Caleb Johnson: On Making a Heavy, Soulful, Powerful Rock Record


American Idol 13 winner, Caleb Johnson, spoke with the press on Friday afternoon about making his “heavy, soulful, powerful, convicted,” debut album, going to prom with best friend Jena Irene, and more

His schedule for the next few days is busy. The National Memorial Day concert on Monday and Jena’s Prom on Wednesday, “I think I’m just going to be up in the air for a couple of days, just going back and forth. But it’s going to be so much fun and I’m incredibly honored to be able to attend both events.”

What is it about Jena that makes her one of his best friends, “She is amazing. She’s a phenomenal singer and performer. Not only that, she’s got a huge, huge heart and she’s so sweet and funny and kind. For some reason, we just have this weird, amazing connection where we have so much fun together. She’s incredible.”

Has he begun planning his album? What kind of music will be on it? “Absolutely. The record itself is gonna be a really heavy, soulful, convicted, powerful rock n roll record with a lot of depth and again a lot of soul. I really want this to be an incredible and amazing experience. Because I’m a big album fan–I love full albums–I don’t want this to be a singles pop based record. Just because it is American Idol doesn’t meant I’m going to be a pop singer, a pop/rock singer. This is going to be a legitimate rock n roll ‘all killer no filler’ record. I really wanted to make an incredible impact on the music industry, so I’m really really looking forward to recording and writing, and working with other writers, and just getting my band together and formed and ready to go out there and just hit the ground runnin’.”

Does he plan on fronting a band? Like Daughtry? “Absolutely. [I plan] to form a band and those be my band of brothers where we’re going to be in it to win it til the end–just ride and jam and have a good time.”

Is he collaborating for his album yet? “At this point, I don’t know yet. It’s all going to come really quickly, but I’m going to sit down with the people at the label soon and work it out and make sure they’re on the same page as me and we all communicate and work together and just make it happen–make it an incredible and amazing experience.”

Does the “Rocker” moniker they game him on the show fit him as an artist? “My time on the show was really amazing in that I think every song that I did really portrayed me as the singer and artist that I am. It was always really great to do songs that aren’t necessarily rock songs, like the Adele “Skyfall” or the Aretha Franklin “Chain of Fools” or Lady Gaga. It showcased…that whatever song I do, I can put my own stamp on it. I am a rock singer, and the record that I’m going to make [is] a rock soul record that has a lot of soul and a lot of conviction and a lot of depth to it.  I just love heavy, bluesy rock n roll.”

Does he have any concerns about the demands of the tour and the wear and tear on his voice? “I now have to take it at a different [pace] rather than go 100 miles an hour. This whole process has prepared me for what’s to come. I have to take it very gently and not over do it and conserve my energy and my voice. This is the big leagues now. I have to take care of my instrument and so that really was a great learning experience for me [hurting his vocal cords] and I’m taking that to heed and know that I’m human. Under all the stress and stuff, I have to be able to handle it…I’ll have a strong voice for every show that I do from now on.”

What’s his reaction to being the first really hard rocker to win Idol? “I’m just thrilled to death. I was kind of unsure, because Idol is a pop based show, with pop music and pop culture. It was really cool that I was really well received by the judges and the audiences and even the other contestants. They really enjoyed it. It was so cool, because I sang stuff like Rush and Led Zepplin and all kinds of rock bands and Adele and Aretha Franklin. It was just an amazing and surreal moment when I won. I was like ‘Wow. I can’t believe that I won American Idol!’  It’s an honor and it’s amazing.”

How would he judge Ryan Seacrest singing Wednesday night? “Actually I really enjoyed it. He did a really good job. I loved [the] note that he ended on. I thought he did pretty well.”

After auditioning for Idol in the past, what made him keep trying, “The first two times, I really was kind of unsure about the whole experience. I went into it without any experience and not a lot of time spent under my belt writing and performing and jamming with my band. I took time off and wrote and worked with my band and toured and did shows. When the time came this year, I felt like ‘I’m going to give it one more shot. Let’s see what happens. Let’s just go all out, guns blazing.’   The crazy thing is that now I took the title home, and it’s so incredible, and it’s an honor and it’s insane. It’s crazy.”

