Lessons continue after ‘American Idol’ for Elliott Yamin
Elliott Yamin was riding the crest of a huge wave when he released his first album in 2007. Fresh off finishing third to Taylor Hicks and Katharine McPhee in one of most contested seasons of “American Idol,” he found an audience waiting for his self-titled debut.
Almost three years later, he’s finding the surf is not so high.
“It’s grown particularly tough to stay afloat being further removed from the show,” he says in advance of his appearance Thursday at Altar Bar in the Strip District. “Which I understand. I understand when my first album came out, there was a bigger buzz because I was fresh off the show. There was more anticipation.”
But Yamin quickly adds that he understands there will be peaks and valleys in any music career. He released his second album, “Fight for Love,” last summer and knows he has work to do.
“You’re not always on top,” he says. “I think I’ll always be synonymous with ‘American Idol,’ and I’m OK with that. But I also want to be Elliott Yamin the artist and the singer, and I think as time goes on, that won’t be a question. I’ve proven myself to be a legitimate singer.”
That’s not just “Idol” bluster. On the show, Stevie Wonder told Yamin he should pursue a career in music. Simon Cowell, always the contrarian, called him potentially the best male singer of the show’s first five years. Even if one is not inclined to the mid-tempo soul and R&B that defines Yamin’s music, it’s obvious the guy can sing.
And, Yamin insists, he’s getting better.
“Post-‘Idol,’ I really learned how to use my voice in different ways,” he says, “especially in the studio. I just was always doing these crazy vocal runs, as if I had something to prove. Now, I realize it’s better to sometimes lay off that stuff.”
While “American Idol” certainly can be a star-making turn — see Carrie Underwood, Clay Aiken or Chris Daughtry — there are many more contestants who have fallen into obscurity. Justin Guarini and Sanjaya Malakar are more remembered for their hair. Yamin wants to establish his own persona, but has no regrets about participating.
How could he, when Stevie Wonder gave him a once-in-a-lifetime boost?
“That week was just crazy, because I was singing to my favorite singer and working with him,” Yamin says. “When I first heard that comment, I think it made me even more nervous. I put more pressure on myself because I am a big fan of Stevie Wonder.”
Still a big fan of the show, Yamin thinks the addition of comedian and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, who is replacing Paula Abdul, won’t have any bearing on the show’s ratings.
“Eventually, the novelty is going to wear off,” he says. “I just don’t think it will happen this year. I think Ellen’s a great personality, and she loves music.”
When: 7 p.m. Thursday
Where: Altar Bar, Strip District
Details: 412-263-2877 or Web site