Chris Daughtry is the third most successful American Idol alumni, following Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson. They are all very credible and real artists with undeniably huge talent and even bigger personalities. Daughtry’s fan base in the UK seems to grow by the thousand with every month that passes, which we are delighted to see. We think that they’re a pretty special band and we love their songs.
We caught up with Chris Daughtry, as the band were about to perform at Camden’s legendary Roundhouse venue. We wanted to talk about the making of their fourth album, Baptized and to find out a little more about Daughtry’s life on the road.
Chris Daughtry comes across as a man with a huge heart, a strong family man, a deep thinker and a cool dude to boot! Here is our interview with Chris Daughtry.
Welcome to the UK and London! How are you doing today?
Thank you, I’m doing amazing and glad to be here again!
You’ve just played some shows in Germany and Sweden, how did they go?
They were great. We did three shows in Germany and one in Sweden. The crowds in Germany were really good, but there’s always a language barrier. I’m not always sure if they understand my redneck accent and there was a lot of moments where it got really quiet and I was just hearing crickets. Sweden was on fire!
Do British or European fans react differently when you’re on stage, compared to say, your American fans?
The last time we were in the UK was probably the best we’ve ever experienced, here in London. It took us a while to build the fan base here because our style of rock usually isn’t cool enough for the UK. Then we found out that they did think we were kinda cool and the fans were amazing and the loudest they’ve ever been here. We are excited about that and we don’t take them for granted.
What are your thoughts before you go on stage? Do you have any pre-show rituals?
Yeah, a Jack Daniels and coke! That’s my only thought (laughs).
What are your thoughts when you’re on the stage?
When I go on stage I kinda blackout, but that’s not because of the Jack and coke! (laughs) I actually just like to let it happen, I find if I think it’s too calculated and too canned it feels wrong. I like it to be free.
You’ve been around on the music scene for years now and have toured intensively. What is one unforgettable tour, or tour memory that you have to date?
Wow. When you have eight years of touring it’s really hard to remember that defining gig. I would have to say without a word of a lie, the last time that we were in London was definitely one of our highlights. Other than that, we did a show in Denver, Colorado over the summer and we’d never played the Red Rocks Amphitheatre before, which is such a huge and historical venue. That was awesome.
You supported the Goo Goo Dolls a few months ago, how was that experience?
That was the tour that we did the Red Rocks show with. It was a really successful tour and we were playing to between eight and ten thousand people every night, which was incredible. I think we may have scooped some of their fans up along the way, although I think we share a lot of them too. It was definitely a good tour.
Did you get to hang out and know them better as a band?
We didn’t get a change to hang out with them as much. When you’ve got a band that have been around as long and has as many records as the Goo Goo Dolls, we found that a lot of time, bands like that like to do their show, then they’re out and over it. They don’t want to hang out. Then you’ve got us and the Plain White T’s, when we all get off stage, it’s hang time and BBQ’s.
What’s the best thing about being on tour?
That hour and a half on stage. Everything else is very mundane and there’s a lot of travelling, a lot of sitting around and waiting. The best part is going out and seeing the fans and getting the reaction from them and hearing them singing our songs back to us.
You’re off the to the Far East in the next few weeks to do some gigs in Singapore and Japan. With all the travelling around, how do you kill time from country to country?
Well, we’ll be on a plane, so there will be a lot of movie watching and catching up on shows. I’m watching Gotham and The Walking Dead at the moment. That’s going to be a long flight, so I’ll probably get a lot of work done and get all my e-mails answered too. Other than that, as this tour has been so hectic, there hasn’t been any down time. The fourteen hour flight will be the most down time that I’ve had in the last three weeks.
Earlier this year, you went back on to American Idol as a mentor with Adam Lambert for Randy Jackson’s boot camp section of the show. What was it like going back to the show, this time as a mentor?
It was awesome, because that is not something that they’d done on previous seasons and it was special to the season that I was on. It was really cool because I got to see these contestants before they were able to go out and compete and give them my personal advice, although very few took it! It was a lot of fun and really cool to see this raw talent before they were in the hot seat with the judges. Adam and I didn’t work together, I was working with different contestants. I like Adam, he’s a great guy and I definitely think they were using him for some fashion advice.
One of your fans has asked if you plan to push harder to get more radio play in the UK?
Well, we try to shove our music down as many people’s throats as possible, you know? A lot of the time we’re up against the programme directors and things like that, that are kinda out of our control. We feel bad because the fans are like: we’re calling and they’re not playing it. But there’s nothing we can do. People are requesting our songs, but it’s at the mercy of the radio and what else is out there is doing really well, so we’re up against that and how it fits. That’s been our biggest struggle for the last five or six years, how do we fit on the radio compared to what else is blowing up. We can alter our sound to a point, but it still has to be us. We’re definitely not doing a dance record or hip-hop. We’re a rock band and rock is kind of a dying breed right now.
Your fourth album Baptized has so many great songs on, do you have a favourite to sing live?
I do. It’s definitely not a single and probably never will be. We play it every night, because it’s my favourite and it’s my moment, the song is Wild Heart.
Wild Heart was a song that you wrote about your wife.
Yeah, it’s one of them. She tends to be a muse in my lyrical writing, so that’s probably my favourite that I’ve ever written about her.
What was her reaction when you played the song to her for the first time?
Oh, she cried.
Was that the reaction that you were looking for?
Oh, absolutely. I wanted tears, full tears! (Laughs)
What are your thoughts on the somewhat hilarious video that Dr.Chorizo has done to Battleships, have you seen that?
