So much for striking while the iron's hot. Instead of rushing out an album right after his ouster from the 2005 edition of "American Idol," Constantine Maroulis has spent the past two years indulging his love of musical theater, acting in a soap opera and putting together an empire under his snarkily named Sixth Place Productions banner.
(Are you an "Idol" junkie? Don't miss our recap of the Wednesday night finale, see a 60-second recap, watch our carpet coverage here, and read about Sanjaya and Carrie Underwood strutting their stuff on the red carpet.)
"I'm an actor, I love to host and I'm a singer. I did Broadway, and I produced my own tours and started my own label," said Maroulis, who appeared on Broadway in "The Wedding Singer" musical and is currently playing a singer on the daytime drama "The Bold and the Beautiful" (see "Constantine Maroulis Hopes For 'Roseanne'-Type Success"). "Would I trade all that work for making one successful album right off the show? I don't have that answer. I think this record is better than the one I could have made right off the show. It's more grassroots — I picked the band, financed it and co-wrote a bunch of the songs."
The album, titled Constantine, will drop August 7 on his label, with distribution from Sony/Red. Self-proclaimed "blue-collar guy" Maroulis is confident that his fans will find it and buy enough copies to keep him on the road. "I can sell a couple hundred thousand copies and do what I love to do: play clubs," he said. "I don't need to be a huge star."
Just in case, though, he did bring in some ringers, including Matchbox Twenty singer Rob Thomas, who co-wrote a song on the album, as well as Nashville songwriter Angie Aparo (Faith Hill's "Cry"). "It's got a distinctly rock sound, kind of an East Coast Bon Jovi/Rob Thomas vibe with great pop hooks," Maroulis said. The first single, "Everybody Loves," has been featured on "The Bold and the Beautiful" and is on iTunes now. The next single, "Girl Like You," will soon be tied to a story line on the show.
Season four's other rocker, #2 finisher Bo Bice, is also prepping an album for later this year: his yet-untitled sophomore release. His 2005 debut, The Real Thing, featured assists from Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora, Nickelback's Chad Kroeger and former Evanescence member Ben Moody that were brokered by Bice's label (see "Intestines, 'Idol,' Baby And Bon Jovi Helped Inspire Bo Bice's Debut"). The longhaired Southern rocker says he called the shots this time around.
The album, which Bice is recording with noted country producer Frank Liddell (Faith Hill, Dixie Chicks), features the music hound's wish list of famed session masters. "I was throwing around ideas of the people I wanted to play on it," Bice said. "And I was like, 'Yeah, sure, these guys will play on my album. Right!' " But a few phone calls landed him Rolling Stones keyboardist Chuck Leavell — who Bice met a decade ago when he delivered a package of Christmas CDs to Leavell's house — as well as Black Crowes drummer Steve Gorman, legendary session guitarist Waddy Wachtel (Keith Richards, Tom Waits) and bluegrass icon David Grisman.
"It's a star-studded cast, and I'm the only one on there who's not famous," the ever-humble Bice joked. "I picked and co-wrote the songs that if I was a guy who would be spending my hard-earned money buying an album I would want to hear." That means original back-to-basics Southern rock and country-tinged singer/songwriter tunes co-written with A.J. Croce (son of 1970s singer Jim Croce) and Chris Tompkins (Carrie Underwood's "Before He Cheats").
Bice said he wrote 31 songs for the album and is narrowing down the list to 10-12 that will make the final cut, including four songs that are currently vying to be the first single.
"I didn't have a lot to do with the first record," said Bice, who took time off in late 2006 to have another surgery to finally correct a nagging intestinal blockage that hospitalized him 15 times last year. "It was very RCA and Clive [Davis]-driven. It was an excellent album, but it was a revolving door of one guy in this week, another guy the next. This time I was here for every aspect [of it], and I'm a lot more comfortable."
Bice and Maroulis were the trailblazers for rock singers on "Idol." They paved the way for the show's latest breakout star, last season's #4 finisher Chris Daughtry, a fact Bice takes pride in (see "If It Weren't For Bo, Could Chris Rock Out On 'Idol'?").
"It made me proud that Chris said I was part of what inspired him to audition," said Bice, who is in the midst of an acoustic U.S. tour. "There was never a bone in my body that thought I was going to win or make it that far. To see people progress and see more rock people on there makes me proud."
Bice has eight dates left on his acoustic tour, according to his management: Yuma, Arizona (Saturday); Anaheim, California (Tuesday); West Hollywood, California (Wednesday); San Diego (Thursday); Bakersfield, California (June 1); Tucson, Arizona (June 3); Odessa, Texas (June 7); and Dallas (June 9).