NASHVILLE, TN - AUGUST 16: Ruben Studdard performs onstage during the 2018 Black Music Honors at Tennessee Performing Arts Center on August 16, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images)
Photo: Jason Kempin/Getty Images
Photo: Jason Kempin/Getty Images

‘American Idol’ notes: Ruben Studdard interview (Center Stage 11/15), Carrie Underwood, Phillip Phillips baby

Originally posted Thursday, November 14, 2019 by RODNEY HO/ on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

From his earliest days on season two of “American Idol 16 years ago, Ruben Studdard was favorably compared to an R&B legend Luther Vandross. They both possessed a warm, caressing soulful timbre that mesmerized audiences.

Studdard’s post- “Idol” career hasn’t quite matched that of Vandross. But he has been on tour the past couple of years honoring Vandross - who died 14  years ago -  by singing many of the man’s biggest hits such as “Never Too Much” and “Power of Love.” He comes to Center Stage on Friday, November 15. (The show is nearly sold out and down to single seats.)

“It’s been really fun with these popular songs. It’s almost like doing a Broadway musical,” Studdard said in a recent interview. “It’s been a breath of fresh air and not really having to be worried making sure the song will go over because they are already ready to hear it.” 

He said it’s like going to a Vandross concert. “I looked at his shows live on the Wembley” and tried to emulate it. “I get a little nervous in Atlanta because my whole family will be there. It’s going to be a good time.”

Studdard said his mother Emily was a huge Vandross fan so Studdard. “On the weekends, we’d have this cleaning routine to Luther,” he said. “I didn’t become a fan until I became more serious about music but I appreciated it.”

Vandross loves the quality of the songs and his “impeccable voice. He didn’t need any help in the studio. No Autotune assisted.” 

Studdard never got to meet Vandross, who died in 2005. “He got sick while I was on ‘Idol,’” he said. 

Now 41, Studdard said feels his voice is better than it was 16 years ago when he was on the “Idol” stage. 

“I wasn’t fully mature then,” he said. “I had to learn some things to make my voice clearer more often. I don’t eat a lot of dairy products anymore that causes mucus and inflammation in the vocal cords. I can listen to my old videos on the show and I can tell Clay and I were eating cheeseburgers and s***. But we didn’t know.”

Studdard still believes there is a place for him in this hip-hop-infused world of 2019.  “I don’t think there is anybody who can do what I do. That’s why people will continue to call me. I may not reach the young people on social media but when they see me, they’ll understand the difference in the performance.”

He also regularly tours with David Foster, the famous producer who is married to season 5 runner-up Katharine McPhee. “He’s like a big brother to me,” Studdard said. “He taught me so very much about the industry...I’m thankful that he’s always calling me.” 

He is working  on an album with new cuts and he often records music in Atlanta. “Trying to make hits, man,” he said. His last album of originals was seven years ago, “Letters From Birmingham.” 

Studdard has had quite a few new life experiences since 2012 he uses for inspiration in his songwriting: “I got married, got divorced. I lost my brother last year,” he said. (He is currently dating someone.)

Studdard said he also enjoyed doing the comedic  Christmas show last season on Broadway with his buddy and season 2 runner up Clay Aiken

“It was a lot of work but a lot of fun,” he said. “Eight shows a week is eight shows a week.”

But who is funnier? “Clay does physical comedy better than I do. I have those set up punchline situations. We’re both funny in different ways.”

He hopes to do the show again with Clay Christmas season 2020 but they plan to tour instead of stay in one place. 


Ruben Studdard

8 p.m., Friday, November 15


Center Stage

1374 W Peachtree St NW, Atlanta

Tickets here


Carrie Underwood hosted the CMA Awards Wednesday night with Reba McEntire and Dolly Parton. There was none of the silly banter she had in previous years with Brad Paisley but she held her own, even when a Teleprompter messed up. 

She lost in three categories she was nominated in, including Entertainer of the Year, which went to Garth Brooks for the seventh time. (What? Is it still 1992?)

But she did get to sing her silky new single “Drinking Alone.” (It’s No. 51 on the Mediabase 24/7 country chart in its second week.)

On “Kimmel,” she did a prank where she would riff songs based on shoppers at a boot shop. She was impressively good at it: 

And here’s the “Idol” promo during the CMA Awards. 


NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 18: Singer-songwriter Phillip Phillips performs onstage at the 2017 CMT Artists Of The Year on October 18, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for CMT)
Photo: Rick Diamond/Getty Images for CMT

Georgian and season 10 winner Phillip Phillips is a daddy!

He and his wife Hannah had the baby on November 10 and he posted the news on social media Thursday.

Sunday morning our little boy made a fast entrance into the world. I cried more than he did. Hannah was an absolute rockstar in delivery and she has been such an amazing mom these last four days. I’m forever in love with this little kid. He’s changed me so much already. We can’t take our eyes off of him. He’s perfect. Our prayers were answered and this new journey has begun. Welcome, Patch Shepherd Phillips

Phillips is starting a tour in January, 2020 that will include a stop at City Winery Atlanta February 15. Tickets here for $40 to $55 with VIP tickets for $135. 

Adam Lambert appeared on ‘The Talk” to perform his new single “Superpower” and gabbing about being on “Idol” a decade ago and the difference between fronting Queen and doing solo shows. 


Kelly Clarkson Kellyoke videos!

There’s Post Malone’s “Better Now,” DNCE’s “Cake By The Ocean,” Selena Gomez’s “Come & Get It,” Lady Antebellum’s “You Look Good” and Twenty One Pilot’s “Ride.”

Instagram post from an “American Idol” alum. I’ve decided to just check an alum of my choosing and post the most interesting post off their Instagram. This week: Justin Guarini, runner up, season one:

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About the Author

Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.