From PEOPLE Magazine Click to enlarge
TAYLOR HICKS TELLS ALL

As a 6'1" rocker, getting the girl has never been a problem for Taylor Hicks. Even before American Idol, "we'd go out and girls would ignore everyone else," says friend Chris Horner. "A waitress once asked Taylor what I wanted to eat. She wouldn't look away from him." During the show, that sex appeal won Hicks—whose first single is just out—fans so fervent they use a made-up word to describe his effect on them ("thud," which means to swoon). Still, he's no player. He told executive editor Liz Sporkin and senior editor Lisa Arbetter he's ready for love. "I've been in a bubble," he says. "There's been no time. Now I wouldn't mind spending the rest of my life with the right woman."

PEOPLE: First of all, let's bust a myth. There's nothing goofy about you.

Taylor Hicks: They made me out to be the goofy wedding singer. And that's completely the opposite. I'm a musician and a writer. I'm more of a deep person than the way they portrayed me on American Idol. I was just enjoying the moment.

Women have been going crazy over you. What do they do when they see you?

I've been completely mobbed. Some of them cry. Some of them scream. Some of them put their hands on you. Most of them want hugs. And you know, there's nothing wrong with giving a hug or two.

What do you think people are connecting to?

I would say being real. Just a real, down-to-earth person who's a musician.

Why don't you have a girlfriend?

All I've done for the last year is work on my career. There's been no time for any kind of love reaction. It's going to be interesting now. I wouldn't mind going on a date or two. Being a struggling musician is not a very comfortable position. Now I feel like I'm a little more comfortable, so my dating can increase.

What are you looking for in a woman?

She's gotta be cool. She's gotta be easy to get along with. And deep. Shallow does not turn me on at all.

What do you like, lookswise?

Natural beauty. Like the morning after, not having to wear makeup. Not even having to wear makeup to go out. And preferably tall, but there are very beautiful petite women.

Do you like southern girls?

They're nice.

Do you find any of the American Idol girls attractive?

Of course they're attractive. But I don't think I'm going to date them.

Are you looking for somebody who would have accepted you before you were crowned American Idol?

Yes! Yes!

How will you be able to tell?

By being very observant and using my instincts.

Have you ever been in love?

Yes. I've been in love two or three times. Maybe once I was in love with love.

Ever had your heart broken?

Of course my heart's been broken, and their hearts have been broken. But I was very sensible about each relationship I was in. It carried over into a good solid friendship afterward. I'm the guy you dated that you're still friends with. There are no grudges.

What's gone wrong?

Career had a lot to do with 80 percent of my breakups. It's very tough to date a struggling musician. The idea of it is enticing and fun and mysterious. But the reality is long hours and hard work. I have a lot of respect for the women I've dated.

How do you deal with heartache?

I write. Write a great love song. Sometimes I wonder if my own relationships have not been my own yearning for the great masterpiece.

Name a song you've written for a girlfriend.

"The Fall." It was about a bad breakup. I guess I was young and too immature to really understand the situation. I was p-----. So I wrote. [Sample lyrics: Feelings will pass and soon have to go/ the colder the heart, the harder the wind blow/ although you're trying to make your own throughway/ you turn your back on love with the games that people play]

Do you usually write when you're angry?

Sometimes. Sometimes I write when I'm happy. I'll tell you the easiest time to write: when you're lonely.

Are you often lonely?

Interestingly enough, I've led a pretty lonely life.

So the fringe benefit of being lonely is good writing?

Yeah. The muses visit when I'm lonely.

But you've never had a problem attracting women. That's always been easy for you.

Yeah, it seemed like it. You know what, though? I'm pretty humble.

Are you a romantic?

I don't know. I'm sweet.

What do you do to show your sweet side?

I'm very thoughtful. Maybe sweeping her driveway or buying a present. Not flowers; I think flowers are too cliché. If I was shopping with someone and she fell in love with a music box, I might buy that. Once I bought an Ann Taylor dress that I saw for somebody. I saw her drool over it, so I decided what the heck, I'd buy it for her.

What's the greatest length you've ever gone to for a girl you liked?

I take care of the people I'm around. When they're sick, I take care of them. Take them to the doctor. Whatever they want, I take care of it.

Have you had any dating disasters?

