Q&A: Chris Daughtry of Daughtry
After four No. 1 hits, four Grammy nominations and album sales of more than 7 million units, Daughtry is at that point in its career where it has to delicately balance the songs it wants to play live with those the band's fans yearn to hear.
"We're trying to get in the songs that we want to play, at the same time make them interesting for the fans as well," singer/namesake Chris Daughtry told SoundSpike during a recent interview. His band kicks off a U.S. tour on March 20, though a warm-up performance is set for tonight (3/6).
"There's always that danger when you put a new album out and play the new songs. That's where we're at right now. We want to play the new songs. We want to make sure that's not when everybody is going to get a beer. [Laughs] We're trying to make a show out of it. There are a lot of cool things we're developing around the set. I think the fans are going to find it pretty awesome and compelling -- at least in our head that's the way we see it.
Daughtry and his band -- guitarists Josh Steely and Brian Craddock, drummer Robin Diaz and bassist Josh Paul -- are touring in support of their third album "Break the Spell," which includes the hit "Crawling Back to You."
Daughtry, who was on the fifth season of "American Idol," is also dedicated to using his position to raise awareness about a number of charitable causes. For the "Break The Spell 2012 Tour," the band will help combat Africa's battle against malaria by donating $1 from every ticket sold to Malaria No More, a leading humanitarian organization determined to end malaria deaths in Africa by 2015.
Joined on tour by SafetySuit and singer/songwriter Mike Sanchez, Daughtry spoke to SoundSpike about the recording process, the inspiration behind "Break the Spell" and the fight against malaria.
Must be exciting to go on this tour with SafetySuit and Mike Sanchez.
Chris Daughtry: Yeah, it's gonna be fun. We're all looking forward to it. We've been rehearsing for practically the whole month of February. We're starting to wrap up here soon. We're just, man, it's coming together really nice and we're really happy with the setlist. I think the fans are going to be really happy with it.
How did the tour come about with SafetySuit. Have you guys been friends.
Kind of friends in passing. I knew of their material. We met in an airport one time. I really like their stuff a lot. We did a show together recently in Napa Valley and we had never seen them live before. It was an acoustic set. We were all just very impressed with how tight they were and how great they sounded. We were like, "This would be perfect. Why don't we take those guys out?" So we kind of got the ball rolling and had my people talk to their people. [Laughs]
When you write material, do you consider how it's going to come across live or the ability to play it live?
Um, there's certainly times when we're writing a song [and say] "Oh man, this will go over awesome live. It'll get the crowd singing this part or whatever." Then there's times where we we're like, "Holy crap, we didn't think this one through. This is hard." It's always the singles. The singles are always the hardest ones. They're always the highest songs to sing and we're always bummed out -- or at least me as the singer -- "Why did I write that note?" But it is what it is. I think I've heard many, many singers say that before.
What did you learn from working with producer Howard Benson for a third time?
Absolutely nothing. [Laughs] We overpaid him to feed us, that's about it. You know what I love about working with Howard? We have a great relationship and a great rapport with each other. We butt heads. We don't have a problem telling each other what we think. I mean that in a great way. If I really disagree with an idea, he hears me out and sometimes I'm right and sometimes I'm wrong. It's never a situation with Howard where, "You gotta do it this way because I'm the producer that's how it's going to be done." He really respects us with artists and hears our vision and tries to take his expertise and apply that to our vision and make it work even better.
Did you record "Break the Spell" any differently than your previous releases?
Um, all the writing [and demos were] done at my house. There were times we'd take certain parts from the demo and actually put it in the track because it sounded better, and something about the energy and certain things that we couldn't duplicate. All the loops and the programming and everything was done at my house. We used that in the track as well. I think overall we got out of the studio we had been using for the first two records. I wanted everybody kind of out of their comfort zone and in a different studio. We wanted a change of scenery too. We didn't want to be stuck in the same room we'd been in for two albums. We wanted some inspiration. I think a lot of that really affected how the band played on the record. I think it affected the creativity and the recording process. I think it made for a better album all around.
What inspired "Break the Spell"?
