'American Idol' Winner Caleb Johnson on New Album, Summer Tour: Singing to Track 'Sucks'
"It's over-the-top, it's dramatic, it's raw" and straight out of "the church of rock and roll," says the 23-year-old of his forthcoming debut, "Testify."
Is Caleb Johnson the Jack White of American Idol? The season 13 winner will release his new album, Testify, on August 12, marking the fastest turnaround in Idol history (the album is currently available for pre-order on iTunes).
“It’s been crazy,” says Johnson of shuttling back-and-forth from the American Idol LIVE! summer tour to the studio to put the finishing touches on Testify. “You kind of have to get in the zone where you are going non-stop. You are working 24-7, so you just get in a mode… Now everything is done and I can focus on the tour.”
So how has the trek been since kicking off on June 24? "Nuts,” says Johnson. "Most of the shows have been sold out or almost sold out. The energy has literally almost blown the roof off the place."
This year’s outing marks an Idol tour first: the season-13 finalists are on the road without a band and singing to track. Johnson says he's making the best of it. “You have to create those moments on your own," he tells The Hollywood Reporter. "You really have to step outside your box and pull your energy from somewhere else. ... It kind of sucks, but then again, you have to roll with it and make that magic happen regardless.”
Indeed, Johnson promises plenty of special moments during the two-set show, including a reprise of his duet of “Gimme Shelter” by The Rolling Stones with runner-up Jena Irene. The Stones' blues-based rock may have been further inspiration for Testify, which the 23-year old singer says has a sound straight out of “the church of rock and roll. ... It’s over-the-top, it’s dramatic, it’s raw."
The record was made in hyper-speed, Johnson adds, with all of the songs written over the course of a week with the help of such heavy-hitters as Blair Daly (Rascal Flatts' “Stand”), James Michael (lead singer of Sixx:AM), Sam Hollander (Daughtry's “Waiting for Superman”), Justin Tranter (lead singer of Semi Precious Weapons) and Dave Bassett (Shinedown's “Second Chance”). One song, “Another Life,” was written by Aloe Blacc.
Offering additional clues — "theatrical like Queen and Meatloaf," "something almost R&B Stax Motown," "heavy, stripped-down blues rock” — Johnson is looking forward to the next phased when he'll put together his touring band for the fall.
For now, he’s having a blast touring with the Idols — who have been jamming together on and offstage — and meeting the fans. “That’s a huge honor to have people come to see you," he says. “It’s awesome.”
The American Idol LIVE! Tour continues on Saturday with a stop at Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut and July 8 at MAC at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, NJ.