Chris Daughtry apologizes for his appearance. Although it's not visible and we thought it would be rude to check for ourselves, Daughtry says he's feeling a little grimy because he's covered in both sunscreen and a fine layer of dirt. The sticky combo plan comes from shooting the video for "No Surprise" in a quarry pit in Irwindale, about 30 miles east of Los Angeles under a brutal, unforgiving sun with no cover.
The rock quarry is in operation, so Daughtry and his bandmates gather round with the cast and crew to receive a safety briefing from the quarry foreman, who, himself, looks straight out of central casting. We're told to, for God's sake, smoke nowhere near the many oxygen canisters and to tread lightly in certain areas. There are steel beams at 45 degree angles criss crossing for several stories high. The scene resembles a cross between the moon, some kind of modern sculpture and the opening of "Casino Royale" where the Daniel Craig-era James Bond is fighting one of the bad guys and jumping from beam to beam.
It's the first day of the two-day video shoot and Hitfix is one of two outlets invited to the filming. The treatment is so top secret that Daughtry himself isn't really sure what the plot is.
"Well, we're unclear actually," he laughs, sitting in the back of a, thankfully, air conditioned tour bus with band bassist Josh Paul. "We know that it involves a tumultuous relationship. It's almost, from what I gather, about a couple who are aiming for the same goal, but they keep missing it, missing each other. They're not communicating and one of the biggest causes of either break ups or divorce is financial struggles and lack of communication." A premiere date has yet to be announced.
All we know is that a plot point involves a huge boulder that had to be brought into the quarry, which is a bit like bringing sand to the beach, but, apparently, there were no suitably large stones at the pit. Nathan Cox is directing the video, which will debut in a few weeks.
Daughtry premiered "No Surprise," the first single from the band's forthcoming sophomore album, "Leave This Town," on "American Idol" last week. It's a mid-tempo, slow burner about leaving a relationship with no regrets long after the break should have come.
"No Surprise" features a "cavalcade" of songwriters, Daughtry says. Nickelback's Chad Kroeger, who wrote the chorus with Eric Dill and Rune Westberg, played Daughtry the chorus, but admitted the trio had gotten no further with the tune. "I was like, ‘Yeah, man, I love it, let's work on it'," Daughtry recalls. "So the chorus had already set the tone for the song so we already knew what the story was about so it was just a matter of let's set it up: You had this thing on your mind or your heart for the longest time and the longer you keep it in, the harder it is talk about it or confront the other person, so just picture this guy in the mirror going over what he's going to say. I think everybody, whether it's a relationship or anything that's difficult in life, everybody's experienced that moment and so, it is about letting go, it is about saying, we knew this was coming, why don't we both accept it and we'll thank each other tomorrow."
The five songs Hitfix heard from the 12-tune "Leave This Town" follow in the same vein, with a lot of questioning about relationships and issues that confront us all when we try to do the right thing. Paul says the album shows various sides of the band. "There are a lot of different sounds on this record," he says. "We have some really heavy tunes and a country song and a bit of a dance vibe in there."
Daughtry is quick to add without even being asked, neither "No Surprise," nor any of the songs on "Leave This Town" that deal with break ups, are about him and his wife of nearly nine years, Deanna.
But he adds that having a debut album sell five million albums and touring with the likes of Nickelback and Bon Jovi doesn't make him or any other celebrity immune from problems. "People think because we're famous, or whatever you want to call it, we don't go through the exact same problems, personal problems as anybody else. ['No Surprise'] is stuff that we can relate to."
"Leave This Town," produced by Howard Benson, comes out July 14.