Life. I think, musically, we just wanted something a little more upbeat and something that was a little more exciting live, kind of going back to what you were saying. We were tired of the slow parts of our set lists from the first two albums. We wanted something that kind of kicked people in the face a little bit and kind of got people moving, which is kind of where "Outta My Head" was spawned from. We wanted something like four on the floor, something kind of like old Aerosmith era. [The opening track] "Renegade" is very kind of Foo Fighters/Tom Petty. We wanted to challenge ourselves musically. We didn't want to write the same stuff we'd been writing, but at the same time there's always the issue of familiarity and making sure when people hear it they go, "OK. It's Daughtry." We don't want people confused. I know growing up I heard bands that I loved and I'd hear an album, [and say] "Ah, what were they thinking?" They went far beyond what I loved about them. There's that fine line of being experimental and being so far away from your identity that there's danger there. We were trying to tread that line pretty lightly.
Tell me about your work with Malaria No More.
We'd done some work with them before. We know that ["Idol" franchise creator] Simon Fuller was heavily involved and we were actually supposed to be a part of an event last year as a guest of his and regretfully we couldn't make it, and we wanted to help out any way we could. What better way to do it than to have a dollar from each ticket sale go to the cause? [I said] "Any chance we can do anything like that?" We love helping out when we can. A few of us have actually been over to Africa and seen the daily struggles these people go through and how common it is for people to die from malaria and the lack of clean water, even. We've seen how very little can do a lot in those areas. We were glad to help.
That must have been moving to go to Africa.
It was definitely an experience that I'll never forget.
You're debuting the new single "Outta My Head" on March 15 in "American Idol." Are you excited about returning to that stage?
I'm very, very excited to come out with a new single, a new tour and everything surrounding it. We're very excited about it.
6 - Champaign, IL - Assembly Hall
20 - Buffalo, NY - Shea's Performing Arts Center
21 - Reading, PA - Reading Eagle Theater at the Sovereign Center
24 - Toronto, Ontario - Massey Hall
25 - Cleveland, OH - Palace Theatre
27 - Atlanta, GA - Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre
28 - Little Rock, AR - Robinson Center Music Hall
30 - Nashville, TN - Ryman Auditorium
31 - Louisville, KY - Louisville Palace Theater
2 - Columbus, OH - Veterans Memorial
3 - Cincinnati, OH - Music Hall
4 - Pittsburgh, PA - Benedum Center
7 - Greensboro, NC - Greensboro Coliseum
9 - Charlotte, NC - Ovens Auditorium
11 - Clearwater, FL - Ruth Eckerd Hall
12 - Orlando, FL - Hard Rock Café/Hard Rock Live
14 - Boca Raton, FL - Mizner Park Amphitheater
15 - Jacksonville, FL - Moran Theatre at the Times Union Center
17 - Columbia, SC - Township Auditorium
18 - Richmond, VA - Landmark Theater
20 - West Long Branch, NJ - The MAC at Monmouth University
21 - Syracuse, NY - Landmark Theater
23 - Lowell, MA - Lowell Memorial
24 - Newark, NJ - NJ PAC
27 - Mashantucket, CT - Foxwoods
28 - Albany, NY - Palace Theater
1 - New York City, NY - Hammerstein Ballroom
10 - Indianapolis, IN - Egyptian Room
11 - Waukegan, IL - Genesee Theatre
13 - Minneapolis, MN - The Brick
15 - Omaha, NE - Orpheum Theater
16 - St. Louis, MO - Peabody Opera House
18 - Kansas City, MO - The Midland by AMC
19 - Tulsa, OK - Brady Theater
21 - Phoenix, AZ - Comerica Theatre
22 - San Diego, CA - San Diego Civic Theatre
24 - Las Vegas, NV - The Joint at Hard Rock Hotel/Casino
30 - Los Angeles, CA - Nokia Theatre L.A. Live
31 - San Francisco, CA - Warfield Theatre
2 - Portland, OR - Keller Auditorium
3 - Seattle, WA - Paramount Theatre
5 - Salt Lake City, UT - Abravanel Hall
7 - Denver, CO - Temple Hoyne Buell Theatre
11 - Grand Prairie, TX - Verizon Theatre at Grand Prairie
13 - Austin, TX - Bass Concert Hall