November 7, 2005
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SJP


Aiken And Cdn. producer See Eye To Eye
By -- For JAM! Music


North Carolina pop crooner Clay Aiken calls Canadian Jaymes Foster-Levy "absolutely wonderful." The runner-up on 2003's American Idol and the best-selling artist from that season has been working with the sister of acclaimed producer David Foster (Josh Groban, Barbra Streisand, Celine Dion) on the follow-up to 2003's "Measure Of A Man" and they have been taking their sweet-sounding time.

"We have been in the studio throughout the past four or five months," says Aiken, who is taking a break from recording for his second annual Joyful Noise Tour, which launched in Vancouver Nov. 2 and ends with a pair of shows in Florida, Dec. 29 and 30.

"She used to be at Warner Bros ,and went out on her own," says Aiken. "It was a match made by my management company. We interviewed a number of people to see what gelled and what didn't and she and I got along famously, so we decided to work on this together. She's absolutely wonderful and she and I see eye to eye on a lot of things."

While the Foster-Levy divides her time between Victoria, BC and Los Angeles, says Aiken, the two have been working in L.A. The album is the first proper follow-up to his post-Idol rush job, 2003's Measure Of A Man, which went multi-platinum in the U.S. and sold 167,000 units in Canada, according to Nielsen SoundScan. He also put out "Merry Christmas With Love" last year.

"The last album ('Measure Of A Man') was something that I was proud of in the sense of' Wow, I have an album,'" Aiken says with a laugh. "So it was cool for that, but there were some songs on there that I did not necessarily connect with, songs that talk about being lovelorn and full of angst because someone wronged me -- and I don't know anything about that. I didn't know anything about that then; I don't know anything about that now."

Although Foster-Levy had experience with the Popstars television franchise when she was an executive at her brother's now-defunct label, 143 Records, which took a similar approach to Idol in that the album was practically ready-made no matter who won, she's fully behind Aiken's choice not to rush-record this new studio album, according to the singer -- and there's no reason to.

Now that his success has been firmly established, they are sifting through the best song submissions, something Aiken didn't have a chance to do on "Measure Of A Man" because it was so important to strike while the iron was hot and the TV fan-base still there.

"More important than what it sounds like is what is says to me," Aiken says of the next album. "That's why we're taking our time. I want to make sure that what I sing represents something that I know something about and I feel. Some songs we find and we said, 'That is it. We're gonna do that' and so I've gone and recorded them. And then there's been some other ones where we've gone in and we've liked the song a little bit; we wanted to change it some and see if we could make some modifications.

"So it's all up and down, completely across the spectrum, where we are as far as each song goes. Some have been recorded; some we have been listening to submissions and we continue to get them daily."

Still, in his quest to forge the direction with which he's happy, he's won't be co-writing any songs as many singers are wont to do after first-time success and freedom.

"I'm not much of a writer," he admits. "A few lines I can pull off in a song. I know there is a lot of people out there nowadays who say they've written a song and that means they've written a line or so. So it may be possible that I'll go in and change a line or two, but I don't think it's fair to take credit for writing songs, if I just change the line (laughs).

"So I'm not really going to do any writing, but we've taken our time and focused on finding really good stuff and, as a result of that, we've found a lot of stuff (laughs), so the problem now is trying to figure out which songs make the album and which don't, or do we want to put out a larger project or multiple projects, or do we want to do the best of the best? So right now, we're in this quandary, exactly what we've found do we want to go with."

When Aiken reconnects with Foster after his tour concludes, they will get down to picking the final track listing, but he still won't be swayed to put a deadline on it.

"We'd like to have the album out in the first half of next year, and I know that's a very broad time frame, but more importantly than saying we want to have it done in January or February is saying that we want to make sure that what we put out is something that I'm proud, and that we're all proud of, all the people who have worked on it," says Aiken. "So I'd hate to say February and then we realize we should take some more time on it."


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