American Idol or not, Bice still has plenty of Bo-lievers
Patrick Johnston, BNI News Service
The journey continues.
No, Bo Bice isn't the fourth American Idol. Carrie Underwood is.
However, the contestant who spent childhood summers with family in Somerville still has a lot to rock about.
Bice, who finished second in the made-for-TV competition, is expected to sign with a major recording label soon. According to media reports, his first single will be "Vehicle."
He has millions of fans. He even owns a new Ford Mustang convertible, courtesy of the show.
"This has been an amazing ride," Bice said last Thursday, just hours after the final episode.
Bice gained legions of fans with his long hair, discount store shades, earthy personality and Southern rock flair. He was a strong contestant throughout the show, winning praise for songs like "Vehicle," "Whipping Post" and "In A Dream," which he performed a cappella.
Bice never entered the competition thinking he would make the top two. In fact, he rarely kept up with the previous three seasons.
But when AI upped the minimum age to 29, Bice was instantly eligible to compete. With some coercion from his mom, Nancy Downes, he decided to audition.
"I thought I might as well give it a shot," he said. "It may get us (his band SugarMoney) some gigs."
Bice auditioned in Orlando, and advanced to the next round in Hollywood. He eventually made the round of 24, and then the final 12.
From then on, Bo-mania exploded.
AI Judge Simon Cowell quickly named Bice one of the favorites to win the event.
Every week, Bice was performing one to three songs, hoping to garner enough phone votes from across the country to stay alive. The crowds in Somerville grew, too. Several hundred people gathered last week at Mamas Country Diner to support their favorite contestant. That type of support made the process easier, Bice said.
"It was very exhausting, obviously," he said. "A lot of people don't realize the preparation it takes … It's not just a one-take thing."
A few weeks before the finals, Bice returned to Alabama, stopping in Helena where he currently lives. While there he performed with his idols, Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Several thousand fans came to watch Alabama's newest star.
"I just marveled … hearing people scream my name (while riding from place to place), and I wondered 'How did they know it was me?'"
Bice didn't take offense to criticism made by the AI judges, particularly that of Cowell on the final episode.
"If you don't notice the things holding you back, you will never truly move forward," Bice said.
An apparent miscue occurred before Bice's final song, "Inside Your Heaven."
The music started before Bice was ready to sing. Bice said he had trouble locating the microphone, resulting in minor confusion.
"Things like that happen. You adapt. You move on," he said. "I'm not going to blame it on somebody else. I just went out there and gave it my best."
Bice may have gained even more fans last Wednesday, after Underwood was named American Idol. He was leading audience ovations for Underwood, raising his hands for more noise. Even Downes quickly offered a standing ovation.
Bice had nothing but praise for Underwood, a 21-year-old known for her country style.
"I truly think America did the right thing," he said. "She'll do a wonderful job."
While Bice didn't win the competition, he's still nearly as popular as Underwood. He caught one hour of sleep between Wednesday night and Thursday, when he embarked on a myriad of media interviews.
"We haven't had more than a second to sit down," he said.
As of last weekend, nothing was certain regarding a recording contract. Some media reports had Bice signing with RCA.
"I haven't had time to sit down and talk with anyone," he said.
It's too early to predict how popular Bice will be in the future. He mentioned the importance of band members and other crew. That helps determine whether you will have a three-year career or a 30-year career, he said.
While Bice isn't technically the American Idol, he has won the hearts of most Alabamians. For that he is grateful.
"I'm just blessed to be from the great state of Alabama," he said.