Music Star Hookups & Breakups
Danny Gokey performs on "American Idol." FOX

Fueled by a return performance on "American Idol," Danny Gokey bowed at No. 3 on Billboard's Top Country Albums chart with his 19 Recordings/RCA Records debut, "My Best Days." Coming in at No. 4 on the Billboard 200, the album sold 65,000 first-week copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan, giving him the best opening-week sales by a debut country male since 1992.

Danny Gokey's 'Days' Starts Strong

With more than 19,000 downloads, Gokey also notches the best first-week digital album sales by a debut country artist. The March 2 release is No. 4 on this week's chart.

"The impact of Danny's March 4 return to 'American Idol' was huge," Sony Music Nashville VP of marketing Tom Baldrica says. "We saw an instantaneous lift in downloads on both the single and the album, and we had increased physical sales velocity over the three days following the performance. The timing was perfect to tell all the 'Idol' fans who followed Danny that his new album was available. It was a classic case of 'fishing where the fish are.' "

A former truck driver who honed his musical skills singing in church, Gokey finished third on the show last season. The Milwaukee native says Randy Travis encouraged him to pursue a country career. "I never want to look back," Gokey says. "I want to be known as a country singer the rest of my life. I like what it stands for. I love the people. I love the format."

Working with producer Mark Bright, Gokey crafted a contemporary country album that showcases his soulful vocals. Penned by several of Nashville's top writers -- including Marv Green, Kent Blazy, Jeffrey Steele and Lady Antebellum members Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood -- the songs are a mix of upbeat anthems like lead single "My Best Days Are Ahead of Me" (No. 29 on Hot Country Songs) and poignant ballads like "I Will Not Say Goodbye," which expresses Gokey's feelings about the loss of his wife, Sophia.

Made available through a pre-order campaign with iTunes, the album was included in the store's two-week "American Idol" sale, which featured other previous contestants and coincided with the set's release date. "This account proved to be a strong partner for the release," Sony Music Nashville VP of digital business Heather McBee says.

Further tapping the show's fan base, AmericanIdol.com supported Gokey by premiering the single's video. McBee says, "This was a great way to introduce Danny's single to fans who had been following his career since the end of the eighth season."

Gokey's wife, who was born with a congenital heart defect, died just a month prior to his "Idol" audition. He says his focus on music helped him cope. "I have a mission to help people, and that's what I want my music to do," says Gokey, who launched the charitable organization Sophia's Heart Foundation in her memory. "I want it to be a very cool way of giving people hope."

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboard

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