'American Idol' Alum Colton Dixon Brings the Noise -- And a Message -- on New Album
The season 11 finalist, who releases "The Messenger" on Jan. 29, says the Fox show is "still the best" because it delivers on its promise: to promote new talent.
Last January, Colton Dixon was cooling his heels in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, waiting for the 11th season of American Idol to unveil his audition to the world -- and his eventual rise to the top 12. Today, the seventh-place finalist will release his first album, A Messenger, on the EMI-distributed Christian label Sparrow Records. With his current single, “You Are,” rising to No. 21 on the Christian Digital Songs chart, the debut is well-positioned for a strong start, and to celebrate the occasion, Dixon will host an 8 p.m. StageIt concert on the day of its release.
“I’m just blessed,” the 21-year-old singer tells The Hollywood Reporter. “It’s been a crazy ride and I’ve learned so much, not only about music and the music business but about life itself."
Dixon's standing in the Christian market certainly has created some buzz, particularly from fellow Idols like season seven's Jason Castro, who just released his own CD, Only a Mountain, in January. "I really like his first single, which is, ironically, the name of my first single," joshed Castro. "He’s got an amazing voice, and we haven’t crossed paths yet. He’s super-talented and he’s just a great ambassador for the show."
Dixon did finally cross paths with his Sparrow label-mate and season-five alum Mandisa, and it was in the unlikeliest of places: a movie theater. "I was going to see another movie, and she was seeing Les Miserables," he says. "It was her second time, and tears were still coming down her cheeks. That was the first time I met her. She knew exactly who I was. She said, 'Colton Dixon.' I turned around, and she was crying. I was like, 'Are you OK?' She said, 'Oh, I just got out of Les Miz.'"
With all the excitement surrounding his record’s release, Dixon is still finding time to keep up with the show that launched his career. His sister, Schyler, is once again one of the hopefuls heading to Hollywood next month, and Dixon said he is excited that people may get a chance to hear her once more.
“She is ready,” he said of his sibling, who auditioned for the show in Nashville last season but was cut in Hollywood. “I’m so proud of her and everything she has done the last couple of years. It couldn’t have been easy on her. I know I was more ticked off. It wasn’t the right timing, I guess. She is doing so well, and I can hear her writing and singing from her bedroom, and it sounds so good. I know she’s going to do well; it’s just a matter of when."
Dixon, one of just three Idols from last season signed to a record deal, said he still has faith that his fellow cast-members will all have records out in due time.
“I’ve talked to a few of them, and I know they are writing and they are still pursuing, and I am so glad, because they need to be, because they deserve a record contract and they deserve to have a record out,” he said. “I can’t believe Joshua Ledet doesn’t have a record deal yet. I know he’s working on stuff now, and I’m so excited. I am going to make him email me some stuff, so I can get my Ledet fix.”
In Dixon's view, at the end of the day, Idol is still the show that delivers on the promise to promote new talent. “In my opinion, it’s still the best, because of the track-record that it has with different artists. It may be a matter of time before these other shows get the same track-record, but as of right now, Idol has that,” he says.
It was because of the show, Dixon adds, that he had the opportunity to work with musicians he admired as a fan. To wit: his production team consisted of Red Decibel (Adam Watts and Andy Dodd), while he paired up with songwriters such as Evanescence's David Hodges, Busbee, Pink, Kelly Clarkson, Jason Aldean, Christina Aguilera, Keith Urban, Daughtry, Adam Lambert, Better Than Ezra’s Kevin Griffin, and Lifehouse’s Jason Wade, who connected with the Idol alum after he performed the band’s song “Everything."
“The week I did [the song], I get a call from an unknown caller, and I was iffy on whether or not I should answer,” he said of Wade’s call to pass along that he was so thrilled Dixon “connected” with the music that he invited the young hopeful to a writing session at his home in California. Although the duo wrote several compositions that day, Dixon says he was “bummed” that none made the final cut. “Hopefully, on the next record there will a spot for some of those songs.”
Nevertheless, Dixon is excited for fans to hear what did make it to the final product, particularly the opening cut, “Noise,” the singles, "You Are" and "Never Gone," the Muse-inspired “In and Out of Time,” the plaintive, “Rise,” and "Scars," a song that may be too "edgy" for Christian radio. “Scars is the heaviest song on the album,” he says. “It comes from a dark place. Musically, in that song, it is my favorite, with the strings."
“Noise” opens the CD, and Dixon particularly loves that it creates the feeling of being in downtown New York City. “It’s a song about fighting through the noise that the world gives you every day and finding that still, small voice or finding that path that you are supposed to be on,” he said.
“Rise” has an interesting back-story. Originally slated as a bonus track, Dixon got into the fact that musically it showcased his modern rock leanings with a Coldplay/OneRepublic-type melody line.
Finally, Dixon is delighted to perform “Let Them See You” when he joins the Third Day tour next month, and with good reason -- Scotty Wilbanks, the keyboard player for Third Day, offered the song, co-written by J.J. Weeks, to the Idol star after watching one of his performances on television.
“It’s a piano vocal ballad, and it sums up what I did on Idol,” he said. “I want people to know that God is above me, first and foremost, and I want others to see Him through me. I can only take so much credit for the record."
Dixon hopes to return to the Idol stage once the show goes live and is trying to narrow down a song in case he gets the call. “I love when old contestants who are now artists go back on that stage and share where they have been for the past year,” he says. “It’s really encouraging, not only for the contestants but for the viewer, that Idol is turning out some really good talent. I hope that works out this year."
Twitter: @Idol_Worship; @Michele Amabile