CMT Insider Interview: Danny Gokey

He Talks About American Idol and His New Album, My Best Days

Danny Gokey’s voice and story are familiar to the millions of faithful viewers of American Idol, and he has followed through on the media exposure by releasing My Best Days, his debut album on 19 Recordings/RCA Nashville.

The former truck driver finished third in the eighth season of the talent competition, and fans learned he had already traveled a difficult road. A month before his American Idol audition, his wife, Sophia, died unexpectedly following what was considered a routine heart surgery.

In a recent interview with CMT Insider, the Milwaukee native talks about his new album and how Randy Travis convinced him to pursue a country music career. Here’s part of the interview:

Tell us about the first single, “My Best Days Are Ahead of Me.”

I feel like it’s a great reflection of where I’m at in my life. Many people knew me as the guy on American Idol who went through the tragic loss of his wife, and it was a very real story. But coming out as my first single, I want to tell people, yes, that was a section of my life that could have had a terrible, terrible ending … with the amount of depression that wanted to hit me. But I kept my focuses right. I tried out for American Idol, I got a record deal, and now it’s like my best days are ahead of me. Something positive has come out of this, out of a terrible mess that happened.

A lot of the past winners and contestants have had a lot of great success in the country world, obviously Carrie Underwood, Kellie Pickler and Bucky Covington. Have you talked to any of them?

I have talked to Carrie. She is a very good friend. She reached out, giving me advice when I needed advice. And she’s just an awesome stand-up girl. I haven’t been able to get in contact with anyone else. I mean, I don’t try to knock down people’s doors, but when the time comes and when the time is right, I’ll do it.

How would you describe the music on the album?

Whether it’s an inspiring song or whether it’s an entertaining song — whatever it might be about it — I just want people to feel the emotion that I put into it because I think emotion … is everything. And I put my whole heart into that album. It’s almost like I just left it there in the studio, and I hope people feel that.

A lot of people probably don’t know how much effort and time it takes to launch a career. It’s mind-boggling.

It is. If I would have had to have done this myself, I don’t know if I could have done it. The amount of people that goes into an album, the amount of people who pour their lives into an artist, to make the artist, is unbelievable. I remember when I sat down with the label head after I’d been signed. They pulled out 12 different heads out of 12 different departments, and they all had people working under them. They just introduced themselves and they said, “We’re going to help you become the artist that you want to be.” And I was just honored.

You’ve got a background in several musical styles. How did Randy Travis convince you to go the country route?

When I was on American Idol, Randy Travis was one of the mentors. … I was walking past his bus, and he happened to be out there. The mentor shoot was over, and he came up and he actually called me by him. … I was kind of nervous because this guy is legend in country music. And he said, “Have you ever considered it?” And I was like, “Yeah, I’ve considered it.” And he said, “Well, you need to do country music. … They would love you. The fans would take you in.” And it’s almost like from that point, the wheels started turning, and it just started making sense. Like the pieces started to fall into place the way they should have been, so I’m very excited to be here.

How have the people in country music been treating you?

It’s been amazing. One person I was able to meet was Vince Gill. I’ve been a Vince Gill fan for a long time. And when I saw him on the red carpet, he was a lot taller than I thought he was. And I think I scared him on the red carpet. … I introduced myself to him, and he just looked at me with kind of a confused look because he was being shifted around by the media outlets. I just snuck in and I was like, “I’m Danny Gokey, and I like you.” It was funny.

Editor’s note: CMT Insider producer Tim Hardiman conducted the interview.