Ruben Studdard is in good company these days.
He's on the road with Peabo Bryson; Jody Watley; and Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. They will perform during "The Colors of Christmas XXV, subtitled "An Evening of Christmas Classics and Greatest Hits," on Sunday, Dec. 17, at the Majestic Theater.
"[It's] an opportunity for me to perform with legends," Studdard says. "Music for me is a learning experience as well, so I get an opportunity to hear a lot of great stories about the music industry, how things have evolved ... so it's been a great time for me."
He joined the show, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary, for the first time "about four or five years ago." He feels as if it's "a blessing." "The Colors of Christmas" premiered in 1992 with Patti Austin, Peabo Bryson, Michael McDonald and Melissa Manchester and has included luminaries such as Christopher Cross and Dionne Warwick.
"You can imagine as a young person who grew up in the church, how amazing a feeling it was to sing a duet with CeCe Winans," he says about his first year on tour.
During the show, each singer will perform a mini-set that includes Christmas music and their own hits. And there will be duets; Studdard says he'll sing with ones with Bryson and Watley.
But he won't get to sing his favorite, "The Christmas Song," the Nat King Cole standard that he says "is probably the best holiday song ever.
"Peabo sings that song in the show," says Studdard, without a touch of envy. "He's been with the show the longest."
Studdard may get his chance soon.
"We're in the process of working on [a Christmas album] for next year, right now. ... We were literally just talking to an orchestrator last night," he says.
And then, as if to whet appetites, a plug: "I am also on a Christmas album that Patti LaBelle released this year called Patti LaBelle and Friends: Home for the Holidays."
His focus right now is Christmas, which he'll spend at home in Alabama, but he's also peeking into the new year. Studdard will put his musical education with legends to use as he prepares to honor another one.
"I'm getting prepared to do a tribute tour to Luther Vandross and an album to support that tour," he says. "With the amount of work that you have to put into just making a quality product, and making sure that people feel like the music of Mr. Vandross is being respected and shown in the right light. We're putting a lot of time and effort into making sure that the show is top-notch."
"The biggest piece of advice is something I got from Aretha Frankllin directly after I won American Idol," he says. "Her thing was never dumb yourself down or never give yourself to allow the other person that's on the stage with you to shine. She basically was saying it doesn't matter that I'm Aretha Franklin, you sing your hardest. Period. Every time you touch the stage, you give it 110 percent because you only get one chance to win fans."
Though the judges gave him advice every time he opened his mouth, American Idol did more to prepare him for many other things, being a "public figure" and even his time on NBC's The Biggest Loser. All that makes his foundation solid, as a rock.
Says Studdard: "I'm just glad to get an opportunity to continue doing a job that I love.
"The Colors of Christmas" will be held at 7:30 p.m. in downtown Dallas at the theater at 1925 Elm St. Tickets are $49-$129.