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Interview: Daughtry

12 min read

With sales of over 20 million, multiple Grammy Award nominations and countless American Music Awards and Billboard Music Awards to keep shining on their home mantles, Daughtry are riding a wave of success these days and with the recent release of their fourth studio album, Baptized, the band are becoming increasingly popular outside of their U.S stomping ground.

The band came together following lead singer Chris Daughtry’s success on reality television competition, American Idol back in 2006. Though the rock singer did not win the season, he has since become one of the most prominent success stories of the long-running show.

Having achieved worldwide success with the bands first 3 studio albums, the band are now on the road touring and promoting Baptized. The record comes full of the distinct Daughtry sound but this time they have thrown a little more pop into the mix and as Chris told us recently when we spoke with him, the recording of Baptized was all about pushing the envelope. Here is what else Chris had to tell us when we spoke with him on the phone recently as the band were preparing for their European tour…

Brendon Veevers: At the end of last year you released Baptized which is your fourth studio album. Firstly, where would you say you drew your inspiration from when you sat down to write and record this new record?

Chris Daughtry: I didn’t really know going into it what kind of record it was going to be. I just knew that I wanted it to be different.

I didn’t want to repeat anything that I had done before and to do that I knew that I was going to have to work with some people – you kind of get into a rut by working with the same people. You develop a system and you kind of fall into old habits and as a writer I didn’t want to do that and so I wanted to incorporate people that were up to the challenge and step outside of that.

Daughtry - BaptizedBV: You worked with a few fellow musicians and songwriters on Baptized like Martin Johnson from Boys Like Girls. What’s the outcome that you hope for when working with outside writers as opposed to keeping the songwriting duties within the band?

CD: I think I just went in with an open mind. That song, Long Live Rock n Roll was the first song that I had written with Sam and Martin. I had never worked with those guys before so I didn’t know what to expect or what kind of song we were gonna come up with or if the chemistry was even gonna work out. It was the first time that I had ever really been challenged to go a little more humorous with the lyrics where it wasn’t so serious.

You know, everybody kind of has this perception that “oh, he’s always got this hard-ass face” or “he’s stone cold and so angry” (laughs) and I’m thinking “that’s not really who I am” I mean, it is but it’s not all of who I am so I thought the band would go into songs that say “it’s okay to be not so serious and not take it so seriously”.

BV: The style of Baptized is a little more poppy than previous Daughtry records. Was this a conscious decision or did the record take on this form naturally during the recording process?

CD: Yeah, I mean there were a lot of elements on the radio that I was digging on and I wanted to see if there was a way that I could incorporate that into what we already do. We have always been a pop/rock band when it comes to the radio play so it’s really, melodically, not that different to stuff we have done before.

I’m still singing the way that I sing and the music is still focused on the melody and the lyrics and there is no difference in that. Melodically though, we definitely wanted to push the envelope a little bit more on this album.

BV: Did you go into the recording of this new album with a vision of how the end result would sound or is the Daughtry recording process a lot more improvised that that?

CD: I’ve kind of done that so much in the past. I mean, everything we have done up to this point was always premeditated. We would write the record and then we would demo it out and we would go in and record it and we would kind of knew exactly what we were gonna do once we got into the studio because the record was essentially written. With this particular album (Baptized) it was a kind of a record-as-you-go situation and the best songs win and essentially, those were kind of demos because we would go in and I would write the song with whoever I was writing with and whatever producer I was working with at the time and then I would go into the vocal booth and those were the keepers. Those were the takes that you hear on the record. Actually, for one of the songs, I actually did the vocals in a hotel room one night at about 3 in the morning and that was the vocal that went onto the record.

I didn’t really think it through in terms of saying “this is the record I want to make”. I didn’t really know what I wanted it to be until it was essentially done. We were planning on putting the record out this year but when I turned in the songs, the record label were freaking out and wanted to get the record out immediately and I wanted it to arrive on that energy.

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BV: Many of the new songs on Baptized sound quite personal, lyrically. Are the tracks on the album drawn from personal experiences or are they written from more of an observational view?

CD: It’s a little bit of both actually. Every song I’ve ever written has always come from either personal experiences or experiences of people in my life, but yeah, there are definitely a lot of observations in my writing as well.

Generally speaking, it always comes from something that I know about or something that’s been very close to me and the trick is finding out a way to tell a very personal story in a very general way and make it so, okay, I know what it means to me but it could mean 5 different things to 5 different people which is totally cool – I actually prefer that.

BV: Daughtry stemmed from American Idol in 2006 and your life changed dramatically from that point. It’s been a few years since your time on the show but looking back, do you think you were prepared for just how different life was going to be from that point?

CD: I’ve always felt like it was something I was built to do. I was prepared for the workload so I wasn’t entirely surprised by that aspect of it.

When I was on that show I instantly started writing my first record. I wasn’t gonna wait for anything to fall into my lap. Thankfully for me I had 6 record labels knocking at my door so I went straight into meetings and started writing my record and just went for it and from that tour, right after that, I didn’t take a day off so I was always prepared for the workload.

My work ethic has always been pretty non-stop, especially when it comes to something that I love doing and it makes it all just that much easier. I think I was mentally prepared for what I was in for. I just didn’t know that it would take the route that it did. You just don’t know when you are in that sort of situation how successful or how unsuccessful something is going to be so you can only assume at that point but I’m certainly happy with the way it did turn out.

BV: I think we know the answer to this but we will ask anyway. Has the experience so far lived up to your pre-American Idol expectations?

