Every musician wants to do an homage to their influences at some point during their career. It could be as part of a show celebrating the music of a certain artist, or it could be joining up with a tribute act to perform songs written by their hero.
For Ruben Studdard, he’s doing something similar to the latter but on a bigger scale. He’s going to be singing the songs of R&B legend Luther Vandross at the Park Theatre, located at 848 Park Ave. in Cranston, on Nov. 8 in support of his covers album, “Ruben Sings Luther,” which came out in March 2018.
Recently, Studdard and I had a talk about what made him want to do the record; growing up in Birmingham, Alabama; life since winning the second season of “American Idol” in 2003; and staying home for the holidays.
ROB DUGUAY: A covers album can be a bit risky due to how you’re putting your own spin on someone else’s material. What made you want to do one revolving around Luther Vandross?
RUBEN STUDDARD: It actually came from my mother, to be completely honest. I told her that I was going to do an album of her favorite songs one day, so this was really it. My mother was the biggest Luther Vandross fan, and she helped me pick out the songs, ones that were important to her. For me, it was fun getting opportunity to sing these songs. When you’re in the studio and you’re trying to sing Luther’s material, you really realize how great of a singer he was.
You can play around all the time, but when you dive into it things can get serious. It was definitely a lot of fun,but it was also a lot of work.
RD: With your mom being a big Luther Vandross fan, did you have a lot of his music in the house while growing up in Birmingham?
RS: Absolutely. My mom had all of his records. She actually took me to one of his shows when I was young and she’s a big fan. It took me a bit of growing to become as big of a fan as she is, because of course as a kid you’re interested in what other kids are interested in or whatever is popular for that age group. I definitely grew to love Luther’s music, especially as a teenager getting to sing his material at weddings. Doing that and getting paid for it made me an even bigger fan (laughs).
RD: You rose to fame as the winner of the second season of “American Idol.” Looking back, how do you feel about the experience of being a part of that show?
RS: I was blessed. Before I got on the show, I’d been trying to make a career in the music industry for years and nothing seemed to work. “American Idol” was my break, and I’m thankful that they saw something in me that gave me the chance to do what I wanted to do on a bigger scale. I was already recording in Birmingham, singing with groups and doing all of the things that everybody does, but “American Idol” really gave me the opportunity to live out my dreams that I had never thought was possible before.
RD: What would you say are some of your favorite moments so far in your music career?
RS: After the show ended, hearing a song of mine on the radio while in New York was great. I was in a cab heading to the studio and my song “Flying Without Wings” came on, and the driver turned to me and said, “That’s you on the radio.” Getting the opportunity to be on the road with David Foster was amazing. Singing on stage with Natalie Cole and touring Asia with my idols Boyz 2 Men was crazy. I’ve had so many different awesome things happen in my career that it would take me all day to list them.
Sharing the stage with Lionel Richie was fantastic, too. All of these things were things that I’d only dreamt about.
RD: After this run of shows, what do you have planned for the rest of the year? Do you plan on laying low for the holidays?
RS: I plan on spending time with my family. Last Christmas I was on Broadway with Clay Aiken, so I wasn’t home for the holidays. I didn’t get home until January because I had shows after Christmas. Being able to be around my mother, my grandmother, my family and everybody in my family is something that I’m very much looking forward to.
For more information about Studdard’s upcoming Cranston performance, visit parktheatreri.com. To learn more about Studdard, visit rubenstuddard.com.