Chris Daughtry on Idol, His New Album, the Future of Rock

Chris Daughtry finished fourth on American Idol in 2006, but the debut album from his band, Daughtry, went on to become the best-selling record of 2007. Their second album, Leave This Town, drops Tuesday. He spoke with NEWSWEEK's Ramin Setoodeh—excerpts:

As I was driving over here, I saw that you were updating your Twitter page about the rain.
I'm on that thing nonstop. I think it's an awesome tool. I've found out that the fans, it's the closest thing they could get to being on my cell phone and getting personal texts.

Your wife's on there, too, as Mrs. Daughtry.
My wife kept asking me to join it. The reason I joined it, is because Rob Thomas found my wife on Twitter and they started talking. I didn't really appreciate that so much. So I called Rob, I was like, "Dude, I hear you're Tweeting my wife. So now I'm joining just so I can monitor your conversations." No, Rob's a good friend of mine. It was all in good fun. So my wife and I will be in the exact same house, one room over, and we'll be Tweeting each other. She's in the office, I'm in the kitchen. I'm like, "Do you want some coffee?"

I mean this as a compliment, but your new album is more of the same.
There are definitely some similarities in there. We have the big arena rock ballads and the catchy pop rock tunes, but also we experimented with some country flavor.

Your last album became the bestselling album of the year. Did you feel pressure to top yourself?
We try not to think about that so much. The good thing is we didn't have a deadline when we were work-ing on this record. We felt like we had the freedom to write, and we did—we wrote like 70 tunes.

How many did you write yourself?
We all wrote and co-wrote. We'd write songs together. I'd write songs with other co-writers. The hardest process was figuring out which songs felt like the record. Which songs made up this body of work. Even at the end, when we recorded 19 songs, it was still like is this too predictable? Is this too "first record"?

What happens to the songs you don't use?
Some songs won't get heard for a reason. Sometimes it's not a bad song. It seems like it would be perfect for somebody else.

Do you think rock and roll is an endangered species?
I think it's bigger than it's been in a while. It's more mainstream than it used to be. Shinedown, Theory of a Dead Man, these bands that were only on active rock are now on top 40 and exploding. With the explosion of Guitar Hero and Rock Band, kids are wanting to hear ripping guitar solos now. In the '90s, guitar solos were dead.

What do you have on your iPod?
I've been listening to Kings of Leon a lot lately. But I've also been listening to Lady Gaga a lot, too.

Really? I wouldn't have pegged you as a Gaga fan.
I just like music. If it's hookey and good, I dig it. I think the coolest thing is that she writes her stuff. I think she's ahead of the curve there. And she's a phenomenal singer, a really good singer, it's not the Auto-Tune crap that everybody is using. She's really good. She could do a totally different record, she could do—maybe not a Christina Aguilera record—but something of that caliber and she could nail it.

Is there a specific song that you like?
"Poker Face."

Do you remember where you were the first time you heard yourself on the radio?
The first time I heard myself on the radio was in Charlottesville, Va. This band I was in called Cadence, we performed acoustic on the local college station. I thought I had made it. You thought everybody in the world heard it. This was about eight years before Idol.

How did you feel when Alvin and the Chipmunks covered your song "Home"?
I was horrified. Alvin should have come to me and at least showed me that he was going to oversing it, so I could tell him to tone it down a little.

Did you know about it?
No. My kids heard about it before I knew about it. Then on the way to the airport, the song was on the ra-dio. The local station in Greensboro. It didn't sound anything like "Home." Then it got to the chorus, this guy is doing runs all over the place. I was flattered, but it was kind of weird at the same time.

You debuted your new single on American Idol. Do you still watch this show?
I watched it this year more than I have since I've been on it. I did catch the season where David Cook won, but a lot of it had to do with timing. We were off for a good portion of this season. I got sucked in. I became a Kris Allen fan. We had fun going to see it, probably because we followed it more this year. The fi-nale was probably the best finale they had. We were three rows back in the audience. It was so loud—Steven Martin, Kiss, Keith Urban, Cyndi Lauper. What you hear on TV and in the audience is two totally dif-ferent things. In the audience, everything sounds amazing and huge.

Were you surprised that Kris Allen beat Adam Lambert?
Yes and no. Yes because there was so much media attention on Adam. But I had a feeling the underdog was going to win. I like Kris, he's great at what he does. Adam, there's nobody like that guy to enter the competition—or the radio, for that matter. His voice, I really don't know how that guy does it nonstop it. When you hear him talk, you'd never picture those notes coming out of his face. Sebastian Bach would be proud.