NEW YORK (Reuters) - You do not even have to win on a talent competition show like “American Idol” to launch yourself on a path to selling more than eight million albums.
Chris Daughtry, 38, parlayed a fourth-place finish in Idol over a decade ago into global stardom with his band “Daughtry.”
The gravel-voiced singer from North Carolina now has a new album “Cage To Rattle.” For the latest in Reuters’ Life Lessons series, Daughtry talked about what he has learned from leading two very different lives: The one onstage, and the one behind the scenes.
Q: Were you always clear that music was going to be your path?
A: I didn’t have a clue about music when I was young. I was just a kid who played with action figures and read comic books in my room. Then in 11th grade I met a guy called Robert Nesbit in my algebra class, who played acoustic guitar. We wrote a power ballad about math called ‘Average.’ Everyone was shocked, even my parents, because they had no idea I could sing.
Q: What was your first job?
A: My first job was actually working in a sawmill with my dad. I was 14, so that was definitely not legal. I used to sharpen the bandsaws, and shovel sawdust and help the crew stack lumber. I kind of enjoyed it, because I was making my own money and buying my own clothes and video games. There is a cool freedom to that. Ever since then, I have always had a job.
Q: You got married young — did that teach you about money and responsibility quickly?
A: I got married at 20, so I wasn’t even old enough to drink at my own wedding. I went from living in my parents’ house to being married and responsible for two stepkids, ages 2 and 4 at the time. On paper, it was the dumbest thing ever. My friends must have been like, ‘What the hell are you doing?’
So I grew up really fast, because I had to. It was a steep learning curve. At the time I was selling vacuums door-to-door, which is probably the weirdest thing I have ever done. At the very time I needed to have a stable income, I had the most unstable job you could imagine.
Q: What was it like to go from that life, to hitting it big with “American Idol”?
A: By that point I was actually making decent money, because I was working for a car dealership. So it was a real shock to leave that day job, and then spend the day rehearsing music and being on TV. It was a pretty drastic change of lifestyle.
Q: Did you handle the money wisely when you started having some success?
A: I have never been one of those people who goes out and buys expensive things. I’m just not into that kind of life. But one thing I really shouldn’t have done was buy a bus. We had an amazing bus built for our family, back when our twins were three, and we had big plans of touring the world together. But then the guy who was going to drive us dropped out, and suddenly we were stuck with a giant bus, and had to sell it back to the company at a loss.
Q: With charitable causes, where you do you like to give back?
A: Mainly with the Alzheimer’s Association. My grandmother passed away from that years ago, so that cause has always been close to my heart. The last few years of seeing her, she would always repeat the same stories over and over, and usually didn’t even know who I was. That’s a difficult thing to go through.
Q: What lessons have you passed along to your children and grandchild?
A: I want them to be true to themselves and find their own paths. To be accepting of others, and to be good human beings. The little twins are actually finding music on their own: Right now they are obsessed with Michael Jackson, especially the ‘Bad’ and ‘Thriller’ albums. If music is where they want to go, that’s awesome – but hopefully they choose it because they love it, and not because it’s something that Daddy does.
(The writer is a Reuters contributor. The opinions expressed are his own.)
Editing by Beth Pinsker and Susan Thomas