Led Zeppelin, Rod Stewart and Elton John: All names you’d expect to find on any rocker’s list of influences. Batman? Not so much. But for Chris Daughtry, who performs at Gulf Bike Week in Dubai on Friday, the caped crusader played as big a role in his development as Page and Plant.
That’s because before he found stardom by losing on American Idol, Daughtry’s formative years in North Carolina were coloured with Batman’s crime fighting ways. Back then, he nurtured dreams of becoming a comic book artist. “I was an artist I drew and that’s what I thought I was. Singing happened much later. I was 16 or 17 when a friend heard me sing and convinced me to take it up further. Then I started picking up the guitar and a buddy taught me a few chords and I just fell in love with it. I started writing songs and formed my own band.”
But Gotham’s finest still has a place in his heart, says the singer, now a father of two, who absolutely loved The Dark Knight Rises and claims to have watched it three times.
“My favourite actor to play Batman is Christian Bale. Before that it was Micheal Keaton. But Bale has taken it to another level. I feel sorry for whoever plays the character next because Bale has done such an incredible job.”
“Heath Ledger’s Joker was the perfect villain. The performance was so iconic; it stands on its own. But I also love Tom Hardy’s Bane. Knowing the character from the book, where it is very different, I thought he was phenomenal.”
He credits his wife, who he calls his biggest fan after his mum, in being instrumental in pushing him to audition for American Idol.
“After playing in the same places over and over again and not getting anymore recognition or being seen by the right people, auditioning for American Idol felt like the right thing to do. Go out there and take a chance and get in front of the producers and hope that they like you.”
Daughtry, who was described as a young rocker dad, sang The Box Tops’ The Letter for his first audition and passed by a split decision. Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul voted him in, while Simon Cowell disapproved because he didn’t think the now-famous lead singer could perform “as a standalone star”, saying he lacked charisma.
Nonetheless, Daughtry’s favourite judge on Idol is Cowell.
“When I was on the show, people always clung to the fact that Simon told me ‘no’ on my first audition. They seemed to forget that he was quite the fan afterwards, a huge supporter. On numerous occasions after the show he’s been super-awesome and he’s always been the guy I want to impress.”
After finishing in fourth place on the fifth season of Idol, life has been “non-stop crazy”.
Daughtry says he always wanted to form a band rather than be a lone performer, and following his elimination from Idol, he held auditions and put the band together. He decided to do what Bon Jovi and Van Halen have done and use his last name as the band name, banking on recognition after his stint with the popular show.
Idol also acted as a catalyst in helping Daughtry sign with RCA Records and 19 Recordings Limited.
Daughtry the band propelled into the limelight, with its self-titled debut album enjoying a spot at No 1 for two non-consecutive weeks on the Billboard Top 200.
“Fame has given me the chance to see places he never thought he would see. For one coming to Dubai, it’ll be my first time in the city and I never thought I would go there. We are currently on tour in Moscow and I never thought I would come here too. It’s been a wonderful experience altogether.”
Stardom has also opened doors for collaborations with other top artists. The band just wrapped a tour with rock band Nickelback (who play Abu Dhabi on November 4 as part of the Yasalam after-race concerts). The tour was their third together and Daughtry speaks fondly of the foursome, “They are like family to us. The tour was easy as can be and was great fun.”
“We tour with 3 Doors Down next and it’s going to be awesome. Those guys are really good friends of ours. We’ve done a few shows with them before but this will be our first proper tour. So we are looking forward to it. We’ve been trying to plan something like this for years.” As for his wishlist:“I’m going to just go ahead and put it out there. U2, that’s the band we would love to tour with. Let’s do it”.
Daughtry’s hits such as Outta My Head and Feels Like Tonight have come out of a simple creative process. “A lot of times we start with simple music with a vocal melody and generally speaking, lyrics are always the last thing that happens. Normally we come up with an idea, a melody or a concept of what we are going to talk about and then we develop the lyrics around all that.”
“Everybody in the band brings something different to the table. All of the guys write differently. What I write with Brian is different to what I write with Steely. We all have our own style and that makes it very unique. The songs we write separately are different to the songs we write together as a band.”
“With our third album released in 2011, we are going to tour until the end of this year and we have some other plans for next year that includes some tours. I don’t see us going straight back to the studio anytime soon. It will definitely be 2013 before we go back there.”
Heaving a huge sigh, Daughtry says the music industry is a tough one right now. And for aspiring young musicians he had a word of advice: “You got to be in it because you love it. You got to play the music you love and not chase the trends. Do not try to be something you’re not for the sake of fame or anything like that. You have to do what you love or people can see right through you.”
“Before every performance we crank the music up in the dressing room with whatever gets us amped up for the night. Do vocal warm ups and make sure we’ve got it for the night. And then just go out there on stage and have fun!”
And that’s exactly what Daughtry intends to do in Dubai with the lead vocalist promising a “high energy rock show.”
“It’s going to be loud. We are going to play all the songs that hopefully they know. We are going to have a really good time playing for them for the first time. Very excited!”
Fans, we suggest you learn the lyrics to their top hits, overdose on the caffeine and be prepared to jam with Daughtry, for depending on how well the performance goes, they’ll “most definitely be back”.
Catch Daughtry and his band at the Gulf Bike Week on Friday night. The show starts at 7.30pm at the Dubai Festival Park. Tickets are priced at Dh295 and Dh400.