HOLLYWOOD — While fellow former "American Idol" finalist Fantasia dropped her last name for her major-label debut, Chris Daughtry is losing his first.
"If I went out as 'Chris Daughtry' I would have been considered a pop artist, or I would have probably looked at myself that way," explained the frontman of a new band simply called Daughtry. "My favorite artists are bands, and I wanted that. I wanted that group of guys that are real tight together. And it's not about one person — it's a group."
So why not a name like Cadence or Absent Element? (Google alert: those were Daughtry's pre-"Idol" bands.) "Nobody would have related it to me," the singer said during a break from rehearsing last week. "So we decided on just Daughtry, because the recognition is there, but it's still a band name."
OK, so now that that's out of the way, what can we expect from Daughtry, which also includes guitarists Jeremy Brady and Josh Steely, bassist Josh Paul and drummer Joey Barnes? "I'm making the kind of album I've always wanted to make," Chris said. "It's got the sensitive, lighter stuff, but also the stuff that makes you want to run around in circles, pounding the walls in or something. I think it captures everything that I like about music. I was influenced by Elton John and, you know, Led Zeppelin. I think it's got a little bit of everything in there."
Daughtry are recording the yet-untitled album, due November 21, with producer Howard Benson, whose credits include the All-American Rejects, My Chemical Romance and Papa Roach (see "Chris Daughtry Drafts Fuel Guitarist, My Chemical Romance Producer For LP").
"The great thing about Howard is he knows what works for songs," Daughtry explained. "He can help you with the arrangements, he can help you with the writing process, and he is really good about that, so it definitely made the songs better than what I could have imagined them to be."
Daughtry also collaborated with other rock songwriters, including former Evanescence guitarist Ben Moody, SR-71's Mitch Allan, Shinedown's Brent Smith and the Nixons' Zac Maloy, who worked on the potential first single, "Used To."
Other contenders to be first out the gate include "It's Not Over" and the ballad "Home." "I actually wrote 'Home' at home," said Daughtry, who started singing and playing guitar in high school. "I was sitting on my couch and I knew I was getting ready to go out and do the show. I guess I started picturing what it was going to be like if things go really well. I think I wrote the song in, like, 10 minutes and I never changed anything from that time. I was really proud of it. It was just one of those songs that you're feeling it, and it came right out and you never really had to think about it."
Daughtry finished fourth on the latest season of "Idol" and was the rare — if not the only — eliminated contestant to publicly express anger in the days following (see "Daughtry On Elimination: 'I Wasn't Going To Pretend To Be Happy' ").
"I look at those interviews and I'm like, man, I look like a miserable dude who just lost his life," Daughtry said, chuckling. "I mean, that's what I was feeling at the time, I wasn't too happy about it. But for me, it was the best thing that happened. Now I get to put a band together and write my stuff and put the album out that I wanted to put out. So I got what I wanted out of the whole process."
So is Daughtry finally admitting it might have been best for him not to win?
"I would definitely say if you win the competition you have something to live up to," he said. "In that respect, I agree, but I don't look at it as there is less pressure on me, because I put a lot of pressure on myself to make sure I put out what people want and expect out of me.
"I don't want to look back and not be proud of what I did."