“I’ve come to the conclusion in my 40 years of living that I’m just not good at winning,” Chris Daughtry sighs. Whether being eliminated early in competition on “American Idol” — unfairly, many felt — or as the lovable Rottweiler on “The Masked Singer,” Daughtry’s track record hasn’t been very good.
“I can hold my own, but I just can’t seem to win,” he says. “But I do a good job at running up.”
One can argue that Daughtry is too hard on himself — he’s had one of the strongest post-“Idol” careers of all. After releasing five albums and a Greatest Hits package, Daughtry and his band is entering the next phase of his career with his own independent label through Warner Music’s Alternative Distribution Alliance. He is also the unexpected viral star of a new “Batman”-themed video (more on that later), and just last week hosted two successful livestreams from Nashville with an in-depth Q&A session hosted by Matt Pinfield, delving into the band and his sober lifestyle.
“It wasn’t like I had a problem or anything, it was more just a decision,” he says of his sobriety. “I woke up one morning and thought, ‘I think I’m done with this. It’s something that I don’t need in my life anymore.’”
On Thursday, Daughtry gave fans another taste of his still-unnamed forthcoming record today with the release of a new single, “Heavy is the Crown.” The song is the follow up to last year’s hard rocker, “World on Fire,” and Daughtry hints that the two songs are part of a bigger picture once the video he just filmed last week makes its debut.
“I’ve got a huge vision for all of this, and it’s all going to make sense one day when the record comes out,” he says. “That would’ve never happened if I was juggling making a record on tour. And at the same time, I would’ve never had the free space in my brain to even come up with any of these concepts,” he said.
Daughtry, like every musician, was sidelined from touring due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and that time off the road gave the McCleansville, North Carolina native plenty of time to reflect, readjust and find room to create amongst the chaos.
“I had a huge identity crisis for a while and I just didn’t realize how much of my identity was wrapped up on the road and in touring and being in front of people and needing that gratification and needing to feel something,” he says. “It kind of forced me to be with myself more and analyze a lot of things in my own personal journey that I hadn’t really dealt with, and things with my own ego. I started getting into meditation more and listening to a lot of books and podcasts and it forced me to take a much needed pause and really see me for me. It gave me a brand new perspective on all that my wife has to deal with every single day [when he’s on tour]. It just made me so much more compassionate and empathetic to what she has to deal with. And now I’m terrified to leave again, because I don’t want her to be stuck with it.”
Another big change has been Daughtry’s amicable split with RCA, his label since he left “Idol.”
“It wasn’t like they dropped me or I was like, ‘Get me out of this place,’” he says. “I fulfilled my contract and I was very proud of that, and very grateful for all the people that I worked with. But I think we both realized that we wanted to part ways and I was better for it,” he said. “We’ve always been a rock band. And when you’re dealing with a major label, there’s always that pressure of needing to turn in hits and needing to cater to a certain format, and I didn’t want to do that anymore.”
Ironically, in the wake of that decision, he’s suddenly found himself going viral, sort of. He’s part of a fan-made video “Batman: Dying is Easy,” produced by Aaron and Sean Schoenke and with appearances by actors Michael Madsen, Doug Jones, and Casper Van Dien.
“Aaron called me up one day and was like, ‘Hey, I’m doing this little film.’ I was aware of his work on his YouTube channel. He does a lot of mashups with unexpected characters fighting each other,” Daughtry says.
While his initial reaction was that he was “kinda busy,” once he realized he could record something on his phone in front of a green screen, he changed his mind.
“I shot it on my phone and it only took an hour, and I had no idea who else was going to be in it other than Kevin Porter. Then I started hearing all this buzz about it when it was getting closer to release, and I was like, ‘I think I might be a part of something really cool here.’”
And while the pandemic isn’t something anyone would have wished for, he does see the silver lining. “The pause and the time at home to cultivate these relationships with my kids and my wife is something that I haven’t been able to do in the last 15 years,” he says. “It has been extremely rewarding.”