Former American Idol finalist and Daughtry frontman Chris Daughtry spoke with us about parenting teens and infants, the music on his newest album Break The Spell, and how he’s teaching his kids the spirit of gratitude this holiday season.
You have four kids: Hannah, 15, Griffin, 13, and twins Addy and Noah, who just turned one. How is it being a parent to kids who are all in different ages & stages?
It’s a completely different dynamic. The teenagers are old enough where they need to go everywhere, but not old enough to where they can drive themselves there. It’s pretty crazy having to take them to this lesson and see this friend, and this and that. And then you have the one-year-olds, who are completely needy! They can’t do anything for themselves—it’s ridiculous! [Laughs] They’re so awesome, though. They’re starting to talk and none of it makes sense but it’s fun to just see them try to figure life out, you know?
How do your older kids feel about your fame and knowing that they have a famous dad?
I definitely haven’t been cool to them for a few years now—unless they want something. It’s all conditional for them. But [my fame] happened so early on—they were 6 and 9 when it all went down—so it was definitely a shock to them then, but, five years later, it’s normal to them. They don’t really think about it—I’m just “Dad.” They don’t like my music.
How does that make you feel??
I don’t care. It wouldn’t matter what kind of music I did, they’re gonna like something else. It has nothing to do with style. It’s just knowing that that’s their dad’s music, they’re going to like something else. They’re teenagers, and that’s what they do. When they were younger, they loved it!
Do any of your kids have musical interests or inclinations?
They do! They’re taking lessons for various instruments—piano, drums, violin. Yeah, they’re interested. I’m not sure how far they’ll go with it, but they’re certainly interested. We don’t like to push them into anything. We just want them to find their way and see how it goes.
As a stepdad, can you share some of the joys and challenges you’ve experienced in that role?
I think one of the biggest challenges, which I think a lot of people would understand, is there are some things that you just cannot relate to, because it’s not your blood and you can certainly see traits that aren’t you. It just shows how powerful genes are. I know for Griffin—I knew his father, and this might be getting too personal but I see things in him that were his dad, and he hasn’t been around his dad since he was four or five years old, so it’s interesting as a stepparent. And with the one-year-olds, it’s crazy how strong genes are because you’re seeing everything from you. You think, “Why is he whining about everything?” Well, I do that! It’s funny to see the different personalities. But being in a “blended family” is just trying to understand that and be compassionate towards that and just trying to be the best father you can in those situations—and just being there, and not trying to make them feel a certain way for being a certain way.
Chris Daughtry wraps presents at an event for Duracell's Holiday Insurance Program
How has your music changed since you’ve become a parent?
I guess, always having kids in my professional career making music, it’s always kind of been in the back of my mind when it comes to writing as far as lyrical content for the simple fact of not wanting to be saying something you don’t want your kids saying. That’s always been a big thing for me. There’s so much music out there that I’m like, “Oh, my gosh, I can’t believe you’re listening to this and you’re saying that!” There’s just so much out there that I just feel is so inappropriate for kids. And it’s completely marketed towards them, and to fight that battle for myself it’s always in the forefront of my writing.
How it’s affected [my music] as far as what I write about, I’m not sure it has lately just because I’ve always had kids. I don’t think anything has changed there. But I think this record in general is just more positive than anything I’ve written before, and maybe that stems from having witnessed childbirth and being in a different state of mind and taking time off for once before writing this record.
As a musician, are you on the road a lot?
We have been. As of lately it’s been very sporadic, a lot back and forth. As much as I hate airports, it’s meant me going home a lot.
How do you stay in touch with your family?
We do phone calls a lot. As much as we would love to do Face Time and stuff like that—it’s funny, because I try to call and connect, and [my wife’s] busy and I get home and she goes, this is what I’m dealing with when you’re trying to call, and I’m like, yeah, I wouldn’t take my call either! [Laughs] It’s so chaotic. And trying to organize something with Face Time or iChat where it requires a perfect wi-fi signal and all this stuff, it sounds great, but in reality it’s hard to organize that sometimes.
Do you have any holiday traditions in your family that you’re looking forward to?
It’s funny, my wife and I have been discussing that over the past, I don’t know, two or three years going. We don’t have any, like, thing that you do. We don’t have that tradition. I don’t feel like other than the decorating of the tree, and trying to get the kids involved in that, I don’t feel like we have that thing yet, or that we’ve found it. But it’s certainly something we’ve been thinking about and trying to figure out what we can do that our kids remember growing up and going, “That was something we always did.” When I grew up there were certain foods that would only come during Christmas, you know? And to this day, my mom makes it and makes sure I get it. Stuff like that, I think is important, so we’ve got to put our heads together and come up with something.
How do you instill the values of gratitude and giving back in your kids during the holiday season?
Well, I do feel that for the most part our teenagers are spoiled with the over-gifting and we were even talking about this year, like, for the new ones we’re not going to make that the focus. And we want to start going to soup kitchens and things like that and show our kids what it’s really about. Just giving back to the community and not, “What am I getting? How many presents am I getting?” Because it’s not important, and they get stuff all year-round. We just feel that we want to instill that into our kids and now that we’ve got new ones, like every parents say, we’re going to do it right this time! And so it’s certainly something we’ve been thinking about pretty heavily.