• Image about Elliott Yamin

He’s being modest. In reality, Yamin showed plenty on Idol. Crooning Donny Hathaway’s “A Song for You” and Stevie Wonder’s “If You Really Love Me,” he came across as the soul-singing good guy, a characterization he admits earned him an enthusiastic voting bloc “full of moms.” Still, Yamin insists that his time on TV’s most-watched program -- which he calls “boot-camp training for the music business” -- was only a prelude to the main event. “I learned so much on the show and just soaked it all up,” he says. “My goal was to put out my own records and sing my own original songs. That’s what I do well -- make good, honest music.”

Fight for Love, the follow-up to Yamin’s gold-certified self-titled 2007 debut, lives up to that billing with its set of expertly sung R&B jams he wrote and recorded with a crew of industry heavyweights, including Jermaine Dupri, Stargate, and Harvey Mason Jr. Yamin says he enlisted those A-list producers -- a working experience he calls “kind of surreal” -- in an effort to make the new album a “little more on the contemporary side” than his first. One of Yamin’s pre- Idol jobs was as the overnight DJ on an urban-pop radio station in his hometown of Richmond, Virginia, and he says that with the new record, he’s aiming to score some airplay on similar stations.

“I remember having a conversation with Elliott about how he wanted to sort of narrow down his sound on this one,” says Yamin’s friend and keyboard player, Calvin “Joonie” Gary Jr. “The last one was a great record, but it was kind of all over the place. This time, he wanted to stick a little bit more strictly to R&B and soul and do less of the rock and pop stuff.”

That said, Yamin is quick to point out that if Idol taught him anything, it’s the value of a demographically varied audience, something that’s at the forefront of his mind as he prepares to spend the rest of 2009 on the road, promoting Fight for Love. “I’m an equal-opportunity singer,” he says. “I want to appeal to everybody. Whoever has ears to listen to what I’m singing is all right with me. The thing that still trips me out is that people pay hard-earned money to come see me play, and that inspires me to connect with the audience. Music is a great equalizer, you know? People can leave their troubles at the door and just come enjoy some music.”