Interviewed by Mark Dean (Journalist/Writer/Contributor) Myglobalmind Webzine
When the time arrived to make his fourth full-length studio album, Baptized, Chris Daughtry followed his instincts.
Motivated by intensely creative writing sessions with the likes of Martin Johnson [Boys Like Girls], Sam Hollander [Gym Class Heroes, Coheed and Cambria], and Claude Kelly [Bruno Mars, Whitney Houston], the singer, songwriter and musician quickly discovered the direction of his latest body of work.
“I needed a change,” he admits. “I started hearing these new sounds over my voice, and it was so inspiring. There wasn’t just one style either. It was a completely different vibe all around. I really wanted to pursue that to the fullest. This is probably one of the most inspiring records I’ve ever done.”
In early 2013, Chris began working on what would eventually become Baptized. Early on, he made a conscious decision to approach the album from a different angle. It would’ve been too easy for him to simply repeat himself considering he and the band have been on quite a hot streak since their 2006 self-titled became the fastest-selling rock début in Soundscan history. 2009’s Leave This Town gave them their second consecutive No. 1 on the Billboard Top 200, while Break The Spell reached gold status in merely four weeks of release in 2011. Throughout, they achieved four No. 1 smashes at radio as well as four Grammy Award nominations and four American Music Awards wins. Meanwhile, sales exceeded 7.5 million albums and 17 million singles. Nevertheless, as an artist/band, they chose to evolve for both themselves and their fans.
At the end of the day, Baptized certainly signals a rebirth for Chris and the band. “I want fans to keep an open mind about it,” he concludes. “The songs are very much what I do lyrically and melodically. I’ve always been a sucker for a great melody. That’s what song writing is all about. Can people relate to this? Is it real? Is it honest? That’s what everyone should take away. It’s real and authentic. This is where I am right now.” [https://www.facebook.com/daughtry/info]
Chris and the band recently played their début Belfast gig on the current UK Tour. I was fortunate to catch up with him at their hotel on the afternoon of their show.
First time for the band in Belfast, what are your initial impressions of the city?
Chris: ”I was just telling my tour manager that I could live here if it wasn’t for the cold weather all the time. I love it here; it’s beautiful. I wish I had more time to go round and check it out. I did some walking yesterday.”
Looking back at how your career has progressed since American Idol are you actually glad that you did not go further in the competition? Perhaps then you would not have achieved what you have done.
Chris: ”Yeah, I am actually just happy the way everything turned out. I don’t see how things could have been better had it been any different, you know.”
I’m not sure how those shows work in the US, but in the UK you become like a brand. A record company takes over, and essentially sucks the creativity out of the artist.
Chris: ”Well, you get picked up by a record label, then after that has nothing to do with the show. You are essentially on your own after the show anyway and it’s up to you.
That’s different in the UK, because the company that own the show also own the record label that the artists are signed to. Then it becomes a brand.
Chris: ”Yes, I guess it’s a little imprint label that goes along with RCA or something like that. I think that you just have to make it for yourself. I think a lot of times people get on the show and they think that everything is paved in gold after that. There is still such a thing as hard work, you know.”
What happened specifically regarding the band Fuel? Obviously you were a fan of the band as you covered one of their song versions on the show. Were you actually invited to join the band, and if so why didn’t you accept that offer?
Chris: ”I mean, yeah they asked me but I had no interest in joining them.”
Career-wise then was it a choice that you felt would not benefit you to take?
Chris: ”It wouldn’t have benefited me in any way. I would have been singing somebody else’s songs.”
OK. Daughtrys sound has changed significantly particularly with the latest album”Baptized”. What prompted that, was there a particular reason for it? Or just natural evolution of yourself as an artist?
Chris: ”I think a little bit of everything. I think the natural evolution along with the fact that you feel that you have done something consistently for three albums. I felt it was time to evolve a little bit, change it up. I didn’t want to repeat anything that we had done before.”
Do you feel that the recent album follows a more radio-friendly sound? Or do you refute that?
Chris: ”No, no, certainly it’s certainly got a lot more pop elements to it. We have always been a quote/unquote “radio-friendly”rock band. Yeah, we wanted to experiment with different sounds and elements.”
It is actually an album that tends to grow on you. Being familiar with the bands previous albums I initially was “Wow! This is a completely different sound.” Its been on repeat the last few days, and now I find myself singing along to those songs. I’m growing into the album.
Chris: ”Thank you. That is exactly what I wanted to happen. I wanted people to be like, ”wow,” because it wasn’t like anything that we had done before. I feel like if it is too easy to grasp onto sometimes, then it’s because you have heard it before and it’s familiar. I didn’t want that.”
In “Long Live Rock & Roll” you name check a variety of artists. Where those actual musical influences, or did you just think that it would be a fun theme to explore?
Chris: ”It’s a little bit of both. Some of them are definitely influences”
There’s a lot of eighties rock…
Chris: ”Yes, but nevertheless, they made a huge impact on rock & roll and it is a way of infusing these historical landmarks so to speak in rock history. Also my own life as well and kind of blend the two.”
They are not all necessarily personal musical heroes then?
Chris: ”Some of them are. Some of them are just obvious legends in rock & roll that you can’t deny have an impact whether you are a fan of their music or not.”
Leading on, from the past influences to current: What sounds are you currently checking out, any new artists maybe that have made an impression on you? Do you have an iPod? If so what would I find there?
Chris: ”Aww man, you would find literally everything. I have been literally all over the place recently. I have been listening to some Kanye. (laughs) We have been listening to ”Superknown”, Soundgarden quite a bit in the dressing room. A lot of times after shows we don’t want to hear anything. Before the show we are just scrolling through others iPods to try to get us hyped up. Any other night we have just no clue what we are going to hear.”
