For a brief time last year, it looked like the main way fans would see Chris Daughtry this spring would be as a judge on the newly revived “American Idol,” the show that gave him his start. Reports from last May were saying he was locked in for that role on the show.
Which was news to Daughtry.
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“I had no idea when everyone was hearing the news or the rumors of me being a judge. That was news to me as well,” he said in a late-February phone interview. “And I never got a phone call about it. I had kind of wrapped my head around the idea that would be a really fun thing to do, so I was optimistic about the opportunity. But it never happened.”
Daughtry fans, though, didn’t really lose out when Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan ended up being selected as judges for the reboot season. With no “America Idol” obligations, Daughtry was able to finish work on his group’s fifth album and lock down a headlining tour that began March 7 — four days before the premiere of the new “American Idol” — and continues through April 20. His self-named band Daughtry will perform 9 p.m. Friday, March 23, at Caesars Atlantic City’s Circus Maximus Theater.
Daughtry reports that the new album is essentially done and a first single will be chosen and released before long — perhaps soon after the tour begins. As for the tour itself, fans can expect to hear a few of the new songs, as well as a few other surprise selections.
“I was sitting in our office the other day and kind of going through our older records and looking at songs we haven’t touched in awhile and songs that I had completely forgotten how to play. I thought that maybe those would be some good ones to kind of bring back,” Daughtry said. “We kind of want to not get too married to a set list on this tour and try to change it up from time to time.”
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With five studio albums, Daughtry, who has parlayed a fourth-place finish on Season 5 of “American Idol” into a successful career leading the band that bears his name, has plenty of options for songs to play. His chart-topping first two albums, a 2006 self-titled debut and a 2008 follow-up, “Leave This Town,” spawned multiple singles, with “It’s Not Over,” “Home,” “What I Want,” “No Surprise” and “Life After You” among the songs that went Top 10 on various singles charts.
The third album, “Break the Spell,” didn’t fare quite as well commercially, but gave the band another Top 10 hit with “Crawling Back To You.”
Those first three albums featured a grunge-ish, but melodic guitar rock sound that drew comparisons to bands like Nickelback and Creed. But then Daughtry took a left turn with the 2013 album “Baptized.”
With that album Daughtry shifted the group’s sound toward a more textured, acoustic-based folk-rock sound.
The shift, Daughtry said, was partly a response to the many fans that had said they enjoyed the portion of the group’s shows where they stripped back the instrumentation and played tunes acoustically. It was also a move that at the time made sense for radio play, considering the major popularity of folk-ish acts like Mumford & Sons and the Lumineers and because of the way guitars were being replaced by synthesizers and computer-generated sounds in songs pop radio was playing.
Looking back, Daughtry thinks he may have reached some new, younger fans with “Baptized” and its popular single, “Waiting for Superman,” but it likely came at a cost.
“I think it may have turned off some of the fans that had been with us since the first record,” he said. “And we were kind of prepared for that, and hopefully they didn’t leave us for good.”
Fans of the first three albums will likely be pleased to hear Daughtry say the newly completed fifth album will bring back the guitars and the rock. But the singer/guitarist said not to expect a carbon copy of the first three albums.
“I think it certainly is more familiar, I think, to our fans, or I think it will be more than ‘Baptized,’” Daughtry said. “But at the same time, I don’t think it mirrors anything we’ve done before — in a good way. I think it’s a very nice, natural evolution of the band.
Daughtry credits the producer on the fifth album, Jacquire King, with bringing fresh dimensions to the band’s sound.
“I think production in general has changed. The way that you approach a rock song, especially for the radio, is vastly different than it was when our first three albums came out,” he said. “So yeah, that certainly plays a role in the sonics of the record. But so far, I’m very much in love with this record. It’s taken quite a bit of time for us to finish it, but at the same time, I think it had to happen that way in order to achieve what we set out to do, and that was stretch ourselves as musicians and as a band, and try not to regurgitate things that we’ve done before for the sake of familiarity.”
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Photo: Tom Briglia/PhotoGraphics