By Michael Shinafelt
Caleb Johnson: No Gravity Required
Season 13 "American Idol" winner Caleb Johnson is busy! He has his upcoming first ever headlining tour, the freshman video from his album "Testify" for the single "Fighting Gravity" and he has teamed up with Do Something for it's Patient Playbooks Campaign.
Tell us about it, Caleb...
MS: I really enjoy your song and the video for "Fighting Gravity."
CJ: Thank you. I really appreciate that.
MS: It's really great that you tied it to bring awareness to children with pediatric cancer, after having met a child with it.
CJ: Well, Thank You. That was a pivotal moment in my life that I will never forget. It's something that impacted me enough to where I wanted to tell that story and show people what I saw. Most artists, musicians, writers, whatever, pull from their personal experiences. That was something that really touched something in me, where I felt I really wanted to tell this story, and to do it in a really beautiful eloquent way. It's a really grim story, he was a healthy young thirteen year old kid a year ago, then he got diagnosed and then he was gone. Just like that, it was that quick. This stuff happens and a lot of people never take the time to think about it because it doesn't affect them. It makes you sit and think about your life, because you never know what's going to happen when it's going happen. Walking into that room and seeing the Mother's face when it happened she had that: "I'm here, but I'm not here" look on her face, it's so bad she had just probably numbed herself to the point of trying to cope with it.
There's some really haunting experiences that happened that made me really want to tell that story. I really wanted to tell the story well, musically and visually, it's really cool to see it come to life like that.
MS: Yes, it's really well done all the way around. Since you gravitate towards rock I noticed a lyric in the song: "dark side of the moon" was that a Pink Floyd reference?
CJ: Somebody else asked that too. Yeah, it was. (laughs) What's cool is this was the first song I wrote for my album "Testify." The song and the video took on a life of it's own, but the original concept was that it was a tragic love story. They broke up, and one of the lovers love the other so much that they tried to fight to keep the relationship. Unfortunately you can't fight the inevitable, and that was the whole metaphor of "Fighting Gravity," you can't stop gravity and you can't stop the break up of the relationship. It's that tragic love story where two people have been in a relationship so long, they kind of fall out of it, they try to get it back together and it just never works. We wanted to use the metaphors of gravity, atmosphere and that's how we came up with Pink Floyd "dark side of the moon." (laughs)
MS: Talk some about your involvement with Do Something and their Patient Playbooks campaign.
CJ: My manager called me and asked me about doing the Playbooks, and I told her: "absolutely!" In the book you make up your own little game scenarios, you color pictures. I drew a dragon breathing fire, it's a really cool, easy and creative way to make a huge difference in somebody's life. The fact that it will be given to somebody and hopefully make their day is such a huge honor.
MS: So, how did it actually feel to win "American Idol?"
CJ: Very humbling. It was a huge honor to win the whole thing, very surreal. After I had won I had to do a bunch of stuff and it didn't really settle in until the next day.
MS: It looks like a whirlwind.
CJ: You know, in a way the fun doesn't stop. I immediately went to work on the record, went on tour, did a bunch of press. All kinds of fun stuff! I've just had a blast! Now with the video & single I am headlining my first tour this May.
MS: How do you feel about your first headliner?
CJ: It's my first headliner, "yes!" So it's pretty nerve wracking, but it's going to be a lot of fun! I love to perform and I'm going to be hitting the road in May. Tickets went on sale last week. It's going to be awesome!
MS: "Devil's Daughter" is another song that caught my ear off of "Testify."
CJ: I wrote that song with some completely amazing writers, Blair Daly & Steve Diamond. I think we wrote it in 45 minutes. It's a very straightforward rock song.
MS: For me it was reminiscent of Bon Jovi.
CJ: I really love classic rock.
MS: Me too.
CJ: There's a great organ solo, we really wanted to make a fun groovy, bluesy, rock-n-roll tune. The song is about a woman who's so bad she's good, you know what I'm saying? You can't resist her wicked touch, it's very, very throwback 1970's rock-n-roll. That song was a lot of fun, because that is my wheelhouse, that kind of stuff. I love the harder, groovier, rock-n-roll stuff.
MS: Something about your voice is reminiscent of Joe Cocker to me.
CJ: I grew up listening to Joe Cocker, Chris Cornell, Freddie Mercury and Steve Perry. I was just really raised on a lot of that stuff. Those are the artist that shaped my voice.
MS: Who would you like to do a duet with?
CJ: Chris Cornell or Lady Gaga.
"Testify" with Caleb at: