fuller under the RCA Music Group umbrella.

Bo was no stranger to the recording studio, having written and recorded songs since he was in high school.

At his new record label, Bo found himself working with several of the industry's top writers and producers including Chad Kroeger of Nickelback, Max Martin, and Kara DioGuardi.

The result was his first post-Idol album, "The Real Thing" which debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard 200 albums chart on Dec. 31, 2005. The album was later certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America for selling more than 500,000 copies.

The set includes the track "Nothing Without You," which Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora, and John Shanks wrote specifically for Bo.

"I got to perform with Richie on the 'Tonight Show,'" said Bo. "So Richie Sambora and I were backstage talking and that's actually how it came up. He was like 'Look, I just wrote this song for you and wanted you to check it out.' So a few weeks later, I got pitched the song and the rest is history."

In addition to earning a co-writing credit on two of the tracks, three of Bo's original songs are included on the Dual Disc version of "The Real Thing."

"That's what matters a lot to me," said Bo. "The fact that I was able to get my original material out there. That's not something that people coming from 'Idol' get the opportunity to do."

Bo credits the album's producer — Clive Davis, Chairman and CEO of BMG U.S. — with giving him a healthy amount of creative control on the album.

"I didn't allow them to change me on 'Idol,'" he said, "so Clive didn't try to change me in the aspect of the album. He wanted what I'm about to shine through."

"Uncle Clive," as Bo calls him, didn't need convincing that the singer was indeed the "real thing." But Bo said there are still people who don't take him seriously because he rose to fame on "American Idol."

His solution is to plead his case on stage.

"I try to win the doubters over," said Bo. "I sing my songs, I don't sing to track, you come out and you get a rock and roll show. Sometimes it won't sound like the album, but it's not supposed to. It's rock and roll, man!"

On the road, his band includes John Cooper on bass and Shane Sexton on drums. Both of them were in Bo's pre-Idol group, Sugarmoney.

"I've got the same drummer and bass player that I've had for the last 12 years." said Bo. "They earn their keep, though. They had to audition for the band just like everybody else."

So what's different about Bo's life post-Idol?

"I hope I'm not any different," he said. "Obviously you have to change and adjust and adapt to the new environment and just being on a bigger level and a bigger scale.

"But aside from a million-dollar tour bus that we're on — instead of a $400 van we used to drive in — I guess everything is just about the same. (It's just) on a larger scale."

There were, however, two important changes in Bo's personal life in the last year. On June 15, he married his long-term girlfriend, Caroline Fisher. The couple welcomed their son, Aidan Michael Bice, into the world on Sept. 24, 2005.

Bo, now 30, said he and his band members think being family men is more important than being rock stars.

"We're all dads and husbands. That's our big gig," he said. "It just so happens that we get to pretend we're rock stars for an hour a day."

Even though he talks to his wife "at least a dozen times a day" and she sends him photos of their son to his cell phone, he thinks his wife might not mind the time apart.

"I'm sure the wives like us being gone more than we know," he jokes.

Looking forward, Bo has plenty of gigs lined up over the next several months, and he's still busy promoting "The Real Thing."

He's also excited about performing as part of a tribute to his idols, southern rock legends Lynyrd Skynyrd, as part of the VH1 Classic Decades Rock Live concert series.

The concert will be taped at the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, N.J., on June 23 and will air on VH1 Classics at a yet-to-be-announced later date.

For Bo, playing with Lynyrd Skynyrd is literally beyond his wildest dreams.

"Just to be able to be a part of the music as a fan is an incredible experience," said Bo. "To be able to call them buddies now is pretty ridiculous to me.

"Even when I was a kid and dreamed to one day be doing what I'm doing now this was never even in the dream, getting to jam with Skynyrd and stuff like that. It's definitely a big honor."

For Bo, life after "American Idol" means jamming with his idols, releasing and promoting a new album, playing plenty of gigs and spending time with a loving family.

Sometimes nice guys finish second — and that ain't bad.

By Judy Faber