Kris Allen is an "American Idol" of many firsts. He's the first married "Idol" winner. He's the first "short" dude (his words) who's taken home the grand prize. He's the first champ to leave the dreaded coronation song off his album. But he's the second "Idol" winner to have a sole writing credit on a track from his debut post-"Idol" CD.
Following in David Cook's footsteps, Kris included his self-penned "Red Guitar" on the album, and the track is already a legend among his fans. The autobiographical ditty was written for his wife long before he became a breakout star on the TV juggernaut. And for Kris, convincing his record label to let him write on his self-titled major-label debut — in stores this very moment — was a top priority. Lucky for him, the suits were onboard with the idea from the minute Seacrest handed him that silly "Idol" trophy.
"[Writing] was the idea all along," Allen told MTV News. "I'm not a general pop artist, and I don't think that I would get away with that. Singing a whole bunch of other people's songs — that's not who I am."
Turns out the Arkansas native isn't a natural born collaborator either. As a former indie troubadour, it took Kris a little time before he mustered up the confidence to work effectively with the A-list songwriting talent Jive Records and 19 Recordings hooked him up with. "[I finally had] a realization that [songwriters] want input, and they were there for me. And for me, it was gonna be on my album, so it had to be good, you know?" Kris confessed. It wasn't until the end of the American Idols Live! Tour, in September, that Allen felt he finally "manned up" about his songwriting sessions with others.
Kris eventually grew close to several of his cohorts and learned to appreciate their unique strengths. Of Lindy Robbins (who co-wrote a quarter of the CD), Kris said, "She was kinda like a mom almost. I feel like she could feel what I was thinking, so she would always hone it in. ... She's really sweet."
But it was fellow dude rockers Jon Foreman (from Switchfoot) and the Fray's Joe King who Allen said he learned the most from. "As an artist, I feel like I can relate to them. And obviously, Jon Foreman's lyrics are outta this world," Allen gushed. Foreman and King's efforts resulted in the inspiring anthem "Lifetime" and the jumpy, George Harrison-inspired "Alright With Me," respectively.
Allen was already close to one songwriter, his hometown pal and current bandmate Cale Mills, who helped pen the soulful "Is It Over" along with Kris and industry heavyweight Mike Elizondo. In fact, the rocker was so thrilled with the results, he even dropped "From the Ashes" — a track19/Jive hyped to journalists over the summer in an early album preview — to make room for his buddy's tune. "It's not that I didn't like ['From the Ashes']. For me, I liked 'Is It Over' [more], and it was either/or," Allen said. Fans who pre-ordered the album on iTunes will get to hear the driving "From the Ashes" anyway.
Kris' songwriting identity also got in the way of accepting some of the non-Allen compositions included on the final track list. He was thrilled with the Script's two offerings, the lead single "Live Like We're Dying" and the bouncy "Written All Over My Face," but "The Truth," written by Toby Gad and Train's Pat Monahan, was a grower for Allen. "I thought it was really good, [but] for me, it was just stubbornness and wanting to write everything." Ditching the "jaunty piano" featured on the demo he first heard helped him warm up to the track too.
In the end, Kris is thrilled with the result and is eager for everyone to hear it, even if the perfectionist wished he had a little more time to tweak a few things. If given the chance to put in a few more weeks of work, Kris knows exactly how he'd spend the time.
"Write more songs, dude. ... Yeah, I would keep writing," Allen said with a smile.
Get your "Idol" fix on MTV News' "American Idol" page, where you'll find all the latest news, interviews and opinions.