The idea of a rock band playing their own instruments on their own album might seem like a given, but when Chris Daughtry made that a condition for the recording of Daughtry’s sophomore CD, producer Howard Benson was wary.
“That was something I was not sure about, to be honest with you,” recalls Benson.
His concerns were understandable. After all, when the multiplatinum “Daughtry” was being crafted in 2006, the only member of Daughtry was Chris Daughtry, fresh off his finalist run on “American Idol.” The four others who would eventually form the quintet — guitarists Josh Steely and Brian Craddock, drummer and pianist Joey Barnes and bassist Josh Paul, were still in the process of auditioning. Even the cover of that album featured a clear picture of Chris Daughtry, with blurred images of what would be his band in the background.
“The first record, we used session guys that were really, really good, tremendous guys,” says Benson. “(But) I trusted in Chris’ lead on that part (for the new record), and I also put a lot of pressure on those guys to deliver, and they really, really delivered ... they had to make me believe in them, and they had to make a lot of people believe in them.”
With “Leave This Town,” Daughtry finally has the opportunity to silence those who see Daughtry as a one-man band. Besides playing on the record, band members contributed to the writing and arrangements.
“There are a lot of elements that make up what we do,” says Craddock, with Daughtry sitting by his side. “Each member kind of brings something different to the table, too, and each member has a function in the band, they know what they do well, and when it all comes together ... it blends so perfectly together.”
From the way that Craddock and Daughtry finish each other’s sentences and joke around together, you might think they were childhood buddies who decided to start a band. Both say that camaraderie is the result of spending nearly two years on the road together, then working on their second CD.
“We’ve really gotten to know each other and we spend more time together than we spend with our own families: It’s something where you get to know each other, sometimes a little too much,” Daughtry says with a laugh.
‘Everything was able to come out perfectly’Unlike their self-titled debut, which was rushed to capitalize on Daughtry’s “Idol” success and only featured Chris Daughtry, Craddock and Daughtry had months to create the band’s follow-up.
“I felt like we were able to craft the songs, into being a perfect musical arrangement on each tune, which I don’t feel that way about every song I’ve written in my lifetime,” says Craddock. “We were able to go in there and take our time, relax, and everything was able to come out perfectly.”
The success of “Daughtry” gave them that luxury. The record, with its arena-rock melodies and Chris Daughtry’s soaring voice, sold more than 4 million copies in the United States, and was responsible for hits like “Home” and “It’s Not Over.”
Like “Daughtry,” the new album has Benson as a producer, and features some of the same writing collaborators as the first record. But the band was careful not to make “Leave This Town” a retread of “Daughtry.”
“There had to be a balance because it is our second record, which is arguably the most important record of our career, especially following the success of the first one,” says Daughtry. “We have to make a record as good as the first one but there’s ‘OK, we don’t want to repeat exactly what we did, so how do we balance?’”
That balance came with artistic touches like a club-driven record in “Supernatural” and a country-tinged track “Tennessee Line,” featuring country star Vince Gill.
“It wasn’t really experimentation as much as it was this is another aspect of what we love,” says Daughtry of the latter track, which he wrote with Craddock.
Benson also credits the band with providing some of the biggest growth in Daughtry — both for the band and their leader: “Because he wrote them with his band members, he was able to stretch out more.”
Daughtry says “Leave This Town,” which debuted on top of the album charts when it was released last month, will “definitely show people that it is a band and not a one-man show. ... It’s a rock band, it’s definitely not all me up there.”
Still, he remains the band’s core and leader. He co-wrote every track on the record, and it was his vision that guided the recording. And that remains the challenge for Daughtry to be seen as a full band.
“I think 95 percent of the public really still see this as Chris, because his voice is his voice, but I think the true fans, they’re the ones who are going to be pleasantly surprised,” Benson says.