Outside of music and family, do you have any other interests or hobbies? Maybe something else creative/artistic?
Chris: ”Yes actually, I originally wanted to be a comic book artist as a kid and so I am still very much into comics. I am not drawing them but I am still reading them.”
Will you then be designing the bands future album covers?
Chris: ”I don’t know, maybe….I love going to movies, I love catching up on TV shows on the days off. Walking Dead… that is definitely my favourite.”
Chris: ”I have done with that one, I have finished all that. That was definitely my favourite TV series ever.”
There have been dramatic changes in the music industry, particularly in recent years. If you had the chance to change something about it what would that be?
Chris: ”Yeah I would say that it would be mandatory to buy the album and not just the single. (laughing) But you know that’s just the perfect world. There are just so many potholes in that theory. I grew up where if you were a fan of the band or the artist you bought the album. You didn’t love it all the way through first time. After a while it became all one piece of work. I am still sort of a subscriber to that.”
Which song do you love to perform the most? Or does it perhaps vary? Night to night?
Chris: ”Long Live Rock &Roll” has been probably the most fun song of the night for sure. The fans…. it just feels like a very unified experience. They are all singing the ”woo oh oh’s“ and clapping.”
What about the slower songs, anything that is particularly poignant?
Chris: ”Yeah, ”Broken Arrows.” That is always a particularly heartfelt experience every time.”
If you could front your ideal dream band who else would be in that line-up?
Chris: ”With me being in the band? Well, I am always a singer kind of guy so I would want a band of singers like Robert Plant. Chris Cornell, David Coverdale, Steven Tyler. I will do background vocals.”
You seem to attract a wide following and heavy interest from ladies. Have you any particular strange stalker fan-type stories?
Chris: ”You know, everybody is pretty respectful. Early on when the first record came out, we would have people all but try to get in the bays of our bus to head to the next city. That is something that I never witnessed, I just heard from our crew members. We kind of keep our distance. There has been the occasional fan showing up at hotels and knocking from door-door trying to find us. We look through the peep-hole if they don’t look familiar then we don’t answer. (laughing)
So you have maintained a healthy relationship with your fans?
Chris: ”Yes, we always go out and sign. I am always willing to go outside and take pictures and sign. I think that is a kind gesture on both parts. They are outside waiting. I would be a complete asshole if I just went right by them and just waved.”
Since you first started, what has been the biggest challenge for you?
Chris: ”Ah, since I started? The biggest challenge is always trying still to be connected with your family at home Trying to find time, especially when you are overseas and time zones are completely different. Getting to talk to your kids when your schedule is crazy and you have down time. Theirs might be crazy… The “Face Time” is certainly a huge plus.”
How hard do you push yourself? Obviously the band carries your name, which brings an added pressure. Are you always motivated, focused and driven?
Chris: ”Always, to a fault. Sometimes I don’t know when to stop.”
When are you completely satisfied with your work?
Chris: ”Never. I am very happy with what’s out and when it comes time to perform it I want to do it better than the record, you know. When it comes time to do another record I want it to be better than the last.”
Are you therefore creating and writing new material while on the road?
Chris: ”I have definitely taken a break from writing since this record came out. I wanted to give it some time…”
Why have you succeeded in a field where so many others have failed?
Chris: ”I really couldn’t tell you, because there is a lot of artists out there that are far better than me that will never see the light of day. Fans relate to us. The lyrics are real and honest. I think the fans get that. I would like to think that I am a pretty decent singer. (laughs) Hopefully with all those ingredients that certainly in theory should be the key to a successful path. That doesn’t always work for people.”
Returning to what we discussed earlier regarding the change in the bands musical direction. How does that transfer to the current live shows? Do you now play the older songs in a different way?
Chris: ”I think that we keep them pretty true to the source material. Those songs are those songs and it would seem kind of weird to change them and de-familiarise them to the crowd. I like the fact that they get to hear all those albums or those songs from those albums the way they fell in love with them to begin with. Sometimes I will do an acoustic version of a song and I think that is cool. To completely change the production live, we haven’t really messed with that.”
Any particular highs and lows of your career to date?
Chris: ”We are on a high right now. We have been selling out in the UK, which is a first time for us and we are extremely happy with that.”
The change in musical direction on the new album seems to have elevated the band to a different level?
Chris: ”Overseas it definitely has. It is doing well in the States but notoriously we do better in the States than we do overseas. We are very happy that we are making some noise”
Any particular lows?
Chris: ”Just being homesick. Being out on the road for so long. Other than that we have nothing to complain about. We are very happy to be doing this and actually being able to make a living at it.”
You said earlier that the band always make time to meet your fans. Just wondered if you had any particular personal fan stories regarding your music?
Chris: ”Oh yeah, we have at “least” one or two fans a night that will be in tears talking about how are songs have saved them from ”the depths of hell” so to speak and brought them out of really dark times. Or they have gotten lyrics tattooed on them. That is like a huge honour as a song writer to have words that you wrote permanently engraved on someone skin. Yeah, that is all really cool stuff to hear about.”
Plans then for the rest of the year?
Chris: ”Yeah we are wrapping up the Europe and UK tour in about a week. Then we are headed back to the States and taking a little bit of a break with the families. Make sure that they still like us. Then we go back out and do a big summer tour in the US with the Goo Goo Dolls. We have 3 more dates in the UK to do. Headed to Dublin tomorrow, I have never been. We have a full day off and we are going to check it out.”
Chris, it’s been a pleasure, I’m looking forward to the show tonight. Thank you.
Chris: “Cheers, it’s been nice talking to you also.”