Four-time Grammy nominee Chris Daughtry has worked so hard on his vocal skills since skyrocketing to fame on “American Idol” in 2006 that he now has a hard time stomaching videos of himself from the show that made him a star.
“I can’t watch any of my performances from ‘Idol’ anymore,” he told vocal coach Chris Liepe on his podcast in May 2023, revealing how much he’s learned over the years about treating his voice as a true instrument.
Daughtry also said he was so busy trying to copy other popular singers while he was on “Idol” that he didn’t know how to create his own sound or protect his voice which, he revealed, he lost “all the time” on the show. Here’s what you need to know.
Chris Daughtry Explains Why He Frequently Lost His Voice on ‘American Idol’
“There were certainly elements of what I do now,” Daughtry told Liepe of his performances on “American Idol,” where he took fourth place during the show’s sixth season. “But I didn’t have the control or the access to freely do those things.”
“Looking back, I was very much still in the mimicking or trying-to-mimic-phase, trying to sound like something and trying to produce a sound that I thought it needed to sound like, as opposed to just being free with my voice. And so, I would lose my voice all the time on ‘Idol.’ I would get one song done and I was like, ‘How am I gonna do this next week?'”
Daughtry said “Idol” contestants didn’t have in-ear monitors at that time, which Music Gateway says are custom-made earphones “that sit inside the ear canal to aid the performer in hearing themselves and others on stage whilst performing.”
“I have a tendency to, if I can’t hear myself well, I will absolutely overdo it,” Daughtry told Liepe, “because I’m trying to overcompensate for my own volume. I don’t even realize it, I don’t feel like I’m pushing harder but I am, because I can feel it instantly after I’m done.”
“So that was terrifying,” Daughtry recalled.
In 2018, he told Yahoo that he was genuinely crestfallen when he was voted off the show in fourth place, but he’d had a feeling that day on the set that he might be going home.
“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,” he said. “And I remember seeing (judges) 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.'”
Chris Daughtry Says He Told Simon Cowell He’d Prove Him Wrong After Audition
Daughtry went on to become one of the most successful alumni of “American Idol,” with his self-titled first album becoming the fastest-selling debut rock album in history and the top-selling album of 2007, per Reuters.
But none of that success may have happened had he not auditioned for “Idol,” all thanks to some of his co-workers at the time. Back then, hopefuls still had to line up for hours to audition in-person; virtual auditions only started as a result of the pandemic in 2020, per USA Today.
Daughtry, a North Carolina native, explained to Liepe that he was supposed to audition for the judges — Jackson, Cowell and Paula Abdul — in Memphis. But after Hurricane Katrina hit, he had to set his sights on the Denver auditions.
“People at my job raised up some money to fly me to Denver,” he recalled. “I was at Broncos stadium (at) 5:30 in the morning in a long line. I had no idea how this was gonna work, I just knew I needed to do something. I was tired of spinning wheels.”
He explained, “They bring you in different lines out on the field. At least that’s how it was, I don’t know how they do it now. But each line had a producer (and ) each person at the front of that line would step up to their respective producer. And you’re all singing at roughly the same time, but you’re spread far apart enough.”
“I stepped up and I sang CCR’s version of ‘I Put a Spell On You,'” he recalled, adding that he hit the high notes with “nasally grit” that he quickly became known for on the show. “Everybody stopped singing … because I was louder than everybody. And they were like, ‘Yeah, go on through, buddy.”
By the time he got to audition in front of the celebrity judges, Cowell called him out for not using his voice properly and looking so rigid.
“I thought you rushed the song, I’m not sure I’m seeing a hell of a lot of charisma here,” Cowell told him. “I’m not sure I’m looking at a standalone star.”
“I wanted to be upset … but there’s always truth in the criticism,” Daughtry told Liepe. “When I went back and I watched that audition, I was like, ‘He’s absolutely right.’ I was stiff as a frickin’ board. I looked like I was a deer in the headlights. And yeah, I’m happy with the notes that came out, but there was a stiffness and this, like, rigidity that … I feel like I’m kinda lucky that I got in and I was able to kind of shake that off.”
Daughtry said that later that day, he saw Cowell getting into his car and told him, “I’ll prove you wrong,” and Cowell encouraged him to do so.
“I could tell that he saw something (in me),” he said.