Yesterday, I spoke with Chris Daughtry for the first time in nearly three years. Like Taylor Hicks, he's part of the most popular "Idol" season ever and like Hicks, he has managed to thrive in his post "Idol" career.
Daughtry's path, though, is more traditional: four albums, gargantuan amounts of touring and more than a dozen hit songs. This Friday, he co-headlines with the Goo Goo Dolls at Chastain, his first visit to that venue.
"At one point, I feel like I had a residency at the Gwinnett Arena," he said in a phone interview Tuesday from Raleigh, N.C., not far from his home. He performed at Gwinnett twice in a matter of a few months in late 2011 and early 2012, headlining a Star 94 Jingle Jam, then his own tour.
He enjoys outdoor venues like Chastain - as long as the sun isn't on him during the summer heat. (With Chastain, he won't have that problem.) "On this tour, we were in St. Louis and the heat was the absolute worst I've ever performed in. It was the humidity. The sun was aimed at me for an entire hour. I was wondering, 'Is it ever going to move?' "
Daughtry came in fourth on "Idol" performing all cover songs. To prove how far he's come, this will be the first tour where he's doing entire sets with his own songs, no covers for his 80-minute set. Even better, he has not heard fans complain at all. "I used to play 'In the Air Tonight' so much, some people probably thought it was our song," he said.
His latest album "Baptize" features the single "Battleships," which is currently No. 31 on the Hot AC chart. "Just trying to get as many ear holes as possible," he said.
"I'm pretty happy where we are," he added, after eight years in the spotlight. "We're still out there. Fans are still buying our albums. Radio is still playing us, thank God. It's been a good ride. Hopefully, it'll continue to be there."
His band has stayed consistent since 2006. He still has three original members, including both guitar players and the bass player. (He is on his third drummer. Neither of the previous two spontaneously combusted.)
"There are inside jokes all the time," Daughtry said. "We're so comfortable with each other. We've spent more time with each other at times than our family. We get along great. But after six weeks on the road, we sometimes need time by ourselves. 'Hey, I'm going to stay in my room. I don't want to be seen!' "
Daughtry was already a great performer when he was on "Idol" but after thousands of shows on the road, he said he feels he's better than ever. Plus, he has learned how to use his voice so he doesn't wear it down.
Early on, "I'd go balls to the wall out of the gate and have nothing left the next day. I was overdoing it. It came down to technique. I figured out how to keep my voice strong from beginning to end," he said.
And while his band is technically co-headlining, the Goo Goo Dolls finish the show out. "They've got a little bit of seniority going on," he said. "They're definitely road dogs."
He and lead singer Johnny Rzeznik have talked about doing a duet but haven't had time. "It's been a pretty grueling schedule," he said.
"Idol," he said, was a lot better this past season despite the cratering ratings. He got to visit as a mentor and results show singer and really liked the judges. "They're getting back to what the show is really about: the contestants," he said.
Goo Goo Dolls/Daughtry/Plain White T's
7 p.m., Friday, July 11
Chastain Park Amphitheatre
4469 Stella Drive, Atlanta
Billboard spoke with "Idol" winner Caleb Johnson, whose new album "Testify" is set for August 12, the fastest turn around of any "Idol" album in history.
"You kind of have to get in the zone where you are going non-stop," he said. "You are working 24-7, so you just get in a mode… Now everything is done and I can focus on the tour,” he says.
He noted that this is the first time the "Idol" tour is going without a band. They are merely going with backing tracks. (That's a serious cost savings but also makes it less of a concert.)
"It kind of sucks, but then again, you have to roll with it and make that magic happen regardless," he said.
His album was written in a course of a week with a host of songwriters.
The tour comes to Atlanta's Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre on July 24.
Remember Melanie Amaro, the "X Factor" season one winner. She is starring in an upcoming play "You're Never Alone" coming to Cobb Energy Centre August 8-9. Details here.
Fantasia spoke with Billboard about working on a Tony-nominated musical "After Midnight" and prepping her fifth album - one decade after winning "American Idol." She plans to add some rock to her soul. She just turned 30.
How would you describe Fantasia then and Fantasia now?
Fantasia then was young, green, gullible, fun. She's still fun now, but wiser. And I'm still full of joy, which is easy to lose in this game. I'm happy for everything I went through because I can put it on the stage, put it in my music and share it with other young ladies. I can tell them what it is and what it ain't, give it to them real so they won't do the same thing.
Phillip Phillips recently spoke with azcentral about "Home" and how he didn't like it at first but grew to love it. (Could you blame him? It put him on the map after "Idol"!)
Q: Did you feel that "Home" represented you?
A: No. When Jimmy Iovine brought it to me, I was like, "Well, it's very folk." You know, I've got a little folk but not quite so much. And it was hard for me to really adapt to that song because I had no input on it. So it was a little bit difficult for me. But playing it live, it really represents me now. I've changed it up to make it more of me. And it feels like it's from me, you know?
Q: So what is your relationship with the song now? Do you like it better?
A: Oh yeah. Definitely. Because I had time to build that relationship with it and really add my own meaning to it instead of just being handed a song like, "Here you go" and being like "OK, what's this about? How were they feeling when they wrote this?" I've now built that connection with the song.
With Clay Aiken pursuing a House seat and not earning income from singing, he is relying on $90,000 a year in custody support from his baby's mama, according to Radar Online, which isn't always reliable so take this with a grain of salt.