CD: You know, I never took into consideration that I would actually get to do this outside of the United States. Going into it, that thought never crossed my mind. That has been something that has just been a huge bonus. It’s like “we get to play this in other countries that we have never even visited before” so it’s been pretty amazing and the gift is seeing these kinds of reactions outside of our home country and it is just a huge, huge surprise to us.

BV: You recently returned as a mentor on the show. What was it like to be a mentor on the show as opposed to being a contestant?

CD: It was really fun. Unfortunately due to time restraints they didn’t really get a chance to show a lot of it but I had a blast on the show. It was neat sharing my experiences from when I was on the show and where I am at now. I feel like I have some knowledge to pass on and they seem very receptive to it. Not all of them took my advice but it was definitely cool to be on that side of the table.


BV: What advice would you give to someone wanting to get into music and form a rock band themselves? Any words of wisdom or words of caution you would like to pass down?

CD: I would tell them not to try to be a second rate version of somebody else. Be a first rate version of you. Be the next you – don’t try to be the next somebody who has already been out there and done it.

Sometimes I think some people go on that show (American Idol) and they try to emulate what they’ve seen or what they think people are wanting from them and they don’t really know who they are. That’s the downfall for them because when they don’t know who they are then the audience doesn’t know who they are rooting for and they don’t know if they like them or if they don’t.

If they see that you are well versed and who you are and what kind of artist you want to be, people will either like you or they won’t but they’ll know why, you know what I mean.

BV: Juggling a huge career with all the travelling and recording duties that come with it along with a family life must be pretty hard but you seem to be managing fairly well. How do you balance the two?

CD: It’s a day by day challenge. It’s something that we both have to work on – not just myself but my wife too.

You know, it’s also really tough when you are in different time zones because you might have a time when it’s good for you to call and to talk to everybody but it’s not exactly an optimal time in the house for them to talk to you. And then there are times when she can get on the phone but I’m on stage. It’s just a weird balance.

The good news is that we have Facetime now and the little guys, they’ve been born into it so they’re used to seeing me on the phone. It works because we make it work and it comes from determination on both parts.

BV: Now that you are on album number 4 you seem to have a pretty good grasp on what works and what doesn’t when it comes to writing new music. Does it get easier as time goes by or does each new record bring an entirely different round of challenges?

CD: I think it’s a whole new round of challenges. You know, for me, I never want to settle. I never feel that I can relax and enjoy the glories, so to speak. At this point I feel the record (Baptized) is so strong and I did everything I possibly could and if I had to sit down and write a song right now, I wouldn’t even know where to start. I think it takes some time to step away from it and get inspired again and figure out what you want to say.

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BV: Would you say that songwriting comes naturally for you or do you have to be in a certain ‘zone’ to write new songs?

CD: For the first few records, we would write all the time on the road. I think for the first record we ended up writing like 70 songs or something – something stupid like that. Of course half of them sucked and you didn’t hear half of them for a reason but I think we kind of burned ourselves out by doing that.

What was great about this new album is that I didn’t go into the studio on any given day with an idea. I wanted to go in and just completely start from scratch on everything because I didn’t want to predetermine anything.

BV: What do you think are the fundamental clonks that make the Daughtry machine so powerful and that keep the band together after this long?

CD: I don’t really know how to say any of it without sounding like a pompous ass (laughs) but we’re honest, we want to create music that people relate to. We’re a band that people can bring their kids to and not feel like they gotta put ear muffs on them. That’s a statement we’ve heard from a lot of fans. I don’t know really. Whatever it is….actually maybe I don’t want to know what it is (laughs). Then I might overdo it you know.

I think the fans are just loyal and they love us for whatever reason and thank god for it.

BV: You will be starting a tour of Europe in a few days with stops at all of the major cities including London. What can your European fans expect from your upcoming shows?

CD: You know, we got 4 albums to pull from now so it was a little tricky trying to figure out what we wanted to play. We don’t want to not give the audience enough of the new record but we also don’t want it to be that we don’t get to play any of the songs that the audience expects us to play and that they have heard so much on the radio. It’s been kind of fun and a little bit stressful at the same time trying to figure out what we’re gonna give them but I think we’ve got it dialed in pretty strong and we can’t wait to play it all for them.

BV: Are there any venues on the schedule that you are particularly keen to play?

CD: All of them (laughs). You know, we’ve never played Ireland so that’s something that we’re really looking forward to and the UK have just been begging us to do a proper tour instead of just doing a show and then moving on to the next place so we’re excited about that and getting to do way more shows in the UK. Yeah, there are a lot of places that we haven’t gotten to play as a headliner so we’re really excited about all of it.

Daughtry’s new album Baptized is out now

2 thoughts on “Interview: Daughtry

  1. Really enjoyed reading interview Chris Daughtry is my 3rd cousin. Chris’s great grandmother was my dad’s sister. Chris was born in my hometown Roanoke Rapids, N.C. Did not know anything about Chris until he was on American Idol. Know his grandmother. Have seen Chris in Concert in 2012 in Norfolk, Virginia and 2013 at Ocean Front in Virginia Beach, Va will be on vacation in Nags Head, N.C. July 6th when he is in concert at Va. Beach this year. Have shared this interview with family on FB.
    Again thanks for a great interview.

  2. As a loyal Daughtry fan, I always love reading about the inspiration Chris and the guys draw from. I have followed Chris since American Idol and have never been disappointed in the music, performances, or just meeting the guys. They are all awesome and they really appreciate the fans!!!! If you get a chance to go to a concert, GO!!! You’ll LOVE it!!!

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