Upon his departure as a final four finalist on season five of "American Idol" in 2006, North Carolina singer/songwriter Chris Daughtry emerged as one of the year's most successful new rock vocalists. His band's debut album, 2006's Daughtry, was produced by GRAMMY nominee Howard Benson and peaked at No.1 on the Billboard 200 and marked the fastest-selling rock debut in Nielsen SoundScan history. The album garnered three GRAMMY nominations at the 50th GRAMMY Awards in 2007, including Best Rock Album, Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals for "Home" and Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal for "It's Not Over," the latter of which also garnered Daughtry the man a nomination for Best Rock Song.
Daughtry followed with 2009's No. 1 album Leave This Town and 2011's Break The Spell, which peaked at No. 8. On Nov. 19 Daughtry will release his fourth studio album, Baptized, featuring 12 songs co-written by the former "Idol" finalist, including the latest single "Waiting For Superman." The album was recorded with Daughtry's band, currently comprising guitarists Brian Craddock and Josh Steely, drummer Robin Diaz, multi-instrumentalist Elvio Fernandes, and bassist Josh Paul.
Daughtry participated in an exclusive GRAMMY.com interview and discussed how his musical style has evolved, being inspired by GRAMMY winners Bon Jovi and his dream GRAMMY performance collaborators.
How indicative is "Waiting For Superman" of the rest of the album?
It is a good representation of the record, but I don't think it really encompasses what the whole record is. There's a lot of country flavor on this record as well, a lot of dobro, a lot of slide guitar and there's some banjo here and there. "Long Live Rock & Roll" is probably a better overall indicator of the record; that and maybe "Baptized," which is the opening track.
When did you decide "Baptized" was going to be the title track?
Probably over the summer when I knew most of the record had been written at that point and it was [still] at the top of the list for me. It was a great representation of where we are as a band and this whole new beginning, it felt like a rebirth, so to speak. It felt like the appropriate title.
What led you to try something new on this album?
You have to keep it fresh and change it up. I'm loving a lot of stuff on radio right now, a lot of pop stuff. So I just thought it would be cool to incorporate some of those sounds in what we already do and try to have a nice hybrid. Every artist gets to that point where you have to keep it fresh and challenge yourself to step outside. It's not like we're gonna do a dance record or anything like that. [But] you have to continue to challenge yourself as an artist and keep it fresh, otherwise you're just regurgitating or recycling things you've already done.
What's interesting about switching things up stylistically is it allows you to think about marrying the new material with old hits onstage.
We've been talking about how to take those older songs and subtly blend things that we hadn't done before and make them fresh for us again and, sonically, a little more cohesive with the new stuff. It's been sounding really good, and I don't even know if anyone's noticed to be honest [laughs].
What are some of the older songs you've enjoyed mixing up?
"Feels Like Tonight" [and] "It's Not Over" [from Daughtry]. We've been incorporating some [keyboard]/synth stuff just to give it some extra movement. We've had Elvio for a little bit now, so we're able to utilize him a lot more in these kind of situations [for] programming synths and different sounds. And it's been really fun to do that and make those older songs feel fresh again.
In terms of live performances, are there any artists you admire and can draw lessons from as you build your catalog?
Oh, absolutely. Bon Jovi — it's like 25 years or more and they're [still] selling out stadiums and arenas in the States. [They're] a huge influence on us and we would love to be able to have that longevity and sustain in the industry. And hopefully we'll have that chance.
Are there artists who inspire you artistically in the way they've evolved their career?
[When] Bon Jovi … did that Lost Highway record, which was essentially a country album, I'm sure there were plenty of rock fans going, "Oh, what's going on here?" But that record [was] huge for them and it certainly kept them, if not put them back on, the map. … I felt super inspired to write different stuff over these sounds I was hearing working with different people and I just thought that it was much needed in our career so far.
When you hear Baptized all the way through what do you take from it and what do you hope others take from it?
What I take from it is that it's very much a personal record, there are so many things that made it on this record that are so real and personal to me, and I hope that the fans can find their own meaning within the songs and feel connected to all of it and feel how honest it is lyrically. And hopefully they can connect to it and relate.
Were there things that emerged in the writing of the record that surprised you a bit?
There are things that made it on the record that I had forgotten about. And based on themes where we were headed it kind of triggered memories from when I was a kid that certainly made for very nostalgic moments on the record. "18 Years" is definitely [an example]; it's the end of the record, and it's a perfect end.
What's been your favorite GRAMMY moment as an attendee?
Last year [at the 55th GRAMMYs] was incredible, when Bruno [Mars] had Sting come out. That was insane [and] probably my favorite performance of the night.
Who would your dream GRAMMY collaborator be?
I would love to do "Long Live Rock & Roll" … [with] Sammy Hagar, Bono, Tom Petty, [and] Keith Richards.
(Steve Baltin has written about music for Rolling Stone, Los Angeles Times, MOJO, Chicago Tribune, AOL, LA Weekly, Philadelphia Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, and dozens more publications.)
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