'American Idol' Champ Kris Allen Is The 'Real Deal,' Mat Kearney Says

'He had a really strong sensibility,' singer/songwriter says of collaborating with Allen for major-label debut.

NEW YORK — [artist id="1832490"]Mat Kearney's[/artist] songs have been featured everywhere from "Grey's Anatomy" to a Bruce Springsteen-helmed charity CD. The next place the singer/songwriter hopes to hear his work is the major-label debut of "American Idol" winner Kris Allen.

Kearney teamed up with Kris in early August to write a top-secret tune and is very pleased with the results. "We wrote a song and it's awesome," Kearney boasted to MTV News while he was in NYC for a tour stop.

Amid a flurry of the usual "Idol" collaborators (Ryan Tedder, Claude Kelly), Allen surprised many when he announced that he was also working with Kearney. The Nashville-based singer/songwriter was just as surprised. "I think [Kris] was just a fan," Kearney said of how they ended up collaborating. "What he told me was that he was just picking bands that he liked." (Those bands apparently include Semisonic, Daughtry, the Fray and the Calling — members from each of those groups have all been mentioned in connection with Kris' album.)

Having worked with Kris in the midst of the breakneck pace of the American Idols Live! tour, it's no surprise the trip ended up being a bit of a whirlwind. "[His people] called me and he flew into town, and I made coffee and we sat in my living room and we wrote some stuff," Kearney said. "Before they knew it, it was late at night, and they had to find an open studio to record a demo before Kris had to skip town. They eventually settled on Kearney's friend's "ghetto" makeshift home studio. "He sang it in, like, one take and it was amazing. I was like, 'You should enter some sort of singing contest. You could do something with that,' " Kearney joked. "That guy can sing."

Apparently, Kris can write too, which was an even nicer surprise for Kearney, who admitted he usually associates "Idol" with vocalists, as opposed to singer/songwriters: "Someone wants to 'write' a song with you, you're like, 'Great, you want to come over and I'll write a song so you can be co-writer.' " But Kris' abilities shattered Kearney's expectations. "He was awesome, and he had amazing input and he had a really strong sensibility. ... I was like, 'Wow, this guy's the real deal!' "

Kearney admitted that he didn't know much about Kris before their session together. "I knew that he was the cute guy who was really nice who told people about his wife or something. And Simon didn't like that. That's all I knew. And I knew he had sung [Kanye West's] 'Heartless.' " But it didn't take long before the two singers with a sharp sense of humor hit it off. "He's a totally cool guy, totally enjoyed being with him. ... I have nothing to say about it other than he was great. And he bought an amazing trout for everyone. We ate trout! Keeping it Southern."

Kris Allen's still-untitled debut is scheduled to hit stores November 17, while Mat Kearney is currently on tour supporting his latest album, City of Black & White.

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