After over a decade on television, American Idol is officially over, but Chris Daughtry is just getting started. The 36-year-old rocker may not have won the fifth season of the popular singing competition (ultimately losing to Taylor Hicks), still Daughtry walked away with something much better than the title: a legitimate career. Although he finished in fourth place, since his Idol run ended in 2006 Daughtry ranks third in the number of albums sold by any contestant to date (behind Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson respectively).
Now, selling over 9 million albums to date, DAUGHTRY is sure to sell a slew more with the new album It's Not Over... The Hits Thus Far. Here the singer, songwriter and Grammy-nominated artist talks with Music Times' Managing Editor Danica Daniel about his career thus far, his recent role as Judas in The Passion and what he hopes to "walk" into next.
Danica Daniel: Tell me about your new album, It's Not Over... The Hits Thus Far?
Chris Daughtry: There’s a lot of songs you’ve heard before. A lot of songs that people have bought before, and a couple new ones.
Why is this album important?
It’s a celebration of what they’ve been supporting for 10 years, and we gave them a little taste of some new stuff that I think is very indicative of what the next record is heading towards. I think the greatest hits is certainly not gonna grab thousands of new fans, but it’s more of a gift to the ones that have been [around] the whole time, and we hope to keep them around for the next 10 years.
After launching in 2002, American Idol ended and you actually performed on the finale. Are you sad to see it go?
I mean I thought it was ending until Ryan Seacrest shut the lights out and said goodbye…”for now”, and I’m like what the hell is that about? Is it gonna be picked up on another network, or get syndicated so we can just watch re-runs, or it’s gonna get bought buy another network and they change the name strategically to, like, “The American Voice” or “The Voice of America” and the “X Voice” and put it back out. I don’t know how they’re going to do that but I did get the hint that it’s not over, which is the title of my greatest hits album. That’s a bad joke.
I feel like you’re at the height of your career.
No I’m done, 10 years, not much to do after that. [Laughs]
I doubt it! You just appeared in Fox's live biblical musical The Passion as Judas. Is acting the next step you hope to take in your career?
Yeah! I’ve wanted to be an actor since I was a little kid, way before I picked up a guitar. I moved to L.A. because I wanted to dive into acting, and I’d booked a pilot for FOX with Heather Graham and Eric McCormick. It was so cool, I was so pumped, but it didn’t get picked up. And I’d been flying back and forth, doing auditions here and there, trying to take the Red Eye back to Charlotte and maximize my home time, but it was killing me. We just decided to move to L.A. where I could be more hands on in that community. They came to me probably around November, and considering I wanted to be an actor, I was pumped that I got an offer. Then I read it and it was a musical and I was like “well I’ll separate the two.” I wanted to establish myself as an actor, not an actor who also does music. So I ignored the email for a month. And my agent kept prodding me, but I didn’t want to do a musical or an uber religious project that’s going to put me in this alienating position.
What made you finally take the leap of faith?
My agent said just take the meeting. SO I took the meeting with Adam Anders who did Glee and Rock of Ages, and he’s a good salesman. He’s like, “Dude it’s not what you think, it’s not like being in robes and flip flops. It’s all modern attire, literally if you saw people on the street today, anyone of them could be Jesus.” That intrigued me, and the fact that these songs weren’t the standard Christian hymns or Christian pop songs. It was all stuff we hear on a daily basis put to a completely different context. REALLY, the one thing that made me say yes: A) it was Judas. That would have been the only role I would have gravitated towards if I had sought the project. B) One of the songs that was "Losing My Religion" by R.E.M. So I said yup I’m in, I’ve wanted to cover that song for so many years. And then it didn’t get cleared, so they did “Bring Me to Life” and I said really? You’re taking me back to 2000 grunge era, and I gotta rap? So I was ready to pull the plug. I’m not a fan of that song, I like it but I can’t picture me performing that song. And he (Anders) goes, ‘Trust me, I get what you mean, but when you hear my production of it I guarantee you’ll change your mind.” And he was right. I would not have had the moment that I had in that scene, had I done “Losing My Religion." It would not have catered itself to the dramatic effect. So I was very happy with it, and very proud of what i was able to do with the few songs that I had. It’s definitely something I’m proud to have in my reel, but it doesn’t necessarily mean I’m going to be doing another musical anytime soon.
So no musicals. What kind of acting roles are you interested in pursuing?
Honestly I’ve been lobbying for The Walking Dead. I’ve been auditioning for the last season. You know the stringy blonde-haired dude with the half burnt face? That was the role that I auditioned for. We hate him, so maybe it’s a good thing I didn’t get him because I’ll have a more beloved roll. But that show is like - I watch all the superhero shows, but I can skip a day. I can DVR it and watch to next week. I cannot do that with The Walking Dead. It’s the only show I have to watch when it’s on. I can’t wait an hour. It’s me and my wife’s favorite, second favorite moment in bed. But yeah that show is consuming my life to the point where I’m spending hours developing theories on who got killed, and rewatching the finale to pick up little clues.
I love The Walking Dead. Did you cry when you watched the Season 6 finale? I was a wreck.
No but the entire lower half of my body went numb. You ever wake up from a bad dream and have these numbing chills? And you don’t know where you are, but you know your blanket is not on you and you need to get it back? That’s how I felt watching it - like I actually woke up from a nightmare. I had no idea what was going on but the way they presented it was so chilling, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan is a friend of mine. I’ve never seen him more scary in my life.
After a decade in the business, how do you stay so personable and real in an industry that can be filled with fake people?
I guess it goes back to high school, and being everybody’s friend. Never had anyone try to fight me or anything, because I get along with everyone. I’ve always been a people person. Even when I think I want a night alone, I’ll be like “who do I know here”. Because I love interacting with people. That and the fact that I’m no better than anyone else. I may have a better job than most people, but at the core I remember what it’s like to not have it, and I’ll never forget. I remember scraping my Honda Accord looking for change to put in my gas tank. So I’ll never take that part for granted. I’ve met people that have been in the same position that were just not good people. And that doesn’t come from fame that comes from who you are before fame. And I promised myself I would never be that guy.