One of my mangers is friends with those guys and he showed me. I was aware that it was happening and I couldn’t wait to see it because I’ve seen their other stuff and they’re hilarious. I knew that a lot of the fans would be like – what is this? But, personally I think it’s better than original version, (laughs) I love it, I think it’s hilarious and I get the joke. I tend to think that we have a very twisted sense of humour compared to our fans sometimes (laughs).
What were the creative writing sessions like with the likes of Martin Johnson, Sam Hollander and Claude Kelly for Baptized?
Those were definitely my favourite people that I worked with on this record. I wrote Baptized (the song) as one of the first songs for the record and I wrote it with Claude Kelly and a guy called Johnny Black. When the record was done, Baptized was still my favourite song on the record and Martin wanted to produce it. We’d already done a version of it with Claude and then he started to really dive in and it changed a lot of what it originally was, so he became a writer on it too. I didn’t want to like that version, because I was so married to the original version. One of the songs that I had is what we call demo-itis, when all you can hear is the demo version in your mind and if it’s not that version, then I don’t want to hear it. He definitely elevated it to what it is now, so he produced it and deservingly so got a writing credit.
I wrote a lot of the material with Martin and Sam. Long Live Rock and Roll was the first song that we wrote together and it was the first song that kind of made me realise that this was going to be a very different record. I would have never written anything like that on my own. I wasn’t exactly in to the whole folk sounding and humouresque lyrics and it kind of made me realise that this was the right mash-up. I didn’t want to do something that I’d already done and I wanted to be put on the hot seat so to speak and be slightly uncomfortable. As a writer, you tend to develop your own ways of doing things and you end up repeating things. When you work with the same people, it’s easy and you realise that it’s kind of a different version of something I’ve already done or that’s too samey. That was the song that made us think that this is going to be a very different record. Then we wrote Waiting for Superman, Battleships, 18 years and Wild Heart and Martin ended up producing half the record and it had a running thread to it.
Baptized is a lot more in the rock-pop mould, compared to your earlier albums.
Lyrically and vocally it’s a little light hearted. It’s a lot lighter than my usual self. It’s still very much us and it’s still very much a rock vocal, it’s not like I went straight in to auto-tune and in to the pop world. It was all about delivering the vocals the way I always do and it’s the common denominator between all four albums. I still think that Baptized is my favourite album.
Seeing as you’re in the UK and in reference to your song, Long Live Rock and Roll, we have to ask, The Beatles or The Rolling Stones?
Well, this is where I’m afraid of a dart going in to my neck when I answer a question like this. I have the utmost respect for The Beatles as songwriters and musicians and the mark that they have left on rock history is undeniable. From a songwriters stand point, there is no one better than The Beatles. But as a rock band, as a showman and who I think of one of the last rock bands that are still around, it’s The Rolling Stones. So, personally I’m more of a Rolling Stones fan as a rock band, not necessarily their songwriting though, if that makes sense? It sounds like I’m treading on water here and like I’m walking on eggshells (laughs). If I’m talking straight catalogue, it goes straight to The Beatles.
Any thoughts on when you’ll be starting to create your next album?
Not even thinking about that yet. We’ll be looking to take a break when this year is over. There have been so many consecutive albums and tours that we feel like there has to be some breathing space to be with our families and raise our kids a little, then get reinspired to do another record.
You recently recorded the theme to Fox’s new TV series, Utopia. What was it like working with Howard Benson again, who you worked with on the first three albums?
It was awesome you know, we did three albums together and we’ve got a huge mutual respect together. I don’t think that I’ve butt heads with anyone in a vocal booth as much as I have with Howard Benson, but it’s because we do have strong opinions and it was really cool to work with him again. It was an interesting project because they brought that to me and wanted an American artist to record it. They had an existing version of the song and I didn’t like the lyrics. I genuinely liked the hook and thought that it was catchy, but I thought that I would want to produce it completely differently and if they wanted me to do it to rewrite the lyrics. So I rewrote the lyrics which they were cool with, which I was happy about, because if I’m singing the song, I have to believe in the lyrics for myself.
Who remains on your wish-list as a band to collaborate with in the future?
Collaborations are all good, but I think it would be really cool to just crash the stage of someone really huge, just run out there and hopefully not get tackled. The Rolling Stones or U2 would be awesome.
Would you dare?
I would probably head towards crashing the stage when U2 were playing, because as least Bono knows who I am, because I’ve done a lot of work for his charity, but never met face to face. I think he’d be like – oh, that’s Chris, you can let him go, guys. Whereas Mick would be more like, who is this cat and kick me off stage.
Seeing as you’re a rock and roll band, we have to ask, what’s the most rock and roll thing you’ve ever done?
I don’t know if that’s mentionable! Flying private jets is very rare and a lot of people think that it’s the standard, but that’s not the case. Every time we have to fly via a private jet, that feels pretty balling to me and pretty rockstar.
Have you ever found yourself in a situation and thought: this is surreal?
A story does come to mind where I thought that we were not worthy of the situation. We were in the Philippines back in 2009 or 2010 and when we landed, we were surrounded by media and news cameras and they were literally throwing us in to the van, like we were Elvis or something. We were going against the traffic, really fast with these cycle cops, threatening other cars to pull over on our way to our hotel and we were scared to death, as we were going very high speed in a van, against traffic and with cars swerving. We kept thinking: who do they think we are? Then we found out that we’re not that special and they treat every American band like that (laughs).
We’re nearing the end of the year, what would you say has been the highlight of 2014 so far?
Going home and getting to see my wife and kids after being away on tour for so long. We moved in to a new place and I got to go home and unwind and be with my family, that was a definite highlight.