Hicks tells PEOPLE he can't wait to perform in Grease. "I'm truly honored to have a role in such an American institution," says Hicks, who made the announcement Friday on the Today show. "I'm going to Broadway shows and just watching and learning."
While in New York City, the Alabama native will also record his country-influenced second album.
"I've been spending a lot of time with songwriters in Nashville," Hicks tells PEOPLE. "I can really breathe creatively without the constraints of a post-Idol album."
He also plans to tackle some serious issues. "It's an election year so there will be some political undertones. I've become a sponge while creating each song, soaking up what's going on whether it's political or about love."
Since he was recently dropped from his record label, he's considering releasing the upcoming album himself. "It's motivation," says Hicks. "This is a marathon for me, not a sprint.
But he'll make time for some N.Y.C. fun as well. "I need to go to the Statue of Liberty for the first time," he says, adding that he knows one way he'll try to fit in with the natives.
Says Hicks: "I'll have to figure out what fan I should be, Yankees or Mets!"