Caleb Johnson may not have recorded Testify more quickly than any other American Idol winner, but the speed with which Interscope Records got his debut album ready for market certainly wasn’t typical.
Johnson, the show’s 14th-season champ, wrote and recorded Testify, which comes out Tuesday, in three weeks between Idol‘s May finale and the launch of the American Idols Live tour June 24.
“The week after the show ended, I flew all over the place and did a press run,” says the 23-year-old rock singer from North Carolina. “Immediately after that, I flew back to L.A. and started working on the record. I wrote 12 or 13 songs. Out of those, we picked eight to put on the record.”
Producer Howard Benson (Daughtry, Flyleaf, Theory of a Deadman) assembled a band that included Jane’s Addiction bassist Chris Chaney, former Nine Inch Nails/Guns N’ Roses drummer Josh Freese and session guitarist Phil X to back Johnson. “We really buckled down and busted our butts,” Johnson says. “We put our best feet forward and put out a record I’m extremely proud of.”
The album’s title track is probably the song that most closely resembles the type of material Johnson favored on Idol: riff-based, blues-heavy rock. “It’s straight-bluesy, visceral and soulful,” he says. “It has a great slide-guitar solo in the middle.”
Johnson says he and Benson tried to craft an album that went beyond the parameters he established for himself on Idol.
“We were really trying to push it and not have every song be a riff-rock song,” he says. “Every song would incorporate those elements but show different flavors. And not just that, but show my talent as a writer, too.” Let Me In, which features the horn section from Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, probably pushes farthest.
Songs like the album’s single Only One, as well as Testify, Let Me In and ballads Fighting Gravity and Change grew from “the bones of ideas that I came in with,” Johnson says. “Then the writers were incredible. They were…