You know, I really haven't. If I'm going to ask someone out on a date, I always make sure that things are comfortable so dating disasters don't happen.

Any blind dates?

A couple. Luckily I was with some friends and everything was cool.

What about dating online?

I've surfed the Web and the whole dating connection. I find that pretty fascinating, but no real leads.

Are you more aggressive or passive when it comes to women?

Passive. Very much so. Passive.

What did you learn about relationships from playing in so many bars?

It's not really good to mix red wine and a very intimate conversation.

What have you seen that's worked?

The best flirting technique would be not to flirt at all and just let it happen.

Have you come close to marriage?

No.

Do you want to get married?

It's a whole lot easier to think about now. I had to deal with being somewhat of an outcast because it's not socially acceptable to be a struggling musician. There have been times where I've felt sorry for the person I was dating. I felt she deserved better.

Do you want children?

I want a little girl. I do have a name picked out.

What is it?

I won't tell.

Why a girl?

Because I have the band. I have my brother. I'm surrounded by all guys.

How did you impress women on a budget?

By using my head. I think cooking is a whole lot cheaper than going out.

Do you cook?

I do. I have this really great southern spaghetti recipe. There's one magical ingredient. I can't tell you what it is.

Come on.

No.

Please?

Okay, it's brown sugar.

When you were struggling, what would you do when you got some money?

Take myself out to eat. I love going out to eat because I'm always entertaining. I'm always entertaining people, so I get entertained by food. And hopefully, a woman soon.

If you had nothing to do on a Sunday, what would you do?

I would probably start a pot roast early in the morning. I wouldn't eat all day. I would wait. I'd check e-mails. Listen to some really great jazz. If it were nice out, I'd probably sit out on the deck. My apartment has a wonderful view of Birmingham.

Do you still have the apartment?

I just gave it up, so I'm homeless right now. I think that's really cool. I'm a free spirit in every sense of the word.

TAYLOR FILLS IN THE BLANKS

The first thing I notice about a woman is ... her eyes.

I like a woman who is ... genuine.

I get weak when a woman ... smiles.

My favorite love song is ... "I'm in Love" by Wilson Pickett. Also "Giving You the Best That I Got" by Anita Baker.

If I could warn a woman about something, it would be ... the career path. It's tough.

A southern gentleman always ... opens the door.

The perfect kiss should be ... soft.

A kiss shouldn't be ... hard, forceful. But you know what? Slobbery is not bad.

The best present I've ever gotten from a woman is ... a Ray Charles box set when I was about 18.

I'd marry a woman if I could find one who ... can be entertaining. So I don't always have to be the one to entertain.

My first crush was ... Kristie Lee from Huntsville, Ala. I was in the second grade. She was in the sixth. To a certain degree, I still like older women. I've dated more older women than younger women.

I got my first gray hair at ... 13.

The most I've ever paid for a haircut was ... $40.

My worst habit is ... driving too fast.

I wish I were a better ... lover. Who doesn't wish that?

My mother always told me ... be young, be foolish and be happy.

Nothing relaxes me like ... a massage.

When I'm feeling down, I ... sleep.

My stage persona is different than the real me in that ... I'm shy.

Women are crazy about my ... hair.

I can't wait to see ... the world.

In college I was ... broke.

I'm sorry I didn't ... get a college degree.

I need to change ... my exercise routine. I don't have one.

My favorite holiday is ... Thanksgiving.

My words to live by are ... don't ever give up on your dream, because it might come true.

WHAT IT'S LIKE TO DATE TAYLOR

Suzanne Thrash dated Hicks for 4½ years, his longest relationship. "I would take my friends to see him play," she says. "Then he asked me out—but I didn't really know it was a date. He just called and said, 'I would like to go out next week. What are you doing?'" He picked her up in his maroon 1995 Ford Explorer and they went to hear a jazz duet. "The first kiss was on the second date," says Thrash, now 30 and the development coordinator for Kid One Transport, a Birmingham nonprofit that provides transportation to doctor's appointments for seriously ill poor children (kidone.org). Thrash got to know a few of his quirks. "He likes chocolate milkshakes at 10 p.m.," she says. She also saw his dedication to his music. "I saw how much passion he had and how hard he worked," she says. Though she declined to say why they broke up, she did offer this advice to his future sweetheart: "Selflessly make room for the other woman in his life: music."