While the American Idol post-season promo drive for Summer 2009 has kicked into gear for Adam Lambert and Kris Allen, Season 7's Michael Johns will be resurfacing this summer with his first post-Idol album entitled "Hold Back My Heart." Due June 23 via TRP Records, the twelve song set features six songs co-written by Johns and Dave Cobb. Diane Warren and British singer-songwriter James Morrison also contribute lyrics to the set.
Although Johns finished 8th in the 2008 edition of American Idol, his early exit actually worked in his benefit. He immediately went into the studio and started to lay down the initial 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 tells 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 sound-wise."
Indeed, after Johns wrapped the recording sessions in late 2008, he then started to pursue a label deal. "I didn't want to just go with any old deal. I've had deals before," he says. "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. Alongside Johns, Jermaine Dupri, Kelis, Lil Kim, and American Idol alum Elliott Yamin are currently working with Three Ring Projects.
"Hold Back My Heart" has another interesting caveat, in that it's being distributed by Downtown/Atlantic, home to Gnarls Barkley, indie rockers Cold War Kids, Santigold, and electro-dance outfit MSTRKRFT. In this instance, Johns' material is sounding more like the neo-soul of Ray LaMontagne and James Blunt, than any 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 continues. "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 around "Hold Back My Heart," weighing some undisclosed opening slot offers and headlining club shows.