Former NC ‘Idol’ Chris Daughtry on acting, his new album and why he’s not into sports

Chris Daughtry first rose to fame on “American Idol.”
Chris Daughtry first rose to fame on “American Idol.”

A dozen years have passed since North Carolina native Chris Daughtry came up short in “American Idol” — one of the biggest upsets in the show’s history. But the loss didn’t exactly slow him down.

Even though he was only the fourth-place finisher in 2006, Daughtry has had one of the best post-show commercial runs of any “Idol” contestant. All five of his albums have made the top-10, including this year’s “Cage to Rattle,” his first album of new material in almost five years.

Back on the road, Daughtry comes to Durham’s Carolina Theatre on Dec. 18. We caught up by phone from Houston and came away with five things to know.

1. There was nothing to the rumors he might return as an ‘Idol’ judge.

“Nobody called me whatsoever,” he said. “It was spoken of as fact, so I assumed I’d hear something at some point — ‘We were thinking about you but decided on something different’ — but there was nothing. I would have been into it, absolutely.

“I definitely look very fondly on the experience. It helped me break away from being stuck behind a guitar, reliant on having a band behind me. It broke me out of my comfort zone by making me perform. Being forced to look at the camera and perform was a challenge, in a good way.”

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2. He hadn’t planned to go nearly five years between albums.

“I was starting to panic that no one would know who we were anymore because it had been so long. Making a record turned into doing a greatest-hits first, then being on the road for a while. It was one thing after another that perpetuated the process.

“There are always egos, artistic differences. There weren’t shouting matches or anything like that, no big ‘drama.’ The delay was more frustrating in general, especially because I felt a lot of pressure to deliver something great. I was questioning the process, asking if it would be good enough or just go unnoticed after I’d been out of the game for so long. That got in my head, made it harder than it should’ve been.”

3. ‘Cage to Rattle’ has a song Daughtry co-wrote with his wife, Deanna, ‘As You Are.’

“She brought me a poem she’d been working on that she thought there was something cool to. ‘If you’re inspired, feel free to use it.’ It hit me, so I reworked it a bit, got out the guitar, put it to music. It’s definitely one of my favorite songs on this record. I want to get in the room with her and write, which we’ve never done before. She’s got a lot of depth and has a lot to offer.”

4. After moving to Los Angeles to pursue acting, he’s in Nashville now.

Daughtry played Judas on a contemporary rock-musical version of “The Passion,” singing songs by Imagine Dragons and Evanescence. But his foray into acting was short-lived.

“I came to the conclusion that I really need to focus on music right now. It was time to dive back into music, so I’ve kind of put acting on the back burner. If it happens in the future, awesome, but I’m not actively pursuing it.

“I don’t foresee moving again anytime soon. Even if I hated Nashville, I wouldn’t want to move anytime soon because I really hate moving. But I enjoy Nashville. It’s definitely closer to the landscape I grew up around in North Carolina, as opposed to L.A. It feels closer to home for sure. I also love North Carolina, it’s still in my soul.”

5. Daughtry is not a hockey fan — or even a sports fan.

The Stanley Cup appears in the ‘Backbone’ video from ‘Cage to Rattle,’ but don’t read too much into that.

“When we were recording, a bunch of hockey fans were in the room — and I’m not one of ’em. I saw them bringing (the cup) in and I refused to take a picture with it because I didn’t want to be responsible if the (Nashville) Predators lost. They did, but not on my account.

“I’m really not into sports. I played a little football, emphasis on ‘little.’ I mostly kept the bench nice and warm for everybody else. I was fast and athletic, but I don’t think I ever fully understood the ins and outs of the game. And I was terrible at basketball. I did try out for the team in seventh grade and was no good at all, bricking everything.

“I like being at the game, but I’m not someone who follows the stats or has a team. I probably have more fun than a ‘real’ fan because I’m never disappointed.”


Who: Daughtry’s “Cage to Rattle” tour

When: 8 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 18

Where: Carolina Theatre, 309 W. Morgan St., Durham

Cost: $55-$123

Details: 919-560-3030 or carolinatheatre.org

David Menconi has covered music and the arts for The News & Observer since 1991. He can be reached at 919-829-4759 or dmenconi@newsobserver.com.