Monday, March 05, 2012
Chris Daughtry: Behind the Glass
Before jetting West, there was one other thing Shannon Smith and I had to do: catch up with our old pal Chris Daughtry. For weeks we'd been trying to rendezvous with the hometown hero, but February Sweeps and a rock star's schedule kept pushing it back. Now, as we prepped for our trip to California, word came that Chris was up for the interview. Happily, we dropped our bags.
Shannon and I were bystanders to the rise of Chris Daughtry, having interviewed him the day before he auditioned for American Idol. Back then, he was a quietly confident local singer with simmering looks and a propulsive vocal style. Today, he's a Grammy-nominated, platinum-selling, globally known recording artist. Yet from all that I can tell, he's the same guy. After Idol helped launch him into the stratosphere, Chris landed pretty close to home. These days, he can be seen running errands around town - when he's not criss-crossing the globe under a white hot spotlight. Nice work if you can get it. Chris can, and he's jammed with his heroes in distant ports as a result. But a strong family and a vibrant wife seem to keep him grounded, no matter how high his talent may take him. For us Earthlings, it's kind of a kick to spot him roaming around Target. It's like living near Batman -- if Batman had a voice that could melt metal, instead of a fly ride and that weird cowl thingie... Now, where was I?
Oh yeah, at an undisclosed location somewhere in the Piedmont. I won't tell where, but the old warehouse where Daughtry and his band spent a month rehearsing for their upcoming tour was anything but remote. When Shannon and I rolled up, only the sight of a few tattooed roadies milling about outside gave the location away.
Inside, we found band members and sound techs eating sandwiches. For weeks, the West Coast-based musicians have been cooling their jets in Carolina, fine tuning songs before they launch their “Break The Spell” tour. We found a place to set up and as I started rearranging the seriously seedy sofas, Chris popped out of nowhere and gave Shannon a hug. From there we were off, settling into a wide-ranging interview that covered everything from his new music to his new toddlers. I must say, Chris has improved greatly on camera. Once upon a time his reluctance to say something he'd regret tamped down his on-screen demeanor. That guy is gone. Having survived through the gauntlet of talk shows, video shoots and award telecasts, Chris is as comfortable on camera as anyone you've seen (not) jump on Oprah's couch. Don't look for him to allow reality show cameras in his home, but he seems to have grown more at ease with the medium that helped make him a household name. It helps that he and Shannon have such rapport. After all, he used to be her service department write-up guy at the local Honda dealership. Funny thing, life.
Yo, soundbites are tight, But I WANNA ROCK! Chris soon accommodated my needs, running the fellas through two new songs while I shot off-shoulder and tried not to rip anyone's guitar cord out. Live music is one of my favorite things to shoot and I have a few dorky band videos from the 80's to prove it. This time, however, there was no time for a cocktail napkin storyboard. I had one take to get all the footage I could, otherwise I'd have to dance around gaps in my timeline later in the day. Luckily for me, Chris sensed this and shooed away his handler who was trying to wrap up our shoot. When the first song ended, the band burst into another and I dashed between instrument positions in an attempt to get cutaways. Still, the mind wanders...
It certainly has its perks but rock stardom looks to be a righteous hassle. People like me sticking lenses in your face, old friends acting weird, total strangers with strong opinions about your every whim... give me that good ole an-o-ny-mi-tee! No wonder dude likes to wander down the home improvement aisle in an unassuming skullcap. Even then, he's known to chat up fans when recognized. (Just ask my wife!) It's only on stage, or in this case, a dusty warehouse floor, that Daughtry gets to relax. He fires up that blowtorch of a throat and singes everyone's eyelashes before the song is through. Watching him through that shower of sparks, one gets the felling he'd be belting out the same kind of thunderous melodies even if he was still filling out work orders for Civics and Accords. Rock on, Chris, and thanks again!