What was it like performing with KISS, one of his biggest musical inspirations, “It was a really humbling and such an honor to get to play with. Literally, they’re icons in rock. I think they just got inducted into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame this year. I grew up listening and loving their music so much. They were some of the nicest most funniest people I’ve ever met. So nice–they were really kind and they had such great compliments of me and it was such a fun and such an incredible moment. It’s something that I’ll never forget until the day I die.”

How is his throat recovering from the bruised vocal cord? “Not fully back, but I just have to conserve my energy. I’ve got to get some more rest. My voice hasn’t completely healed 100%. There’s still a minor hemorrhage.  But with good rest for a couple days, the doctor said it should be fine. There is a risk that it can get worse if I over use it.”

Does he think his single, “As Long As You Love Me” fits him well? “This is what’s really interesting about the Idol experience. It goes really quickly. That song was given to me by the people from 19 and was really cool because it was written by the guy, his name is Justin Hawkins, from Darkness. It was a really interesting song–kind of a challenge because we didn’t really have a lot of time to go through it that much. We got the song, then we had to go record it two days later. It was a really fast process. It was a fun song. I had a blast singing it on the show. It’s just a fun, rock n roll anthem. The record itself is going to be really really heavy and convicted and it’s going to have a lot of soul and a lot of depth. It’s going to be a big powerhouse monster record that I cannot wait to let people hear.”

What did he do after the show Wednesday night? Did he get much sleep? “I went back to the hotel and hung out with my family. Then went to bed. That was basically what the whole night entailed. I was really pooped out.”

What advice would he have for anyone wanting to audition for the show next year? “Believe in yourself 100% and keep yourself grounded and stay focused. Make sure that your artistry and your vision comes through when you sing and perform and it will make a connection with people.”

How important is the support he gets from around the country as he goes through the Idol experience? “It’s an honor and it’s extremely, extremely humbling to get the love and support from everyone. I wouldn’t have made it this far on the show without the support from my fans and friends and family all across the nation. It’s just been so overwhelming in the best possible way. It’s incredible. It’s amazing.”

When he took a break from auditioning from Idol, what did he learn that helped take him to the top? “Just to be driven, just to be focused and stay on the path and the vision that you have. And to basically not give up. You only live one life. Whatever you believe strongly in, whatever passion you have, you should max it out to the fullest and just give it your all.”

Does he have any regrets or things that he wish he had done differently while he was on American Idol, “Absolutely not. I have had so much fun. And it was such an amazing…I couldn’t have asked for anything more. It’s been absolutely incredible. I have absolutely no regrets whatsoever. It’s been such a joy and a pleasure and an honor to get to sing on such a grand stage.”

What is he most looking forward to on tour? “Getting to to the different cities and perform for all the different audiences and just have a blast, and just get to go out on the road, get that music out there on the road, and put on some great shows for everybody.”

How does he think it will feel when he goes back to high school to go to prom with Jena, “It’s going to be really funny, and it’s going to be maybe a little awkward, but we’re going to have a blast. It’s definitely going to be a night that I’m not going to forget and she’s not going to forget.”

How will becoming the American Idol impact his dating life? “I don’t know. Right now, to be honest with you, I’m not going to have time at all to worry about dating or starting any kind of long term relationship. Everything is going by so quickly that once the record is out, and the tour starts for the record that’s coming out August 12, hopefully I’ll get a chance to actually take a second to relax and got out and have fun. But right now it’s all business and all about getting the best possible music out there to people.”

When he came back to Idol this year, after several tries, did he think at all that he could win the competition? “I didn’t know for sure, but I knew that after the first live show, I was ‘Man, you know, I can do this, I can buckle down, I can pull it together and give the best possible performances I can week after week.'”

Is there anything in particular he learned about himself as an artist through the experience? “What’s so cool, is that you learn so much. Especially on this show, you learn so so much about yourself. But it’s in such a short amount of time. It helps you get in tune with who you are as a person and as a singer and as a performer. I think it really shows, when you perform, how natural and how incredible [it is] that your soul can come out when you sing for people. It’s a powerful thing.”

