Clay Aiken in His Only Christmas Performance December 16 by Lynette Carrington Clay Aiken in His Only Christmas Performance at Chandler Center for the Arts, December 16Clay Aiken has sold six million albums and sold-out 11 nationwide concert tours. His introspective 2004 memoir, “Learning To Sing: Hearing The Music in Your Life” was a “New York Times” best seller, and his run on Broadway in “Monty Python's Spamalot” was a critical, fan and box office success. Chandler Center for the Arts is now bringing Aiken to the Valley for his one and only Christmas performance on December 16! Christmas with Clay Aiken also marks the first time that the artist has sung in a public performance in three years. Chandler.com landed Mr. Aiken’s first Valley interview and was excited to finally catch up with the charismatic and seasoned performer.Christmas with Clay AikenAiken’s Christmas performance at Chandler Center for the Arts is a special one, as he’ll be performing with a 22-piece orchestra. He’s been to Arizona on tour before and is looking forward to returning to the Valley. Aiken says, “I’ve toured through Phoenix, Scottsdale, Glendale… several times in the past. You know, it’s always very interesting to me being an East Coaster-er to do any type of show in Phoenix around Christmas because… You might as well be the Southern Hemisphere when it comes to the holidays in the sun. It’s very interesting. Somehow… there’s still that holiday vibe, spirit, even still. It’s nice to have a little change of pace whenever I’m doing the holiday stuff.” He adds with a laugh, “I think it’s been 105 degrees at times, so if that doesn’t burn itself into your memory. Literally!”Playing with a live orchestra is a bit different than other types of performances. “It’s a change when you do an orchestra show versus a typical band show simply because you get new musicians every single day. I will come in on that Friday with my music director, my drummer and my core group, and we’ll have to run the entire show on Friday in the afternoon because it will be the first time these musicians have played it, and the first time that I’ve done it with them. That’s always a certain challenge,” Aiken explains. “This year, specifically, I have not done a concert or sung publicly since 2013. This is the first time that I’ve done anything like this in over three years. So, it’s been a challenge in general just to try to get all my stuff together and to create a show for this one-off thing in Phoenix. Phoenix is the only city that’s getting this… This year and maybe next, who knows?” He adds with a little laugh, “So, we’ll have to see if I can still sing. There’s no telling; there’s no guarantee!” Aiken’s sweet sense of humor and willingness to poke fun at himself is adorable.In his show at Chandler Center for the Arts, Aiken will perform most of the Christmas songs from his holiday album, “Merry Christmas with Love” and his 2006 Christmas EP, “All is Well.” “I did five Christmas tours over the years, maybe more than that. It’s a lot of the songs, that if people had been to those shows, they’ve heard.” There will be some new songs, too. He continues, “We’re going to throw in a few new ones this year, assuming I have the brain capacity to learn them… which also, is no guarantee.”“Oh, Come, Oh, Come Emmanuel is a song that I put on EP in ‘06 and even though it’s a stayed Christmas hymn from the hymn book, it is a different arrangement that we do with it and it’s easily my favorite to sing every holiday. So, that one will certainly make the set list,” Aiken states.Holiday TraditionsWhen it comes to Christmas traditions, Aiken points out that growing up, his experiences were probably similar to everyone else’s, but he did have a favorite event each year. “I don’t know that we did anything horribly exciting and original,” he says. “I think if I chose a memory – There’s a city not too far from Raleigh where I live and grew up, and a whole field – 100 acres get decorated in insane amounts of lights. There are lines of cars for miles that line up to drive through this light display. We always used to do that as a family on Christmas Eve, typically.” “Usually Christmas holidays are incredibly busy. All holidays are,” Aiken states. “It ends up being so much work to get to all the different families. I guess it certainly gives you a nice warm feeling to be able to see everyone, but you’re exhausted by the end of the day on the 25th.”Aiken continues, “We still do the light thing. We still drive down to the meadow and see the light display. My son has gotten excited about doing it every year. So, we kind of keep that same tradition alive and make it part of his memory, too.”A Voice that Has Gained a Powerful VoiceAiken’s life has changed considerably since his days on “American Idol” back in 2003. A stint on Broadway, a run for Congress in North Carolina, an admirable season on “The Celebrity Apprentice” and the birth of a son have all happened since the early days of his career. However, Aiken remains as grounded and lovable as the young man we first met in the second season of the singing competition who has ultimately become an American treasure. Aiken has always been philanthropically geared. Once he was thrust into the public spotlight more than a decade ago, the singer, in his humble and charming demeanor, took the opportunity to share that attention with the causes that he supports the most. A big part of Aiken’s philanthropy is focused through his own charitable nonprofit that he founded with Diane Bubel; the National Inclusion Project. “We’re headed into our 14th year of that,” Aiken acknowledges. “We have been expanding a lot of our programs around the country to make sure that summer camps and after-school programs, etcetera, are accessible to children with disabilities. We’re starting a new initiative – an accreditation program where people who have run our programs and have been successful at including kids with disabilities are able to let their communities, families with of children with and without disabilities know that they have made a commitment to making sure that kids are included in those programs and get an accreditation.” It is a long term goal, and the organization is working closely with educators and thought leaders to make the endeavor a reality. Aiken also heavily supports the missions of GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network), Common Cause and Unicef. Tickets for Christmas with Clay Aiken are on sale now. Chandler Center for the Arts is located at 250 N. Arizona Ave., Chandler. Visit www.chandlercenter.org for additional information or call (480) 782-2680.