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(Image: Ruben Studdard Facebook)

Ruben Studdard is in town, and you KNOW we had to meet the Velvet Teddybear

His voice is distinctive, smooth, rich. It's got a warmth that hearkens back to the golden age of R&B. And when you're in the room with Ruben Studdard, that voice, his voice, is nothing short of supersonic.

Ruben first captured America's heart some 15 years ago when he won season 2 of American Idol, a time he still looks back on with very fond memories.

"My experience with American Idol was nothing but positivity. Everybody behind the scenes gave us what I like to call a real crash course in the music industry, entertainment. Because you know I learned how to do this (interview). This is something that 15 years ago was difficult for me because I didn't really understand why people wanted to hear my story over and over again. But, now I understand that everybody wants the opportunity to connect with one another, and that's something that I learned during American Idol," said Studdard.

Even though he was still learning during his time on Idol, Ruben's talent was undeniable. On the show the legendary Gladys Knight bestowed him with a nickname, the velvet teddy bear.

"You have to understand that Ms. Knight, she got an opportunity to see some many great singers during her lifetime. From Donny Hathaway, Luther Vandross, Stevie Wonder, all these people. So for her to think enough of me to give me my own nickname and to think that I was going to be a singer that was going to have staying power, that really meant a lot to me," said Studdard.

Ms. Knight was right, for Ruben Idol was just the beginning. He's scored a Grammy nomination, sold millions of records, embarked on countless tours, and now his 7th album, Ruben Sings Luther. It's a tribute to one of his musical idols, Luther Vandross.

"Everybody has always been comparing me to Luther Vandross, even when I first got into the industry. And the fans have always been asking for it, and I think it's just the perfect time to do it."

Ruben is about to hit the road in support of the album, but his shows at Seattle's Jazz Alley are something different, something more personal.

"We try to make this room like my living room. We try to give people an up close and personal experience. What I do when I come to Jazz Alley is I sing the songs that I like, that I want to hear, because I don't normally get an opportunity to be free with myself. This gives me the opportunity to just lay back, sing songs I love, and give people an opportunity to see the real Ruben," said Studdard.

The real Ruben, is in many way the same Ruben we met on TV. The man with the big heart and the velvet voice. After all these years in the business, music remains his passion.

"I love what I do. I really enjoy the time I get to spend with the guys that play with me. The artistic and creative time we spend to put these shows together. It's fun for us. I've been blessed to have a job for 15 years that I absolutely love doing."