Celebrity Drive: Chris Daughtry is a (Chevy) Suburban Dad


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Quick Stats: Chris Daughtry Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter
Daily Driver: 2016 Chevy Suburban (Chris’ rating: 9 on a scale of 1 to 10)
Favorite road trip: Charlottesville to Virginia Beach
Car he learned to drive in: 1980s Ford pickup
First car bought: 1988 Chevy Sprint

Chris Daughtry likes cars higher off the ground, but suitable enough to drive the kids around, which explains why he used to drive a Honda Odyssey minivan. But when he moved to Nashville, the former American Idol contestant wanted to shed the minivan for a more rock star appropriate ride — a fully loaded 2016 Chevrolet Suburban.

“I like driving it because it’s big and I can see over everything. I hate driving cars low to the ground and I can’t see past the hood and my depth perception gets off, so I love driving a tank,” he says.

Daughtry rates his Suburban a 9 on a scale of 10. “It’s a 9 only because it’s not the Batmobile and if I was driving the Batmobile it would be a 10 automatically,” he says, laughing. “There’s a few things that could be better — like my phone syncing to the screen in the car every time as opposed to when it wants to. I’m such an electronics person, I get frustrated when any of that doesn’t work 100 percent of the time. That’s a recent nuisance that’s fresh on my mind.”

This isn’t Daughtry’s first Suburban. He had one years ago, but when he lived in the Charlotte, N.C. and later in Los Angeles, he says it “was useless to have something that big there. We lived in Charlotte, but we were literally in uptown Charlotte.”

He lived in a condo. The complex had few tenants and a small parking garage that he could barely get in and out of with a sedan, so the Suburban had to go. Later though, with kids, the go-to ride was the Odyssey. “We got it in 2010 right before the twins were born, it was a necessity at the time,” he says.

Daughtry drove the minivan for six years. “Not very cool to be driving up to business meetings, or writing sessions or events in a minivan, so I decided once we moved to Nashville, that one of the first things I was going to do was get a Suburban again and I love it. I really do. I just like driving a big vehicle that – I can fit all my kids in, I can haul a bunch of [stuff] around if I needed to and it just looks cooler. But I didn’t get a black one, because I didn’t want to be confused with an Uber driver,” he says.

Since Nashville has less traffic than Los Angeles, it’s also a good place to comfortably drive and park a larger vehicle. “It’s definitely more traffic than the people that live here and are native to here are used to, but because I came from L.A., it’s like a drop in the pan,” he says. “There’s no issue parking here, there’s so many options and room, so I get around pretty easily in it. My wife had an IS 350 Lexus. Now she drives a BMW 5 Series. I’ve never been a car collector. I usually get a car that I’m pumped about and stay with it. In all seriousness, if I have my free reign of choice, I would probably get the new Tesla.”

Car he learned to drive in

“I learned to drive on something kind of like a farm, driving my dad’s Ford pickup. It was a stick shift and I remember hitting the gas instead of the brake and almost running into our building,” Daughtry says. “But I also learned on a tractor.”

He’s not sure what model year his dad’s pickup was, except that it was used. “Knowing him, this was back in 1990 and he never got anything new, so it was probably a 1985-1987. One bench seat and all the space was in the back of the truck. It was red with a grey stripe down the middle,” he says.

His family had a lot of land with chickens, goats, a pond, and though they didn’t farm it to make money, they leased out fields to farmers for cotton and peanuts and grew their own vegetables and chopped trees for firewood.

“We grew up very farm-like but we didn’t have a dairy or chicken farm. We had a long dirt path that went to where all the animals were. I remember driving the tractor on the road, that’s how small this town was, you could get away with anything pretty much,” he says, laughing. “It was fun. It was definitely a free, easy place to learn.”

Daughtry’s dad was his driving instructor. “I remember him being outside the door explaining what to do, and I remember him yelling ‘Woah!’ within almost two inches of hitting the building that was our storage shed,” he recalls.

He also learned shifting on his tractor. “I didn’t have any problem with that because it was so old that you could press the gas all the way down and it would still take a minute to get up some speed, so it wasn’t as jumpy as the truck. It was still very different than getting in a car and going out in traffic and navigating. This was obviously before GPS, so we had to pay attention to street signs,” he says, laughing.

Though he was used to driving the tractor, it still wasn’t real life driving in certain situations and parking. “I wouldn’t say that I was full equipped when I took driver’s ed,” he says.

First car bought

Daughtry’s first car was a 1988 Chevrolet Sprint he bought for $1,000. It was tan but also rusty, so a friend repainted it to what was supposed to be the original color.

“But it turned out champagne instead,” he says. “So the first car that I’m driving to high school in, supposedly trying to look tough, is a hatchback that’s champagne and it was what it was,” he says. “We grew up very practical — not a lot of money and it wasn’t like I could just go out and pick a car. It was a car that my dad found through a friend who had a body shop and he bought it, but I paid for it. I worked with my dad. He worked at a sawmill, so I was working at the age of 14 making my own money and pretty much anything I’ve ever got, I had to work for it.”

Daughtry also worked after school and full time during summers until his senior year in high school. “My schedule was a little all over the place with wanting to be a rock star and also wanting to make money, so I had to find jobs that fit those hours,” he says. “I remember getting a job at McDonald’s, then worked a kitchen washing dishes, then moving up to a prep cook, so I’ve been around the block when it comes to jobs.”

Daughtry’s Chevy Sprint did not have a happy ending. Its last trip was on a winding road, going 60 mph when Daughtry should have been traveling 30 mph.

