Chris Daughtry‘s enthusiam over his band’s upcoming sixth record is palpable. Speaking from his home in Nashville in a room decked out in superhero memorabilia, Daughtry is eagerly awaiting the opportunity to record the rest of his album, given the constraints of the pandemic. He’s digging back into his rock roots.
“This has been the record that I’ve wanted to make for years,” Daughtry said. “I feel like I’m in a place now where I’m able to be that, and I’m able to really explore that side again.”
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The band’s sound has evolved over the years, mixing in elements of pop and country along the way. Daughtry admits that he was influenced by the pressure to fit in.
“Part of that was trying to keep up with what’s on the radio and thinking you had to change with the times,” Daughtry said. “There was always a part of going, ‘Man, are we doing the right thing here?'”
He cites the band’s last release, Cage to Rattle, as sparking the flame to dig deeper into his heavier rock side.
“I’m on an indie label now and I have full control of what I put out, and that’s a very liberating thing,” Daughtry said
If first single “World On Fire” is any indicator, the band could very well be on the way to its strongest album to date. The track flexes riff-driven modern rock with a slight ’90s alt rock and grunge influence.
But the socially conscious song sounds like it could have been written last week, with references to fire (while much of California is literally on fire), social unrest and disease—even though it was written in January. The title actually came from Daughtry’s reaction to watching news reports of widespread fires in Australia last year.
“If we would have tried to write something about something specific, I’m not sure it would have worked out as well,” Daughtry said. “We were just kind of taking things that we were hearing in the news, taking the things that were frustrating us and putting it all on paper.”
The lyrics in the chorus strike at the heart of many of the compounding social issues of the day. “Can you hear the crowd like a thousand sirens?/ In the night like thunder striking/ The sickness is rising/ The angels are crying/ That’s the sound of a world on fire,” Daughtry sings.
“There was no shortage of racial injustice or police brutality even then, so that all kinda made it in to the lyrics,” Daughtry said. “And then the pandemic hits!”
When the world ground to halt in the early days of the pandemic, Daughtry said that the uncertainty and unprecedented nature of the situation led him to taking a reset of his own.
“I was using it more as an incubation period and letting everything marinate because I didn’t really feel inspired to write, and there was a lot of uncertainty and new territory for everybody,” Daughtry said. “I didn’t even know if I was going to be on the road anymore.”
As the shutdown pressed on and weeks turned into months, the gears began to turn again for Daughtry on how to get back out into the music world. He joked that at least in small part, the prospect of brainstorming of virtual performance options came through the boredom of the pandemic lockdown doldrums.
“We knew we couldn’t tour, but we wanted to perform; we wanted to connect with the fans and feel engaged,” Daughtry said. “We didn’t want them to feel like we forgot about them.”
Rather than simply doing one performance and streaming it, the band plotted a run of shows in different cities, even as it would remain in the same place.
The virtual shows take place from a sound studio in Nashville, and fans are limited to buy tickets to the shows for which they are regionally close. Daughtry selected smaller venues, sometimes ones in which his band played in its early days, to receive a portion of the funds to support the staff impacted by the closures.
A handful of shows into the tour, Daughtry says one of his favorite parts of the experience has become the virtual meet and greets and being able to personally engage with fans more-so than in-person photo line meet-and-greets at concerts.
“We’re shooting the shit, we’re hanging out, and they’re able to tell me stories or about whatever’s going on in their day,” Daughtry said. “It’s probably the most engaging thing that we’ve done with our fans maybe ever, at least from me.”
The relaxed vibe extends to the shows, allowing the band to mix up the setlist and play whatever it’s feeling on a given day; hits, covers or deeper cuts. Daughtry said it’s still a learning experience to perform without seeing the audience and see and hear people’s reactions.
During this same time, Daughtry worked with Bad Wolves vocalist Tommy Vext on a yet-to-be-released cover of Temple of the Dog’s “Hunger Strike.”
“I did the Cornell stuff, and he did the Vedder stuff; it was really fun,” Daughtry said. “I can’t wait for people to hear it because it came out so good!”
On the next Daughtry album, currently titled Nothing Lasts Forever, the singer said he and his bandmate will look at how to go about recording following the virtual tour. According to Daughtry, much of the skeleton for his parts was already completed pre-lockdown, so the rest of the band members were able to complete their parts remotely to finish the tracks.
He’s still counting the days until the band can safely return to a studio together.
“I’m just now getting back into the rhythm of writing ideas down,” Daughtry said. “I’m still not really fully motivated to write songs, but we’re getting some lyrical ammunition going for when we get back in the studio and finish this record.”
Follow writer Mike DeWald at Twitter.com/mike_dewald.