In the course of only five years, Chris Daughtry has had more than his share of career highlights. The singer, songwriter, and musician from North Carolina has released back-to-back No. 1 albums, the 4x-platinum Daughtry (which became the fastest-selling rock debut in Soundscan history) and 2009’s platinum Leave This Town. DAUGHTRY has scored four No. 1 Top 40 hits (“It’s Not Over, “Home,” “Feels Like Tonight,” and “No Surprise”), earned four Grammy Award nominations (including “Best Rock Album” for DAUGHTRY), won three American Music Awards, and brought its electrifying live show to all corners of the world, including sold-out arenas in South Africa, Singapore, and The Philippines.
So when it came time to record their third album, Break the Spell, it would have been understandable if Chris and the band — which includes guitarists Josh Steely and Brian Craddock, bassist Josh Paul, and drummer Robin Diaz — decided to stick to what they knew worked. Thing is, that’s not how they work. “I didn’t want to make the same record,” Chris says of how he felt before the band hit the studio in March 2011 with long-time producer Howard Benson. “Howard called me and said he had some ideas for what we needed to do to differentiate this album. He said, ‘I really think we need to push ourselves.’ He was blown away by the songs we had sent over, which is very hard to do with that guy, so everything was really positive out of the gate.”
The result is Break the Spell — a gleaming showcase for Chris’s powerful, emotionally resonant voice and knack for relentless melodic hooks and big, anthemic choruses. The album enables the band to evolve musically while aiming to satisfy its many long-time fans. “Going in to the writing sessions, we said, ‘Let’s not try to sound like anything. Let's just write, and see what happens,’” says Chris, who co-wrote every song with either one of his band-mates or such collaborators as Marti Frederiksen, Busbee, and Brett James. “We came up with some pretty interesting tunes that sound nothing like anything we've done before. Even though some of them didn’t make the album, the process stretched us and took us to new places. It was the first time I’ve said, ‘It doesn't sound like us, but I can see us doing that.’"
You can hear their risk-taking on such primal, slithering rockers as hard-driving first single “Crawing Back To You,” “Outta My Head,” and “Renegade,” which Entertainment Weekly praised for its “wind-in-your-eyes hook and leather-glove-to-the-sky chorus” calling it “the ideal soundtrack for hitting the highway.” The songs reflect the confident swagger of some of Chris’ favorite bands. “I was listening to a lot of old Aerosmith and Def Leppard and I wanted to make a rock record that that was really upbeat and hard-hitting,” Chris says. “There were a couple of tracks on Leave This Town that were heavy, but as a whole, the album was very polished. Break the Spell is more fist-pumping, if you will. I wouldn’t say the songs are stripped-down, but they have a bit more room to breathe.”
That extra space has the effect of allowing the words to shine more brightly, which became important to Chris when he realized that some of the songs had gone deeper lyrically than anything he had written to date. The birth of his twins in November 2010 “definitely sparked something in me,” he says, and led to such moving ballads as “Gone Too Soon.” At one point during the writing session, Chris had to walk out to collect himself. “The song is about realizing that today could have been the day that someone would be blowing out the candles,” Chris says. “It just hit me pretty hard. I remember playing the demo for my brother and I turned around and he was bawling. I didn't realize that my brother’s wife had suffered a miscarriage years before. It was a pretty emotional moment.”
“Gone Too Soon” may be the album’s most intense moment, but Break the Spell is not a brooding affair, nor is it preoccupied with people going their separate ways — further evidence that Chris has ventured out of his comfort zone. “That ship has sailed,” he says. “I wanted to do something that was a little more charming in the lyrical take, so I started reflecting on when I met my wife as opposed to dwelling on the hard times. I was trying to tap into all of the spontaneous things you do when everything's new and perfect and you’re trying to impress someone. I’d never really written about that. Even ‘Crawling Back To You’ is a different take on the ‘Sorry, I screwed-up story’ in that it’s about how I’m doing exactly what you said I’d do, I’m crawling back.”
Overall, Chris feels that Break The Spell, which is being released five years from the day that DAUGHTRY’S debut was released, is the most uplifting and hopeful album the band has recorded. “It’s not so dark,” he says. “I’m not only singing about the bad days. And with many of the songs being up-tempo, it’s going to really fun to play live.”
Live, of course, is where Daughtry really shines. This band has always made its bones on stage and the coming year will be no exception as they hit the road to support Break the Spell. “Bon Jovi, U2, and Aerosmith are certainly big influences on us musically and just seeing how they can still go out and play for the masses after all these years is really inspiring,” Chris says. “Let’s be honest, we didn't set out to do this to play clubs. No rock band ever sets out saying they want to play clubs for the rest of their career. If they do, they're full of it. I want to play arenas. I would love to play stadiums. This album is a step in the right direction.”