Step one: Stand in line for what feels like forever. Step two: Come before a panel of judges, cameras, bright lights, and sing yourself hoarse. Step three: Make it to next round and repeat steps one and two for as long as the contest allows. Even if you don’t win, you’ll get national attention, which leads to a music career, right? Not exactly....
Meet Chris Richardson, an American Idol finalist from Season 6. After placing fifth in 2007, the pop-soul singer-songwriter was ready to take the industry world by storm. “I got off American Idol thinking I would get a deal,” explains Richardson, “based on the way they build you up, but I didn’t.”
After returning from the 2007 Idol Tour, the soulful solo artist learned that connections make a successful signing story, not reality TV. “I remained persistent and started writing with multiple camps, producers, songwriters; started my own publishing company; found a couple of writers-producers to sign under me,” he continues. “But [I was also] building my brand, hoping to find someone who would give me a deal.” A little over three years passed before Richardson ran into fellow Virginia Beach native, Joshua Berkman, A&R, Cash Money Records. “We listened to some music together, and two weeks later he flew me down and I showed my music to Cash Money,” says
“What solidified the deal for me was that they wanted to let me be me, an individual artist.”
Richardson. “What solidified the deal for me was that they wanted to let me be me, an individual artist."
Rather than sweating the gulf between Cash Money artists (Drake, Nicki Minaj, Tyga) and his own style, the singer utilized connections. “I listened to [Tyga’s] record and I was a fan. Later, his producer hit me up and said, 'I got a track Tyga wants you to jump on; you interested?’” That partnership resulted in “Far Away,” which made it to No. 86 on Billboard’s Hot 100. Tyga returned the favor on Richardson’s “Joy & Pain.”
"I got real lucky with this label,” admits Richardson. “Solo artists don't spawn off that much anymore. It's the ones that you genuinely see putting records out: Usher, Katy Perry, Miguel. ...They just love what they do. At the end of the day if you lose that love, you shouldn't be doing music.”
Richardson’s “Joy & Pain” produced by Detail (Lil Wayne, Akon) is out now with an album slated for early 2013.
--By Andy Mesecher