Read an Excerpt
Now There's Enough for Everybody
American Idol, Season 2
My whole life, I never wanted to do anything but be a singer. But before Idol, it just didn't seem to work my way.
In the fall of 1999, I left college during my junior year to pursue a career in music. This was not welcomed by my mother because both my parents are educators. There were four of us friends in different colleges in the South, and we all decided to leave school. I promised my mom if I didn't make it in five years, I'd go back.
Our group was called God's Gift, and we practiced every day. We practiced, practiced, practiced, but we never seemed to get anywhere. We shopped demos, went out to find deals—we tried just about everything.
Sometimes, it got us down. I remember a minister saying, 'Everything happens in God's time, so be patient.' I was pretty much the only guy in the group who had already been doing this for years, so my thought was, How much more patient can I be?
Eventually, the group gave up because it just wasn't happening. I joined a jazz band called Just a Few Cats. By that point, I wasn't even concerned with making it; I just wanted to have fun. Soon, we became the most popular group in Birmingham. We started playing 500–600 seat venues that sold out almost immediately.
One day, a background singer in our band said she was going to try out for American Idol and asked me to go with her. 'I'm not doing that,' I said.
I thought I was everything the American Idol wasn't. I mean, I wasn't exactly Kelly Clarkson. I was this big guy in a jazz band who in college had been pursuing a degree in operatic performance. I just envisioned going up there and embarrassing myself on national television. All the odds were against me.
But I told my friend I'd go to give her support and to cheer when she made it through. We drove to Nashville and spent all night waiting outside. Fortunately, she brought pillows and blankets because we had to sleep on the ground.
In the morning, one of the producers woke us and asked if we were there to audition. 'Yeah,' I said, still half-asleep. Maybe I meant, 'Yeah,' as in, 'Yeah, she's here to audition and I'm with her,' but next thing I knew, I was singing in front of the assistant producers. I made it through, and my friend didn't.
From that moment on, I had to believe there was a master plan because it all just flowed, one thing after the other.
I was told to come back the following day for the next audition, but I sure didn't want to sleep outside again. Then I found out a friend was in Nashville for an engineering conference and just happened to have an extra hotel room.
When I met the show's producer, Nigel Lythgoe, he said, 'You don't look like an American Idol, but I bet you can sing.'
I sang Stevie Wonder's 'Ribbon in the Sky,' and Nigel said, 'Man, you are going on.'
I was flying high when I went home to Birmingham, but I had to return to Nashville the next week to sing for Randy, Simon, and Paula. I didn't know what to do because my car wouldn't make it.
My brother Kevin offered to take me. This was really something because I always drove him nuts when I sang. He would beg me to stop singing, please. When we were kids and walked to the store, he punched me out for singing all the way down the street. But now he was driving me to Nashville?
When I sang for the judges, all three said, 'Absolutely, yes!'
I just knew something great was going to happen. I didn't think I was going to win the show by any means, but I did feel like it just might give me the opportunity to somehow live my dreams.
American Idol helped me accomplish more than I could have dreamed in a million years on my own. I sang at the American Music Awards. I was nominated for a Grammy®. I went to South Africa and sang in soccer stadiums. I've done concerts for hundreds of thousands of people. I've had a platinum album and Billboard #1 songs. I never would have imagined that I'd sing for the President, but I did that, too—twice. I've done so much since Idol—and I would have been happy just making one album!
When people ask me for advice, I'm always willing to share it: always be prepared. I know that might sound funny since I sure didn't seem prepared for the audition that morning in Nashville, but I can honestly say I've studied my craft since I was ten years old. I went to school to be a classical musician. I took every class I could on music theory. If your opportunity shows up and you're not prepared, you might lose it . . . and it might not come back again.
Last weekend, I sang at Ella Fitzgerald's ninetieth Birthday Benefit with Natalie Cole, Quincy Jones, and Nancy Wilson. When I do a gig, I'm always prepared. I tell people, 'Don't wing it.' You know when someone's winging it, and it's not going to get you where you want to go.
And the other advice I give is to always have a pleasing attitude. The one thing everyone always says about me is I have a good attitude. I believe that will take you further than a great voice or loads of talent.
Needless to say, my life has changed since Idol. But I'm the same guy, the same Ruben—the same son, the same friend, the same brother. Kevin and I still love—and fight with—each other. When people ask if we still fight over the last sandwich in the refrigerator, like I talked about on the show, I tell them that's another thing that's changed since Idol: now there's always enough of everything for all of us.
And don't think I'm not grateful. I'm one of those people who lives life based on gratitude. I believe the more grateful you are, the more good things will come to you. I will always be grateful to American Idol—I will never forget what it has done to help me make my dreams come true.
©2007. Ruben Studdard. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Chicken Soup for the American Idol Soul by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Debra Poneman. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street , Deerfield Beach , FL 33442.