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POP MUSIC | SPOTLIGHT

Rock you like a family man

On his debut album, `American Idol' alum Chris Daughtry sings about what's `real' to him.

January 28, 2007|Mikael Wood | Special to The Times

YOU'D think that competing on "American Idol" -- with its instant celebrity and public flagellation -- would provide juicy grist for a songwriter.

But the debut album by Chris Daughtry, a semifinalist from the hit show's 2006 season, dishes no backstage dirt, nor does it reveal the true texture of Rod Stewart's face. Instead, Daughtry mostly sings about the everyday frustrations and reassuring comforts of married life -- hardly what you'd expect given his tough-guy looks and emo-beefcake vocals.

"I can only write about what's real to me," Daughtry says on the phone from New York, a few days before he launches the U.S. club tour that'll keep him on the road until mid-April. "And that's my life, so that's all I could really draw from."

On "Daughtry," which has sold almost 1.3 million copies since its release in November (and hit No. 1 on Billboard's Top 200 albums chart this week), the 27-year-old husband and father of two describes, over surging rock guitars, the ups and downs of domesticity. And he does it with a sense of detail more often heard in country music, where an active home life is less the threat to one's bad-boy cool than it can be in rock.

"Open up the book you beat me with again," he sings in "Breakdown," a heated plea for marital peace, while in "Home" he describes staring out the window of a tour bus that's inching toward "the place where love and feeling good don't never cost a thing." (He's not referring to Vegas.)

"I thought about writing with some country writers just for the experience," the North Carolina native admits, his Southern drawl undimmed by a year spent on airplanes and in green rooms. "I always thought that, lyrically, they were so smart and witty. Country songs have something a lot of songs don't have: a story that brings you in."

Daughtry says he was "very surprised" that execs at RCA let him make the kind of record he wanted to make. "As a new artist, any time you bring something to the bigwigs, you expect to hear, 'I like it, but ...' That didn't happen with this record."

Howard Benson, the hard-rock hitmaker who produced the album, says Daughtry "absolutely knew what he wanted to do" when they began recording last August. "I can do all the little tricks in the studio to make something sound like a hit record, but the one thing I can't do is manufacture an artist's point of view. Chris was completely committed to the subjects he was interested in singing about."

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