Chris Daughtry on Collaborations + How Live Changed His Life – ‘I’ve Never Been One to Feel Like I’ve Got It’
On Jan. 5, 2023, Daughtry released their cover of Journey's "Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)" to celebrate the original, which came out 40 years earlier to the day. Halestorm's Lzzy Hale collaborated with the band on the cover and the result is a powerful duet between Hale and Chris Daughtry that reimagines the Journey classic in a totally fresh, new—and heavy—way.
"When we first had the idea to do this, we knew it would be special," Daughtry told Chuck Armstrong on Thursday night's Loudwire Nights (April 27). "We felt really good about it and we were excited, but we had no idea it was going to make the noise it's making. The fact that I get in the car and it comes on the radio, it makes me look so cool to my kids."
Daughtry and his band had been contemplating a cover song for awhile, but they weren't sure which song they should choose. As Daughtry explained to Chuck, they're no strangers to covers, but he didn't think they had found the one that they could truly make their own.
"We were shooting for something in the '80s, that iconic synth sound that we could make heavy," Daughtry said. "The first idea was "The Final Countdown," but the more I thought about it, I was like, 'Guys, it's going to be hard to get the cheese off of this one.' The only picture in my head was us doing a karate montage."
So while the band continued to toss around potential ideas, Daughtry found himself at home watching Stranger Things with his wife when all of a sudden "Separate Ways" jumped out at him.
"They had it chopped up in the season finale and the vocals were singled out," he remembered. "It was so ethereal and epic, I was like, 'Oh my god, this is it. This is it. This could be big. We could make this really heavy.'" As soon as Daughtry brought the idea to his producer—The Exies' Scott Stevens—they quickly decided it should be a duet, and Daughtry's first and only choice was Hale.
"I called her up and told her I've got the song for us," Daughtry recalled. "I said, 'Are you in,' and she said, 'That's my go-to karaoke song. I'm all in.'" I've sung with a lot of great vocalists and worked with a lot of people I respect, but there was something about the way our vocals gelled together that was kind of unexpected and really cool. We were both high-fiving and really digging the way it was coming out."
Hale and Daughtry aren't the only ones who dug the cover. In fact, when the song first came out, Journey guitarist Neal Schon praised it on Twitter and Daughtry's producer recently ran into keyboardist Jonathan Cain who was really positive about the song, too.
"Nothing from Steve Perry yet, but it's all good."
Daughtry Will Always Be a Fan First
As comfortable as Daughtry is with cover songs, he also seems to be very comfortable with collaborating with other artists and writers. While some musicians may feel a little apprehensive about co-writing or jumping into the studio with someone who is not a regular part of their band, clearly, that isn't the case with Daughtry. The list of people he's worked with continues to grow, from Lzzy Hale and Theory of a Deadman to Santana and Vince Gill.
"I'm still a fan of music and I've never been one to feel like I've got it," Daughtry told Chuck about what gets him excited with these kinds of collaborations. "I feel like every time I write, I'm kind of starting over in a way, so when I work with other people it triggers something in my brain that maybe I would have never considered or thought of ... I think working with people who have been doing it longer than you, you know, it's never going to be a disservice to you. It's always going to enhance your tool belt."
One of the artists that Daughtry has found himself collaborating with more than once is Sevendust frontman Lajon Witherspoon. Their friendship started when Daughtry released their debut, self-titled album in 2006, but Daughtry's appreciation of Sevendust started well before that.
"I was a huge fan of them and Lajon, I grew up listening to Sevendust," he said. "We did some shows together [when Daughtry came out] and that was just a dream for me. To have them standing side stage watching us perform and kind of jamming out with us, that was such a validating moment early on."
Daughtry admitted that he was surprised he was even invited to share the stage with a band like Sevendust. He thought to himself, "Why are we on this bill? Are these fans going to throw empty beer cans at us?" But for Daughtry, seeing Sevendust rock out during their sets or having Vinnie Paul encourage them early on, it gave them the confidence to go out and do their own thing.
"When we had the chance to work together, I remember Morgan [Rose] sent me the track," Daughtry explained about his first collaboration with Sevendust on their song, "The Past," from 2008's Chapter VII: Hope & Sorrow. "I loved the song instantly. We got together in Atlanta. It was a lot of fun, and I think that was my first experience singing on someone else's material and it was a band that I had loved for so long. It was surreal to me."
Years later, Daughtry and Witherspoon had another chance to collaborate, this time on a cover of a classic song from the '90s.
"To me, "Hunger Strike" is the '90s," Daughtry explained about covering the Temple of the Dog song. "If you could wrap up the '90s in one song, I feel like this is the soundtrack. You've got two of the most iconic voices of that era on a song that everyone knows. That song was massive, it was ubiquitous, it was everywhere. Cornell's vocal performance is just out of this world."
Daughtry had the idea to cover the track and Witherspoon gladly obliged.
"I love how it turned out. I'm really proud of it."
For Daughtry, It All Started at a Concert in 1997
If it's not clear yet, Daughtry's love for rock and roll is a critical part of why he has committed his life to making and playing music. His fandom and appreciation for his peers were evident throughout his time on Loudwire Nights, so when Chuck asked him where it all started, he was quick to answer.
"I was a teenager and got really into Soundgarden in the early-'90s and then Live," he explained. "Throwing Copper, that record was so impactful to me. It made me want to pick up a guitar and start writing songs. I was always singing along to these artists like Alice In Chains and Tool, trying to emulate these incredible vocalists that I admired while trying to also find my own voice through it all."
The moment that changed his life, though, came in 1997.
"I went to see Live on the Secret Samadhi tour," Daughtry said. "It's a packed amphitheater, everybody's jamming out and head banging and I feel like I'm standing there like a student. I'm watching everything and it hit me, that's what I want to do with the rest of my life. I want to do what Ed Kowalczyk is doing."
Daughtry called that experience spiritual because of Kowalczyk's performance.
"It's weird to talk about this considering he's one of my dear friends now, but I loved his vocals and I loved the passion with which he sang and when I saw it live, it was a whole different level. It was even better. How was he doing it even better live?"
Daughtry admitted that after that night, his passion turned into a bit of an obsession as he started a band and began playing as many shows as he could.
"I was writing terrible songs and playing very sloppy, but I had this mindset that it was just going to happen, inevitably," he confessed. "I'm just going to keep doing this and at some point, it's going to pan out."
It took about 10 years of things not panning out for Daughtry to get blinded by the light at the end of the tunnel.
"American Idol happened," he said.
"At first, I had this short-sighted view that I'm just going to get on there and I'm not going to really do well because there's nobody doing modern rock and the general public doesn't want to hear that. If anything, I'll just make enough noise that people will maybe remember my name and I'll get more gigs ... It took on a life of its own and I started seeing the bigger picture."
Watch Daughtry's Audition on American Idol in 2006
Chris Daughtry joined Chuck Armstrong for Loudwire Nights on Thursday, April 27; the show replays online here, and you can tune in live every weeknight at 7PM ET or on the Loudwire app; you can also see if the show is available on your local radio station. Check out Daughtry's collaboration with Lzzy Hale on their cover of Journey's "Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)" at this location.