Ace Young Interview On 'American Idol,' 'Grease,' Broadway
Ace Young was the heartthrob finalist on the fifth season of American Idol. Now, Young is acting as Kenickie on the latest Broadway production of Grease. “When I got off the Idol tour, I turned down everything that came in except working on my album,” Young told Uinterview exclusively. "I sat down with my agents and they asked if I’d be interested in doing other things. I said I wanted to dive back into acting.”
Young was born and raised in Boulder, Colo., and took an early interest in the music industry. At age nine, he was singing and writing his own songs and would later perform the national anthem at The Pepsi Center in Denver. His first song “Reason I Live” was featured in the film The Little Vampire in 2000. After Idol, Young released his album Ace Young, with hit singles, “Addicted” and “You Redeem Me.” He also appeared on MTV’s Total Request Live.
Though his chance at winning Idol was cut short, Young is reveling in the opportunity to play on Broadway. “On Idol, you are true to yourself singing someone else’s material. On top of it, you have no control on how they represent you,” he told Uinterview. “So it’s interesting that on Broadway, playing someone else’s character, I have more control then when I’m myself on Idol.”
When I got the Idol tour, I turned down everything that came in except working on my album. I wanted everyone to know what I stood for musically before I did anything else. They found me from Idol and this is my one chance. When I finished it, I sat down with my agents at CAA and they asked if I’d be interested in doing other things. I said I wanted to dive back into acting they asked if I’d be interested in doing Grease. They said would you like to play the role of Kenickie. And I had just finished doing [the tv show] Bones and they pulled 1.5 million viewers than Bones had ever had. They cut my head off, it was great! I said Kenickie is the only part I’d want to play since he’s the opposite of me. Everybody knows I’m a nice guy from Idol. Kenickie is blunt and rude. There’s a playfulness in that. I’ve really made him my own and the response has been amazing.
On Broadway, I’m playing another person, so I’m selling that other person. On Idol, you are true to yourself singing someone else’s material. On top of it, you have no control on how they represent you. They could intro you by playing folk music. They have total control. So it’s interesting that on Broadway, playing someone else’s character, I have more control then when I’m myself on Idol.
I was in Los Angeles about five years before Idol. I had been performing and writing around music since I was 11. I was working with Brian McKnight. I was touring with New Edition. Labels were interested in signing me at the time, but they wanted me to change me, so they could have some gimmick to sell. They asked if I would get tattoos up and down my arms and lie about where I was from. I couldn’t sacrifice who I was. I have a large family and too many people who know me. I had no representation, no management. I flew back to Denver and auditioned for season five of American Idol and beat out 100,000 people to get on the show.
I would have to say performing “Father Figure” on the show. When I did it, I was told to be careful by the producers. Nobody had ever done a cover song that was a sex song. I think with the right intention you can pull off any song. I wanted to show a bit more of the urban side of me. It was my first performance. I was nervous–it’s for 40 million people. All the judges gave me great response, even Simon Cowell said, ‘You have what we call oversees, the X Factor.’ Vegas had me as the one to win the show in the first week. I knew right then I was screwed–I couldn’t be the underdog.
It was great to see that the fans weren’t biased toward one Idol or another. Whole families came and got to see us perform. I went above and beyond the call of duty. I made all the guys go out there and say hello and it became a routine. At 1 pm at the arena, there would be two or three thousand people waiting there just to say hello to us and the show didn’t start till 8 pm. I made nice, lasting friendships with the other Idols on the tour with me. I had a blast. I couldn’t have been happier. I only wish I could have worked on my album at that time. I was trying to get out of the Idol paperwork–the 19 Idols they were pushing–I thought it was too many people and I would get lost in the mix.
I’m the youngest of five boys. My middle brother, he was always the star quarterback, but he got up and sang when he was in high school when he was 17 and I was 9 at the time. He sang “More Than Words” and when he sang it the whole crowd got so loud it gave me chills. I was already following in my brothers’ footsteps doing football, baseball, basketball and track. At that moment, I fell in love with performing I really wanted to be able to do that. I told that to my dad and he let me start to work with some of the producers that my brother was working with. When I was 11, I was getting paid to perform at rec centers and malls all around Boulder and Denver.
I didn’t want someone who only knew what Idol portrayed to have total control over the creative side of the album. It shows a part of me that’s more R&B. I was doing that four years ago. Labels loved it but they didn’t know how to market it. I really wanted to include rock on the album and that’s why I brought Desmond Child in. He wrote “Dude Looks Like a Lady,” “Livin’ on a Prayer,” he’s written probably over 100 top ten hits as a writer and producer. I know if he and I got to together we would make something amazing. My whole album is congruent. There aren’t any albums out there that are being pushed by the major labels that are real albums–they are singles. Everything’s a ring tone. I really wanted to go back to the place where you go into the studio with a band and make a whole album. ‘This is who I am and this what I stand for.’ We have album that a lot of people don’t even know about. I don’t have the money for marketing and the pay-for-play radio push.
The point is that I wanted to make with this album is that real music can last forever. There’s only so much you can do with a beat machine. It will be cool for now, but they aren’t going to be playing it in 20 years. We had whole orchestra and live horns. We have a hip-hop rapper who’s on a song called "Fast Life" that’s just starting to blowup now. I’ve been working with them for seven years. It brings the ‘now’ aspect to a song that’s a throwback. It sounds like an early-80s song when he comes on and starts rapping. He’s rapping like it’s today. All the storylines are true to me. “Addicted” is about one of my brother’s drug addiction to cocaine. We lost him for about 10 years. When we lost him, it was something we couldn’t pull him back from. I really wanted to push that with the video as well. It was too sexy for MTV and VH-1 to want to play because of the hints of addiction. At the same time, they are playing rappers hosing down a brand new car. I don’t get it.
Styx. They touring everywhere now. Everything I’ve ever heard from Styx and meeting those guys–they are amazing. They are a huge influence on me. They are making more money now then they ever have.
“Young Money” is one of my favorite tracks just because it’s me. If you meet me, I’m an open book. You can look me in the eye. I’ll answer any question. That is the vibe I feel everyday. To do Grease and play Kenickie has been awesome. I’ve been doing it for a month. But at the same time, there’s a part of me that’s always looking for the right girl. Seeing the potential in somebody and doing the whole back and forth. To see if it’s something that’s real or not. I love that. That’s why I really fallen in love with New York City, because there are people everywhere.