Daniel Powter would like to thank “American Idol” for using his single “Bad Day” as the soundtrack to their eliminated-contestant montages each week, surely bolstering its current three-week reign as the #1 song in the country.
Someday he might even return the favor and watch it.
“I grew up doing these things called the Kiwanis Music Festival, and I used to go up there and get adjudicated by playing violin and I’d get booed off the stage by these judges,” Powter said. “So there’s a little bit of irony in that. And I don’t watch it. I think it would kind of break my heart to watch these kids. I’m one of these wimpy, sensitive guys.
“I mean, no I’m not,” he laughed. “F—in’ get rid of them. Get them off the stage! They suck!”
Wimpy or not, Powter is arguably one of the hottest singers in the world at the moment. “Bad Day” has been a smash for more than a year overseas, where he’s already on his second or third single (depending on the market). And last week in his home country, he won Best New Artist at Canada’s version of the Grammys, the Junos.
“They just did a [‘Bad Day’] parody on ‘Saturday Night Live,’ ” Vancouver-born Powter said last week. “That’s when you know you’ve actually arrived.”
All the more interesting is that Powter never expected any sort of success, which is part of the reason he believes he’s receiving it.
“I got signed more or less after we made the record, so I think if I had that in the beginning, I probably would’ve sang about my rims,” explained the singer, whose piano pop and falsetto voice have earned him comparisons to Elton John. “Instead it was the exact opposite. I’m singing about Styrofoam in certain songs. … I’m singing about stuff that you probably wouldn’t put on a record if you thought you were supposed to go out and sell a lot of them. It’s kind of been a blessing in a way, though, because it’s me.”
Powter, who recorded the album with producers Jeff Dawson and Mitchell Froom (Elvis Costello, Sheryl Crow), wrote “Bad Day” after the melody came in his head and remained there for two weeks.
“It was driving me nuts, so I laid it down,” he recalled. “I was looking for a lyric — and I thought it probably would’ve been the cheesiest song of all time if I’d written it really up and poppy — so I decided to make it have more of a negative connotation to it. So it’s sort of like a conflict. You’ve got a melody going one way, which is very up, and the lyric is supposed to be a little bit more of making fun of you, sort of like a tease. The whole record’s kind of like that. It’s that combination of a darker element with a melody.”
The lyrics loosely refer to Powter’s days as a struggling musician, making $20 last a week, although there’s no one bad day that inspired him.
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“I think everybody knows what it’s like to be thrown in the f—ing garbage can,” he said. “But mostly it’s about phonics. It’s about words that sing great, and bad day was one of those. I was mumbling something, and those words came out right in that part.”
With “Bad Day” on wax, Powter was able to score a record deal, and through use of the song in a Coca-Cola commercial overseas, he quickly found an audience. In France, he broke a 20-year-old chart record.
With that momentum, he turned his focus to America, which in many ways was the inspiration for the album.
“I grew up with American music,” he said. “And when I wrote the record, I was so inspired by this music that that’s the stuff that came out of me. This is stuff that was on my radio every day.”
Powter had no idea his label had licensed “Bad Day” to “Idol” but happily says, “I’ll take it, man.”
If he has any fears of one-hit-wonderdom with the song and its “Idol” connection, Powter hides them well. “I’m gonna get past that,” he said. “I got past this song in other countries already.”
And Powter’s already being proactive on turning the success of the song into a career. When his label pushed him to do a radio promotion tour, he agreed only if he could play small clubs in each city on those nights.
“It was one of those things that I will never forget,” Powter said. “It’s more important than Billboard magazine, I will tell you that much. I got to meet people and play music for 300 people who would show up to these intimate little gigs. And they would ask me questions, and I would ask them questions, and it was beautiful. That will be forevermore the most inspiring tour I ever did.”Get your “Idol” fix on MTV News’ “American Idol” page, where you’ll find all the latest news, interviews and opinions.