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Q&A: Awards, tours, hits mark strong year for Daughtry

NEW YORK (Billboard) - Chris Daughtry sounded a bit bleary the day after the recent American Music Awards, and for good reason. “Oh, yeah, we all celebrated,” he promised, still basking in the glow of three AMA wins for his namesake band.

They had plenty to rejoice about. After the singer’s fourth-place finish on the fifth season of “American Idol,” Daughtry’s self-titled RCA debut became the fastest-selling rock debut album in Nielsen SoundScan history -- and its 2.287 million copies made it the top-selling album by an artist in 2007. “Daughtry” topped the Billboard 200 for two weeks and the Top Rock Albums chart for 14. It has spawned six singles so far and is up for four Grammy Awards, including rock album and best rock song for “It’s Not Over.”

All of this has made the 13 months since the album’s release the proverbial whirlwind, and the title of the hit “It’s Not Over” certainly rings true as Daughtry prepares to hit the road in 2008 with Bon Jovi. Suffice to say that he’s had no second thoughts about turning down that offer to join the rock band Fuel as lead singer.

Q: What’s your take on the success Daughtry had in 2007?

Daughtry: It’s a little bit of a shock. We’re still a very new band to the industry, so every time we go to these events we kind of feel like the freshmen in high school, not really affiliated with the big, successful artists. And now we feel like we’ve graduated a little bit. We were certainly new to the industry, but getting recognized for your hard work is a pretty big deal. It’s cool that people recognize us for what we do, and it makes us feel good.

Q: Any thoughts about why everything took off for you?

Daughtry: I’m really not sure, to be honest with you. The only thing I can really attribute it to is the fan base. They’re certainly very diehard and loyal to us, and they’ve continued to buy our record. They’ve continued to come to our shows. It doesn’t matter how good you are as a band or how good your music may be; if the fans aren’t supporting it and buying your music, it’s hard to make it. So they’re the ones that are making it for us.

Q: What is it about you they like so much?

Daughtry: I guess they see us as regular dudes. We’re just normal guys who are doing what we’ve always wanted to do and what we love to do. These are five guys who worked hard to get where they are. And they’re not letting it to go their heads.

Q: Does the world know Daughtry is a band as opposed to Chris Daughtry’s band?

Daughtry: I think the majority of the people get it. Obviously our fans totally get it and know it’s not a one-man show, and I think everybody else is catching on. We’ve tried to make sure that it’s known that it’s not just me. I’ve never been a solo artist. When the band doesn’t get the credit that they deserve, it kind of bums me out a little bit. They’re working just as hard as I am, if not more, up there. I think people get it.

Q: Do you feel at this point that everything -- you, the band, the album -- has graduated from the “American Idol” world and taken on a life of its own?

Daughtry: Absolutely, 100 percent. On (“American Idol”), I wasn’t able to do fully what I’m capable of; that was just, to me, a way of showing my voice off. This is a totally different thing. This is who we are -- we’re musicians, we write our music, and it’s a totally different ballgame.

Q: What’s your perspective on “American Idol” at this point?

Daughtry: It changes from year to year. I don’t have a solid opinion on it. I think it’s a great tool for people to use. I mean, it’s all about taking the opportunities that are in front of you and making the best of them and using them to your advantage.

I don’t think it’s cheesy one bit. I think it’s cheesy if you’re going to go on there and use gimmicks and not be yourself. But if you’re going to go on there and you’re going to be yourself and you think you have what it takes, I think it’s a great opportunity to show that to the world. So I think the people that go on there have to take it seriously.

People see right through that stuff; the public aren’t idiots. They’re going to recognize something real when they see it. I think that’s part of what happened with us.

Q: Would Daughtry have gotten a deal if you hadn’t done “Idol?”

Daughtry: Well, I definitely think it accelerated it. I wasn’t getting any of that exposure in North Carolina. Being that I had a family, financially we couldn’t go out and tour and get our names out there. So we had to basically play the same old clubs over and over, and for mostly the same people. When you do that, you just don’t get the exposure and the buzz that you need to make a name for yourself and get the attention. So I felt that was my only option at the time, to take a TV show like that and just get myself out there.

Q: At the time the album came out, were you apprehensive about whether the fans you’d won on “Idol” would stick with this rock ‘n’ roll band?

Daughtry: Well, I wasn’t really as worried about that as I was about everybody taking it seriously. Normally when you get fans from a show like that, they’re pretty loyal to you -- but you still have to put the work in to make sure you put out the best thing you can. It was everything else we were worried about. “Is rock radio going to take us seriously? Are we going to be taken seriously as a band in general, for our songwriting and who we are?” We have been, and that’s a really cool thing for us.

Q: What have been some of the major touchstones of the year for you?

Daughtry: Well, (the AMAs) were definitely a big one for us. And getting the Bon Jovi tour is definitely another staple; you have a very well-respected band that’s been around for as long as I can remember, and they respect us as a band and take us seriously. When you have people like that and Nickelback and all these other bands that are in the same class, so to speak, taking you seriously for what you do, it kind of validates what we’re doing.

Q: What’s the plan for the next Daughtry album?

Daughtry: I can’t really say at this point. It’s a little early to tell. We’re doing some writing when we have the opportunity, and we’re going to be working on getting it out some time hopefully next year -- when we get it right.