What was he doing a year ago today? “A year ago today, I was out playing shows with my band about 3 or 4 times a week–doing gigs out there hustling.”

Did he have plans to try out for Idol? “Not necessarily. I was focused about the band. I was driven and determined to make it in the music business.”

Has he watched The Voice? Would he consider going on the stage with somebody like (current winner of The Voice) Josh Kaufman? “I would be down to share any stage with anybody. I love music and I love performing. Whoever I get the chance to share the stage with I’m down for anything. I think that would be a lot of fun.”

Was he tempted to wear KISS makeup during his performance? Was he envious of his brother that he did? “What was so funny, is the producers asked me jokingly. I said “I don’t think I could pull it off.’ The members of KISS are so tall. I literally looked like a Hobbit compared to them on stage, because they’re these massive guys. Houston is a huge huge KISS fan. When I found out I was singing with them, I had to bring him on stage and let them see that, because I knew he would be thrilled to death. I’m really glad he got to experience that and meet them. They were so nice and humble and generous and hilarious. We’ll both never forget.”

Where will he live after the tour? Will he just be a nomad? “I don’t know for sure, but I really would love to come back to the East coast and stay and live. That’s where my roots are. That’s where I grew up. I would really love to come and stay in Nashville, even Atlanta or in Asheville. I really don’t know…on the South or East coast.”

Does he know what songs he’ll sing on tour? “We haven’t gotten to that point yet. It’s kind of crazy. For the actual tour, it’s going to be highlights from the show. Whatever the biggest moments I had on the show I’ll be doing those songs.”

Does he think he’ll ever sing with a duet with Jena on either of their albums? “We’ve talked about it. We’d love to do that. I think it would be great.”

Any advice for hopefuls  auditioning  for Idol? “Rest, get sleep, be prepared. Have a couple of songs in your back pocket, because they’ll make you sing one to four songs. Go out there and have no nerves and kill it.”

The guitarist Caleb nominated for a car encouraged him to sing. What were the details? “I think I was 17. He had a band in high school and there was a talent show that was coming up. From a mutual friend, somebody had told him that they heard me singing somewhere. He just came up to me and said ‘Hey, man, would you be interested in coming to my house and jamming and sing on some songs?’ I said ‘yeah sure.’  I went to his basement. It was a 4 piece band that he had–we just started jamming out. I started singing a couple of lines, and he just literally, lost it. He called his parents and said ‘You’ve got to hear this guy sing. It’s incredible.’  They were freaking out and ecstatic. The night of the talent show, we were playing to a packed house. I got up on stage and sang the first line of the song and the crowd just erupted. Right there in that moment I was like ‘Wow, this is what I want to do. I think this is my calling.’ From then on out it’s been work, work, work–honing my craft and my performing abilities and vocals.”

Closing remarks: “I want to thank everyone so much for joining me on this amazing, wild, thrilling journey. I wouldn’t be here at the end of all this without the love and support from each and every one of you. All of you are absolutely amazing. I can’t wait to release a really kick-butt record coming out August 12. It’s going to be so awesome and amazing. I also want to give a huge shout out to all the contestants. I love each and every one of you guys. It’s been amazing. You are now my second family. Jena, it is such an honor and a pleasure to know you and get to share that stage at the end with you. It was incredible. I love everybody so much. Thank you all.”


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“Lucky 13, man!” Caleb Johnson breathlessly told Gold Derby less than a day after winning “American Idol” Season 13. “This has been insane and it’s an honor and it’s so thrilling and terrifying and exciting and it’s just amazing.” (Watch the full webchat with Caleb below.)

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What was it like being with Jena in the end? I mean, it was just an honor. She’s just an incredible singer and person and just a complete goofball. She is so funny and nice, and it was just such an honor to get to share that stage with her one last time before the show was over. It was just a culmination of all the hard work that we’d been doing each week. I’ve grown so much, she’s grown so much, so it was a great way to top it all. – Read more at EW

About mj santilli 33316 Articles
Founder and editor of, home of the awesomest fan community on the net. I love cheesy singing shows of all kinds, whether reality or scripted. I adore American Idol, but also love The Voice, Glee, X Factor and more!