Center Presents: Ruben Studdard & Clay Aiken: Twenty | The Tour
The Palladium // Thursday, May 11, 7:30pm ET
Ruben Studdard and Clay Aiken first gained fame in 2003 as they battled for the top spot in the second season of “American Idol.” Since then, both have built successful careers as singers, recording artists and stage and television actors. More recently, they appeared together on Broadway in “Ruben & Clay’s First Annual Christmas Carol Family Fun Pageant Spectacular Reunion Show.” Their 2023 tour together celebrates the 20-year anniversary of their sensational run on Idol.
Don’t miss this incredible trip down “memory lane”! Purchase your tickets at thecenterpresents.org.
Having watched “American Idol” Season 2 and its finale, I was especially thrilled to speak with Clay and Ruben as they reflected back on the last two decades as performers and as friends who became each other’s family.
Janelle Morrison: To say that we’re excited that you’re both coming to Carmel, Indiana, is an understatement. Those of us that watched “American Idol” Season 2, 20 years ago, are struggling with the fact that much time has passed. As you’ve been reflecting on the past two decades, what are some of the thoughts you’re having about your experiences on “Idol” and your current tour?
Ruben Studdard: I think about that every year once the show comes back on. Clay and I watch another crop of young people reach for their dreams in the same way that we did. I’m cognizant of how old I am every time that show comes back on. [Laughter] You don’t meet many people that you consider friends and are friends as long as Clay and I have been. I consider him more like family now. My experiences on this show were based around the relationships that I built, whether it be with the producers, executives, and, of course, Clay as a co-contestant — now my brother. I’m thankful that we get to go on the road, sing for people, do what we love and have these nostalgic moments.
Clay Aiken: Don’t you feel like there’s this real interest in nostalgia nowadays for whatever reason?
RS: Absolutely. Everything old is now new again.
CA: Thank God! [Laughing] Ruben’s favorite show when we were on “Idol”was “That 70s Show” — he loved that show! I showed him the link for “That 90s Show,” and now some of the kids that were on that show at the same time we were on “Idol” have their own kids, and Ruben and I both have kids. You asked about our friendship growing, and we’ve been able to bond over that [kids]. I keep telling him to freeze his son at the age he’s at now and don’t let him become a teenager, if possible. [Laughter]
Aside from graduating from high school, “Idol” may be the biggest milestone of our lives at this point. We’ve been able to watch each other and be present for each of our own milestones. Ruben came and helped me when I ran for Congress — both times — and when I debuted on Broadway. And I’ve been to his shows and was there for his debut on Broadway … in a different way. We’ve been a big part of each other’s lives.
JM: Both of you have gone back to the show as mentors as well as “Idol” alumni. What has that been like for each of you?
CA: Ruben’s been back many times, and I just recently went back as a mentor on the show. We both went back for the Fox finale, and it was really weird. There were the three of us: Ruben, me, Kim [Locke] from Season 2 and the number 1 and number 2 [finalists] from every other season. Most of them had not seen each other since their finales. I remember Ruben and I looking at each other like, how do you go through something like “Idol”…
RS: I don’t know if collegiate is the right word, but we treated it more like we were having a dormitory experience as opposed to the seasons after us having their own spaces. We were like in the “American Idol Dorm.”
CA: Also, nobody knew what the stakes were when we were on. I think that’s unique to season 1 and 2. Neither of us, nor anybody else, realized the show was going to be that huge and how life-changing it was going to be.
JM: You spoke about how the culture of “Idol” changed in the following seasons and how it became more competitive and “cutthroat.” I think that Seasons 1 and 2 will be remembered for the way the contestants obviously competed but lifted each other up throughout the process.
CA: I guess I lifted too damn hard because Ruben won! [Laughter]
RS: Let’s be clear, before you even stepped on stage, it [the outcome] was ordained by God. [Laughter] Nothing you could’ve done would’ve changed that outcome.
CA: I think one of the things that we have found funny over the years is that people have always wanted to put us in competition with one another. We honestly never felt that way. We both wanted to go through and didn’t want the other to go home. Luckily, neither of us were sent home. And that first year, Ruben’s album would’ve come out first, but I was done [with my album], and he loves to be in the studio. So, he wasn’t finished yet, and he specifically told our label to go ahead and let my album come out first. And he bought mine the first week, and I bought his [album] that first week.
You know, I don’t think I’ve ever told you [Ruben] this. I did vote for you one week.
RS: I ain’t gonna lie … I never voted for you. [Laughing]
CA: There was one week that I was actually nervous.
RS: That you were gonna go home?
CA: Not me! [Laughing]
RS: Me? [Laughing]
CA: You know … Oprah talked about this. There was a week that I was a little nervous, so I voted for myself, of course, but I also voted for you.
JM: Wow … what a revelation! What advice were you given from the Season 2 judges that resonates with you to this day?
CA: I’ll give you the answer that both of us have given in the past. “Idol” was, in so many respects, a boot camp for us as entertainers. And Simon [Cowell], Paula [Abdul] and Randy [Jackson] as judges provided exposure to criticism that we would later experience as performers. Being on a live TV show in front of 40 million people essentially made everything else we did after that … impossible to be nervous about because we had survived that!
RS: They should rename it “American Idol University.”
JM: What can your fans expect the night of the show at the Palladium?
RS: A wonderful time. It’s a trip down memory lane, and for us, going back and reminiscing on some of the stories from the show.
CA: Ruben reminds me of stuff, and I remind him of stuff and that’s just kind of how the show was built. It was built on us reminiscing and enjoying the memories of what happened 20 years ago. We plan to make sure that people have that same opportunity to reminisce with us, and that’s what the music and the stories are all about.