NEW YORK (Billboard) - While the "American Idol" post-season promo drive has kicked into gear for winner Kris Allen and runner-up Adam Lambert, Season 7's Michael Johns will be resurfacing this summer with his first post-"Idol" album.
"Hold Back My Heart," due June 23 from TRP Records, is a 12-song set featuring six songs co-written by Johns and Dave Cobb. Diane Warren and British singer-songwriter James Morrison also contributed lyrics to the set.
Johns finished eighth in the 2008 edition of "American Idol," but his early exit worked to his benefit. He went straight into the studio and started to lay down the tracks for what would become "Hold Back My Heart."
"I'd been signed before; my albums have always been shelved, or the label folded, or the guy that signed me got fired," Johns told Billboard.com. "The most nightmarish situations. This time around, I wanted to go and make the record, own the masters, and whatever happened, it was going to be on my terms, my shoulders. You make enough money from being on the tour and being on the show, where I could fund the record. I knew what I wanted to do soundwise."
After Johns wrapped the recording sessions in late 2008, he started to pursue a label deal. "I didn't want to just go with any old deal. I've had deals before," he said. "I really wanted to find a family that I thought believed in the direction of my record."
Johns wound up signing with TRP Records, which is the label arm of Three Ring Projects, a Los Angeles-based entertainment company that provides management, publishing and licensing for their artists. Among those working with Three Ring Projects are Jermaine Dupri, Kelis, Lil Kim and "American Idol" alumnus Elliott Yamin.
Johns' material sounds more like the neo-soul of Ray LaMontagne and James Blunt than the polished mega-pop that "Idol" tends to be associated with.
"It wasn't until 2006, I said to my mom, "What is it that I sing that you love that sets me apart? And she said, it's when you sing that Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Joe Cocker kind of style."
"I was someone that already had a career before," he continued. "Some of the people that get far on 'Idol' -- not to their detriment or anything -- they went with a friend to audition and kept getting through. For me, I was able to come in there and use it as a full platform. I knew what kind of record I was going to make and who I wanted to appeal to."
Johns is currently plotting a tour.
(Editing by Sheri Linden at Reuters)
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