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Caleb Johnson on Life After ‘Idol’: ‘Interscope Didn’t Believe in Me’

Lyndsey Parker
Managing Editor
May 1, 2015

While Season 13 American Idol champion Caleb Johnson had the quickest album release in the series’ history — his full-length debut, Testify, came out in August 2014, only three months after his win — the promotional rollout for his music has been the slowest. His single and video, “Fighting Gravity,” finally came last month, and his first solo tour is kicking off almost full year after his Idol season wrapped. But the reason for all that, Caleb candidly and exclusively tells Yahoo Music’s Reality Rocks, is because he had to do all the pushing himself — even paying for his own marketing campaign.

“Interscope just didn’t believe in [Testify]. They didn’t promote it. They didn’t support it,” he says. “Honestly, when we released the album, there was no single that was released off the record. There was nothing — I mean, nothing at all. This music video, the single, and the tour were done basically by me and my team at 19 and the agent from CAA... I did that [music video] on my own, funded that with my own money.”

Caleb isn’t sure why Interscope wasn’t behind him, although it’s possible that Jimmy Iovine and company just weren’t into the old-school, '70s-style hard rock that Caleb favors. “I don’t know. I really don’t know. To be completely, frankly honest with you, they were just hardly ever there for any of the stuff,” he says. “It was kind of a very distant type of thing. I didn’t know it at the time, because everything was happening so fast, but looking back, even from the get-go they just weren’t even there at all.”

Caleb’s story is sadly similar to that of many under-promoted singing-competition winners that are shoved aside by their record labels. But on a positive note, Caleb just decided to forge ahead and “put his big-boy pants on,” as he puts it.

“I was very upset, and then I kind of came to terms with it. I was like, 'You know what? S--- happens.’ I kind of sat down and reassessed what was going on. I was like, 'OK, I really want to do a single, really want to do a video. I think this is a great song'… The lack of the support from the label, it was a disheartening thing. But then it was also like, 'Well, hey, it’s life.’ This is my first taste of the music business and it’s like, 'Welcome to the industry!’ It’s a great learning experience, and it’s also like, if you want it bad enough, you’ve got to work just as hard to continue that and believe in it. Just keep pushing it out there. People will come to you and discover you. That’s the amazing thing about the video that’s out now, is that people are just now discovering it and saying, 'Oh, wow, this is a great song. When’s this record coming out?’ And then they say, 'Oh, the record is already out!’

"The main thing is if you believe in what you do, I think that’s what is really the amazing thing, because you have such a passion regardless,” Caleb concludes optimistically. “So it’s like, whether you’ve got a label supporting you or not supporting you, or anybody supporting you, you as an artist are constantly driven to create and make stuff.”

Caleb’s solo tour kicks off this week. Check out his acoustic performance videos here for a taste of what he’s bringing to the open road, as he continues to forge his own path, with or without the Idol machine’s support.