“I had it not even a year before I totaled it,” he says. “I was coming home from football practice and I had my best friend that lived with us in the passenger seat. We were taking a friend home from football practice. I’d never really driven these roads before,” he recounts. “They were very windy up near Charlottesville, Virginia. Very, very windy roads. Not a lot of signage when it comes to curves and some of the back roads, and it was dark and I got into the curve too fast. It was such a small car  and I knew it couldn’t handle a curve because the first day I got my license, I turned a curve too fast on my own road and it had just rained, I did a full 360 and landed in the opposite lane. No traffic, thank God, and I casually backed up and went home like I’d seen a ghost. It was terrifying, but nothing bad happened.”

Daughtry says what happened that first day he got his license was almost like a foreshadowing of what would happened the night he wrecked it. “I knew how it handled, so I didn’t even try to force it into submission, so I went into a ditch. It flipped us across the road a few times,” he recalls. “I wasn’t wearing a seat belt. The car was still playing Soundgarden. It was ‘The Day I Tried to Live’ or ‘Limo Wreck.’ Either way, it was a very poignant type of song to be playing. I had already dropped my friend off, so it was just me and my best friend that lived with me. He helped me get out of the passenger side. It was on its roof. Not a scratch on me, it was the weirdest thing. And we flipped it over  ‘Ace Ventura’ style.”

Another teammate who lived nearby happened to drive by and helped them flip the car over. They drove to that friend’s house to use the phone.

“The windshield was caved in, so I was having to drive with my head out the side,” he says, with a laugh. “It was so jank. My dad picked me up and the cops called wondering why I left the scene of an accident. I didn’t know any better. It was my first accident, I was just terrified to death and shaken and surprised I was alive.”

After that crash, Daughtry moved the motor from the Sprint into a 1992 Geo Metro. “It was still a hatchback, basically the same chassis as the Sprint, so it worked,” he says. “I was a teenager that believed that cars ran on gasoline and gasoline only and seized the motor up driving on a two and a half hour trip. Instead of pulling over, I made it home. Dad was not happy. I think I had some sort of oil leak and ignored it. I learned the hard way.”

He either had to have the motor rebuilt or get a new car, so Daughtry ended up getting a 1987 diesel GMC Jimmy because he wanted a larger vehicle. “I really dug that truck a lot,” he says. “It was how I feel being in the Suburban, it was a tank. It was a bitch in wintertime because I remember where you had to put a heat stick in it because of freezing temperatures.”

After being on American Idol and getting his new album was out, Daughtry treated himself to a nicer ride. “The first time we really splurged on cars, me and my wife, she got a Lexus IS 350 and I got a Lexus SUV. It wasn’t the smaller SUV, it was the big full-sized. It was a 2007,” he says. “That was after we had some money and went and bought them cash.”

Favorite road trip

“I hate road trips now because we have kids,” Daughtry says, with a laugh. “It’s usually never peaceful, so we fly. But I do remember a lot of road trips as a kid with my buddy. I remember a group of friends going to Virginia Beach right after we graduated. It was a summer thing, we went to the beach and hung out.”

Daughtry recalls taking that road trip from Charlottesville to Virginia Beach in his Jimmy. “I had some janky speaker wire in the back, I had one 12-inch speaker in the back that was carrying the weight of my sound system and a CD player put in,” he says. “It was just simple and it was fun. We had a blast. You know how it is when you’re a kid and there’s really no concept of time or anything. You’re just out being free and doing whatever.”

On that road trip they went to a Sevendust show at the Virginia Beach Amphitheater. “We had all gotten a hotel. I remember us all hanging out at the hotel swimming and may or may not have been consuming alcohol under the age. I just remember us all having a blast and we all ended up getting drunk and jumping on the beds in the hotel room. There was a wrestling match or some karate fight situation,” Daughtry says, laughing. “It was me and the boys, we had a band at the time and everybody had their girlfriends with them. This was before we had real responsibilities. It was just a fun weekend.”

“I had my girlfriend with me and my buddy and his girl in the back. My other buddy had his car with him. He was very much a car guy, and still is. He runs a body shop,” he recounts. “We all shared rooms and went in, pitched in and paid for the trip.”

The farthest Daughtry has ever driven was a 10-hour road trip he did all in one night. “It was for a hang,” he says, with a laugh. “I was hanging with a buddy of mine who was working on an album and I hadn’t even gone on American Idol at the time.  Didn’t have a lot of money, we were still trying to make things happen. I had gotten accepted on the show, but had to wait for the time to be called to come back.”

He didn’t know if American Idol was going to happen. “So I had a friend that knew some producers. It was just a hang and getting to meet people sort of weekend,” he says. “I had a Dodge, it was white with red interior, I don’t remember the model because didn’t care about the car. It was a hand me down car because my wife had gotten in a wreck, we needed a car. I remember taking it by myself just driving from Burlington, North Carolina to Orlando, Florida.”

On that trip he got a ticket because he went through a toll booth that he shouldn’t have driven through. “It was a Fast Pass lane. I didn’t have a Fast Pass, but I didn’t understand the traffic pattern. The cop didn’t care,” he says, with a laugh. “I was in the wrong lane and realized it too late.”

2017 Summer Tour with Nickelback

Daughtry has been on tour since June with Nickelback. The tour ends Sept. 16 in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Grammy-nominated band is also working on its fifth album. “We’re going to be in the studio very soon, cutting that,” Daughtry says.

For more information, please visit Daughtryofficial.com


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