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Talking with American Idol Alum George Huff
As an entertainer, I’ve long appreciated American Idol. That’s why I was excited to talk to season 3 finalist, George Huff. He’s always struck me as one of the kindest people in the music industry. During the first part of our exclusive two-part interview, I was intrigued and moved by his heartfelt sentiments and reflection on what it’s like to go from unknown to famous overnight.
GEORGE HUFF: Oh no, no. I cannot go on cold turkey. My voice has never been a cold turkey voice. You know some people – you know some people could do that you know they can just go up there and just you know cold turkey and just blow it right off the roof. No my voice I have to.
B.SLADE: Who is someone that you know that can do that? Name a few artists that you know of personally that can do that.
GEORGE HUFF: Jennifer Hudson is definitely an artist can go on turkey and just blow it right out. She can wake up at six in the morning and have all of her high notes.
GEORGE HUFF: Yes. Fantasia is another one that can go on cold turkey and just blow it right out the water. I’ve seen – I’ve seen Karen Clark-Sheard do it. I’ve been around them enough to know that they don’t do one warm-up…I have to warm my voice up. Because of the type of voice that I have I automatically carry that you know the little rasp thing to it.
B.SLADE: Yes, but actually I love that, the texture of it. You can’t train a voice to do that. You either have it or you don’t. And what exactly do you do? Is it a certain tea you drink? Is it an actual warm-up or what is that process?
GEORGE HUFF: I drink room temperature water – certain teas will dry you out because that’s what they do, they dry you out. So the key is to keep the voice liquefied. Nothing too extremely hot, nothing extremely cold. And I have a series of warm-ups that I do that was given to me from my teacher in college. And warm it up like that. And it really, really helps you know to get the voice in line.
B.SLADE: Truly every time that I’ve come in contact with you you’ve been the same genuine almost painfully shy type of a guy. I mean for you to have had the success that you’ve had and been all over the world and seen by millions you are incredibly shy. Have you always been that way?
GEORGE HUFF: Yes, yes I have. It was even more intense growing up as a – you know growing up in my younger years. The only time that I feel safe and secure is when I’m on the stage. It’s like people tell me when I come on – when I get on the stage it’s like I become a different person. I would walk total opposite to get to the other side of the building because I just felt like even though people weren’t paying attention to me that all eyes were on me – it’s all in my head to sometimes.
B.SLADE: Well that’s very transparent and courageous of you to say. With so much bullying that’s going on in society right now could you identify with a lot of the different stories that you’re seeing in current events– could you personally identify with that feeling and what that’s like? And what would you say to those who are being bullied because you’re still going through that process?
GEORGE HUFF: In New Orleans you know all the schools are predominantly African-American, especially the school I went to. You know you try and laugh it off and they was like, “What you laughing at blank? ” You know when I talk to my little nieces and nephews I said, “If anybody is bullying y’all, y’all call me, and we coming down to that school. We going to get the student. We going to get the teacher. We going to get the principal. We going to get everybody and their parents and say this is what’s going on.”
B.SLADE: Wow that’s fantastic. That’s really fantastic.
GEORGE HUFF: I’m going to tell you it was a blessing in disguise as well because there were times where I was made to have to step out into the forefront. Like my teacher in high school he went on sabbatical because he got sick, so basically I was like a teacher. I was the teacher in high school. I gave grades and everything.
GEORGE HUFF: Yeah. In high school I taught for two years, my 11th and 12th grade year, the choir. The teachers gave me a special schedule. They would sit with me after school and say, “This is what we talked about and this is the assignment.” And I was taking three of my – out of three of my classes to go and teach the choir classes.
B.SLADE: So you say…New Orleans. Who else made it out of there on a national scale as a musician or singer that you know of?
GEORGE HUFF: Well an actor, Anthony Mackie, he made it out of there. You know you have Lil Wayne; he made it out of there. You have the composer of Lady Marmalade? Allen Troussaint. You have Harry Connick, Jr., Ellen, Aaron Neville, the whole Neville family. Master P. ,Mystical. Yeah.
B.SLADE: What was that like during that era to have your city put on the map in such an international way? Did that give you a sense of pride? Did that inspire you in any way to want to follow in their steps? What was it like at that time?
GEORGE HUFF: Exactly. You know that was one of the times when I had to step out of the shadows. You know I was in college and I was you know struggling in college and my teacher always told me she said, “Before anybody else will accept you, you have to accept yourself and you have to know not be afraid. No fear.” Simon Cowell told me in front of a million people. You can be anything you want to be.