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‘American Idol’ bits: Caleb Johnson interview, my power 8 rankings, Kelly Clarkson

Rodney Ho
April 7, 2015 | Filed in: American Idol, Television.

Season 13 winner Caleb Johnson is hoping to re-ignite his single “Fighting Gravity” with a new video and a tour that includes an Atlanta stop May 3 at Terminal West.

You can buy tickets here for $12-15. (He’ll be at the Foundry in Athens the next day as well.)

Caleb, who is stylistically classic rock given his intense, energetic approach and vocal style, released his first album “Testify” last summer but it didn’t sell many copies. Without elaborating in an interview today, he said Interscope Records didn’t invest much money to promote it: “There was no support from the label. A lot of stuff went wrong last year.”

He said he forked over his own cash earlier this year to create a music video that came out a week ago for “Fighting Gravity,” an atmospheric ballad he began playing last summer during the “American Idol” tour.

“I really believe in that song,” Caleb said. Lyrically, he wrote the song as a tragedy of two people falling out of love no matter how hard they try. But fans on the tour said it reminded them of family members and friends they knew who were dying, that it affected them viscerally. “It took on a completely different meaning than I intended,” he said.

Caleb said last November he visited a children’s hospital and met a 13-year-old fan who was dying of a brain tumor who loved outer space. “He was a big fan of mine,” Caleb said. “I felt really really humbled.” The boy died a week later. That story affected him deeply and he decided to theme his video around the child. See the video here:


In the video, while Caleb plays the piano behind an outer-space background, the boy dreams of going into space in a ship and as he flies off, he passes away. “It’s a beautiful, elegant video,” he said. “I’m super proud of it.”

To Caleb, the song is “just a stepping stone of my capabilities being a story teller. I want to make music I’m passionate about and share it with a live audience and bring those songs to life.”

Caleb moved to Nashville three months ago to work on his second album with his original pre-“Idol” band he plans to tour with. He has worked with several songwriters including Marti Fredericksen, who has done hit songs for Aerosmith (“Jaded”), Carrie Underwood (“Undo It”) and Gavin Rossdale (“Love Remains the Same’).

He isn’t sure if he’ll stay with Interscope Records for his second album. “I want to expand my fan base beyond the whole ‘Idol’ platform,” he said. “It’s an amazing platform for what it’s worth, the original gangster of singing shows.” He loved the way the show really worked hard to develop their artistry while on the show. And though he himself was pretty well defined when he first got on stage, he said time on the “Idol” stage built his confidence.

He hopes to get back on “Idol” for promotional purposes. He plans to visit the set later this month to push his single and tour and perhaps return in May to perform for the finale.

At the same time, Caleb acknowledges the power of “Idol” is nowhere near what it was five or 10 years ago.

The fame “fades pretty fast,” he said. “It’s a very harsh kind of reality of what the music industry is. You have to take everything with a grain of salt. It’s even more work after the show than on the show.”

Caleb’s 14-city tour, which he hopes to expand if it does well, will include a Led Zeppelin medley, tunes from both his pre-“Idol” band days, “Testify” and new tunes that may end up on his next one. “I hope people can come out and have a blast,” he said.

He also added a back-up singer for the tour from Atlanta, who he discovered on YouTube: Nica Nashae. “She’s a really incredible singer,” he said. She’ll also join him to do a duet of “Gimme Shelter,” a song he did with runner-up Jena Irene last season on “Idol.”

Caleb has been watching this season and liked the only rock guy who made the top 13: the Jack Black-ish Adam Ezegelian. “He was good,” he said. “I loved his voice. He was very entertaining, but he was more Broadway” than authentic rock.

Caleb’s favorite among the season 14 entrants is Clark Beckham for his voice and song choices.

The Twitter save gambit did give “Idol” a boost in Tweets: 304,000 to be exact, as tracked by Nielsen. That was certainly a lot more than a week earlier, though I don’t know by how much. The Tweet totals don’t cite how many were actually votes. My guess: maybe 250,000? That sounds about right given the size audience “Idol” now has and the fact East and Central time zones were only able to vote. Who had more Tweets among non-sports programming? Monday Night Raw and the Comedy Central Roast of Justin Bieber.

And notice that Ryan Seacrest no longer bothers to cite vote totals any more. I’m sure they are a fraction of what they used to be even with the ease of voting up to 20 times per contestants on multiple platforms online. What’s the point?