When Chris Daughtry was eliminated in fourth place on American Idol Season 5, it was one of the biggest upsets in the series’ history. Recently, the winner of that season, Taylor Hicks, has come forward saying that the contestants had prior knowledge of the eliminations.
Well, if that were the case, then Daughtry (and eventual runner-up Katharine McPhee) deserve Best Acting Emmys for their believably shocked reactions on live television. (“I think that picture is in my manager’s office,” he jokes now.) However, sitting with Yahoo Entertainment to promote his eponymous band’s fifth album, Cage to Rattle, the rocker says he was never tipped off about the results — but he did have a sinking feeling that day that something was up.
“I think I know what [Hicks is] referring to,” Daughtry says. “It was some kind of insider website [DialIdol.com, which predicted results based on phone-line activity]. I remember seeing who we thought was gonna get [cut]. It was not always right. There were times that we had an idea, but it was never set in stone — except for the night that I got eliminated!”
Daughtry said his crestfallen reaction, when Ryan Seacrest callously sent him home, was “100 percent genuine,” because he had “had like a slight feeling. It felt really weird that day, for whatever reason, and I don’t know if that was because people knew and they were just trying to keep a game face on. And I remember seeing Randy [Jackson] and Simon [Cowell] before the show, and it just felt a little like they were hiding something from me. So I try not to like get in that headspace, but I do remember feeling like, ‘This might be it.’”
Daughtry went on to become one of Idol’s biggest success stories regardless, with his band’s self-titled debut becoming the best-selling album of 2007 and the fastest-selling debut rock album in SoundScan history. So it makes sense that when American Idol returned to television after a two-year hiatus, gossip swirled that he was being tapped to be a judge alongside Katy Perry. That’s another Idol rumor that turned out to be untrue. However, Daughtry says he “absolutely” would have accepted the job if he had been approached.
“I thought about it, and hearing that in the news I was like, ‘That actually sounds like a really cool thing to do.’” But he wouldn’t have been a mean judge like Cowell (who, hard as it may be to believe now, didn’t think Daughtry was a “star” at first, and hadn’t wanted Daughtry to advance to Hollywood). “I have a hard time with that, crushing people’s spirits, as far as their artistry. I would like to think I would have been honest enough to say if something was bad, but hopefully in a way that wouldn’t crush their soul,” Daughtry says.
Obviously everything has worked out for Daughtry careerwise, with or without an Idol first-place finish or an Idol judging gig. And he obviously made the right decision 12 years ago to form his own band, rather than accept an offer to be the replacement frontman for the alt-rock group Fuel. But before all the Idol madness, Daughtry did attempt to be the lead singer of another established group, when he unsuccessfully tried out for the show that arguably broke ground for many future reality-TV rockers, Rock Star: INXS.
“I filmed a VHS of me doing ‘Til Tuesday’s ‘Voices Carry,’ an acoustic cover,” Daughtry recalls, laughing. “And I got an audition for [Rock Star: INXS] based on that tape. So I drove down to Charlotte; I was living in North Carolina at the time. It was this small little dive bar, and it was maybe like 15 or 20 people in there auditioning — like, at the time, nobody even knew what the show was going to do. So I got into the casting director part, the interviews and all that stuff, and ultimately it didn’t work out. And right after I got that news is when I decided that I was going to audition for American Idol. And the rest was history.” (Side note: Video footage of Daughtry’s VHS audition, or his performance for the producers of INXS’s “Never Tear Us Apart,” has yet to surface on the internet and seems lost forever.)
Much has changed in the music/TV business since Daughtry’s reality-TV beginnings, but as he releases the much-anticipated Cage to Rattle (his band’s first album in almost five years), he believes it is his unsnobbish “love of a good pop melody” that helped him go so far on Idol has helped him maintain a mainstream career for more than a decade.
“One of my favorite songs as a kid and even to this day is ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ from Rick Astley,” Daughtry says, revealing a dream of one day collaborating with the British blue-eyed soul singer. “I love music. I love so many different styles that I don’t even know what I lean more towards anymore. I just love good music, good songs, good melodies, good lyrics. I’m an equal opportunist. A good song is a good song is a good song.”
Check out Chris Daughtry’s full Facebook Live interview with Yahoo Entertainment below:
This article originally ran on Yahoo Music.