Clay Aiken: New Album Is Like a Homecoming

By Melissa Castellanos

When "American Idol" season two favorite Clay Aiken belted out his touching 2003 rendition of Simon & Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Waters," he won over the hearts of millions.

Now, seven years later, he's built his own bridge of success as a platinum-selling artist, Broadway actor, author and, more recently, a dad.

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The down-to-earth, Raleigh, N.C. native just released his fifth studio album, "Tried and True," featuring classics from the '50s and '60s.

"It seems like a little bit of a departure from the last four albums I've made to some extent, but in truth, it's really more of a homecoming in a way, because it's really what I have always wanted to do," Aiken told

Aiken points out that the classics had more emphasis on the melody, lyrics and orchestration when compared to contemporary songs heard on the radio today.

"They are standards because they did set the standard for what's really excellent," he added.

Aiken stopped by "The Early Show on Saturday Morning"'s "Second Cup Cafe" to perform his version of "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You" and "Mack the Knife."

Despite "Idol" 's positive influence on his career, Aiken admits he hasn't watched the show since 2005, because it stresses him to see others endure the grueling pressure.

So what does Aiken think about "Idol" judge Simon Cowell leaving the show?

"Simon was always the catalyst for the show's success," he said. "He's an integral part of the show, so I guess it remains to be seen (how the show will change.) Simon was a nice training ground in some ways -- knowing what critics might say."

In June, Aiken will co-headline the "Timeless" tour with good friend and fellow "Idol" alum Ruben Studdard. (It was Studdard who beat out Aiken in seson two).

"It will be Ruben and Clay -- like Sonny and Cher, like Donny and Marie, but a substantially different version than that!" Aiken joked. "He's one of the most infectious performers that I have ever seen. Every time he comes on stage, you can't help but smile. He is one of my favorite people in the world."

In 2008, Aiken reached some major milestones -- his "dear friend," music producer Jaymes Foster, gave birth to his son, Parker and, at the same time, he decided to come out as being gay. Although it wasn't easy to do and he wasn't thrilled with the idea, he's glad to be moving forward with his life.

Aiken, who refers to fatherhood as "amazing" gushed, "Sometimes I still have to pinch myself. ... It has been surprising and fulfilling from minute one."

He has sold more than six million copies worldwide of his four albums: the double-platinum "Measure of A Man" (featuring the hits "Invisible" and "This is the Night"), 2004's platinum holiday CD, "Merry Christmas With Love," 2006's gold-certified "A Thousand Different Ways," and 2008's "On My Way Here," all of which debuted in the Top 5 on the Billboard chart.

Aiken has launched nine live tours, made the New York Times best-seller list by co-authoring the inspirational memoir, "Learning to Sing: Hearing the Music In Your Life," executive produced and starred in his first TV special, "A Clay Aiken Christmas," and won several American Music and Billboard Music Awards.

In January 2008, Aiken made his Broadway debut in the role of Sir Robin in the Tony Award-winning musical, Monty Python's "Spamalot."
By Melissa Castellanos