NEW YORK – Clay Aiken is realistic about his niche in the musical landscape.
"I'm not cool, you know what I mean? I'm not gonna lie," the good-humored singer told The Associated Press in a recent interview. "I'm not trying to be Justin Timberlake. Thank God we have him, but I'm not him. ... I'm not gonna bring anybody's sexy back."
Aiken embraces his pop-lite sensibility in "On My Way Here," his first album of all-new material in more than four years.
The 29-year-old "American Idol" alum — he placed second to Ruben Studdard in the Fox show's second season — was the first non-winner to release a successful album, "Measure of a Man," which went double platinum in 2003. He followed that up with two cover albums: "Merry Christmas With Love" and "A Thousand Different Ways."
The North Carolina native has racked up more life experience since his "Idol" days, and felt a deep, personal connection to the songs on the disc.
"When I (did) the first album, I ain't been through nothin', you know? ... But now I've gone through some crap, and I've gone through some good things, and I've started thinking, `Oh, wow, I know what that song's saying, I've done that, I've experienced that, that's happened to me,"' he mused in his Southern drawl.
The ballad "The Real Me," about living in the spotlight, hits close to home: "It's amazing how I meet people all the time who think they know me. ... I just did an interview a minute ago with someone (who) said, `You used to be a nanny right? That's so great.' And I was like, nooo!"'
"So many people think I'm just a sweet, happy person all the time," he added, laughing.
Aiken made his Broadway debut as Sir Robin in "Monty Python's Spamalot" in January, and recorded "On My Way Here" in his spare time. Aiken ends his run in the Tony Award-winning musical on May 4.
"Truth is, I did not expect to enjoy it as much as I have," he said. "I really have had a great time, and I've loved the people I've worked with."
Will he return to The Great White Way?
"You know, (if) the right thing came along, absolutely, I'd love to do that again," he said. "But you know what? If the right `anything' came along, I'd be happy to try it."