In a surprise move, American Idol season 17 finalist Eddie Island drops his debut album on Friday (May 24). Industry Standard, available on all digital platforms, comes out just five days after the grand finale, which saw Laine Hardy named the winner. Island’s quick move sets a record for the fastest album release after a season ending in the series’ history, beating Caleb Johnson’s 83 days between being named the winner of season 13 and the release of his first post-Idol set, Testify, on Aug. 12, 2014.
Island, who drew praise from Luke Bryan, Lionel Richie and Katy Perry for showing his sensitive side as well as his comedic nature, landed in the top 14 of this most recent season. Billboard spoke with the 25-year-old Nashville resident about his new album, his assessment of his time on Idol and future plans.
How did you come up with the title Industry Standard?
About three years ago, I did a video with my band at the time, Paid Vacation. I showed up to the video wearing a brightly-colored banana shirt and they all freaked out. They told me, “Eddie, we’re putting you in a timeout. You have to wear all black now. You have to be industry standard.” And so I really wanted to call my first album Industry Standard, because I love that term. I always had it in my back pocket. I never thought Idol or any of these crazy things would happen, but it’s cool and I was ready with the name. I took a selfie with a film camera at an EDM concert at the fairgrounds two years ago and when it got developed I said, “This is the cover of the album.”
When did you start writing the songs for Industry Standard?
I write music every day, all the time. “Stay Okay” is probably the oldest song on the record. Gabe Lytle wrote the song and he had it on a CD since high school and he played it for me one day and I said, “I really like the song, but what if it sounded like this?” I played it back to him as the song is now, and that’s what we did. He’s wonderful. He’s a real artist. It was the song that I auditioned with for Idol. That’s the one that began this whole process.
How many songs did you have to choose from for the album?
About 20. I’ve written hundreds of songs and we knew which ones belonged on the record. We ended up choosing all the crazy ones. I’d go into a session and I’d say, “Get the crazy folder out,” and that’s where we would start.
There are 11 co-writers credited on the album. How did you find people to write with?
Through a Facebook page called YEP, Young Entertainment Professionals. That group is a tight knit community. and through them basically we got plugged into a lot of writers and started meeting people like one of the main producers, John Caldwell, who is on “First Day” and “Real One” and many of the songs I really love.
Take me through the songs.
The record starts out with a track called “Omen.” I love it. It’s a spoken word track, an intro to set the tone. I always make jokes like, “Oh my gosh, that’s an omen.” I recorded that in one take. It just me talking to the fans. I wanted to have a direct connection with them and start the album out in that way.
That track leads into “First Day,” which I think is going to be the strongest single on the album. I wrote it with Sebastian Garcia and Stephen Kirk. I’m looking forward to providing the anthem for every back-to-school special for the rest of my life. Because of Idol and getting this platform, I was finally able to be me, and the chorus of the song is “It’s my first day being me.” We have a video coming out.
That leads into a song called “Real One,” which I never thought would be on an album. I had a fun session with John and I started rapping and we ended up keeping that. It’s a pretty risky song. I talk about who are the real friends? Who are the real ones?
“Kiss The Ring” was wild. Growing up, Chase Coy was a big hero of mine in the D.C. area. I remember seeing his little iTunes cards at the Starbucks. All the girls loved him and they would go to his show and so I freaked out when I got an email from my manager, Todd Cassetty, saying, “You’re going to write with Chase Coy.” “Kiss the Ring” was in the running as the first single. I envisioned that as the song that I would play at the finale if I won, just as a hypothetical situation. It’s a power song, a Super Bowl ring song. I never thought I would yell like that on a mic, but I did and it worked out.
And then my favorite song on the record is “It’s All Love.” You probably know the TMZ video with Kanye West and the guy runs up to him and he’s like, “Hey, Kanye, da, da, da” and he just says, “All love,” and runs away. I related so much to that and I was talking about that in a session and I started singing the song. It’s about getting back to your youth and being happy and fun and blessing everybody.
One of my favorite songs is “Pretty Like a Daydream.” That’s more in a traditional style, like Smokey [Robinson]. Palmer Lee and Ryan Creamer and I wrote that. I wrote all the words in an hour. It’s about realizing that some things aren’t as sweet as they seem and what’s real and what’s not real and celebrating that. And we end the album with “Stay Okay,” telling the fans “Hey, stay okay” at the end. This is a song they remember from the show.
Were all the songs recorded in the same studio?
Multiple studios. A lot of them were recorded in John’s studio and we also went all around town. We recorded a lot of stuff at Chase Coy’s place. “Pretty Like a Daydream” and “Big Howdy” were done at Ryan Creamer’s studio.
Will we hear any of your musical influences on the album?
Definitely. I love David Bowie. I love the Killers. I love Drake. I love Post Malone. I mention Tyler, The Creator in one of the songs. There are so many influences. There’s a lot of Foo Fighters in “Kiss The Ring.” It’s like this big anthem with a singer-songwriter vibe.
Did you have any rituals in the studio?
We do have rituals. I always have sage on the stage with me. It smells nice. A lot of times I’ll put visuals up. For “First Day,” we had 1980s prom videos going on in the background, like home video. We’ll scooter around Nashville, maybe go to Chuy’s and grab something at the nacho bar. Sometimes we would go to a virtual reality spot and then we would come back and pump a whole song out. A lot of my writing style is absorbing the world and then going out and capturing it quickly and then going back out again, rather than sitting in the room and waiting for it to come.
Were there long days in the studio?
Oh yes. I would sleep in the studio sometimes. It was crusty, and I’m still doing that now. I’m still rocking the same clothes for a couple days. The final recordings were in February. I remember we cut final vocals for “Omen” and “Renegade” two or three hours before I got on the flight to come out to Idol. I threw all my stuff in storage because my lease ended.
Tell me about the video for “First Day.”
On a whim I said, “What if it’s my first day doing a bunch of jobs and what if I were a Santa or a mariachi or a LARPer?” We got real LARPers. Those guys are scary. They do live action role-play, dressing up as knights and hitting each other like a sport. We researched it and reached out to the actual Nashville group. They did a great job.
What did you think of the rest of season 17 of Idol after you were sent home?
I became friends with everyone. We were all so close, and I think this season was so special. I’m confident that this is going to be one of the seasons that everyone remembers as a milestone in musical history. I can’t wait to see what everyone does. I think for what Alejandro [Aranda] wants to do, this worked out the best way. As an artist, I think he wants to score movies and create soundtracks and I think he’ll be able to do that now and be successful. I think Laine [Hardy] is great as an idol. I think he’s credible. He fits that perfectly and I think he’s going to do well with it. It was so cool being able to watch them when I got back home and see from the other perspective what it was like to watch it on the TV screen after being there on the other end.
What were the most valuable things you took away from American Idol?
One of the moments that I’m never going to forget is being backstage and I’m about to do the duet with Lukas Graham and it’s scary and vocal coach Nick [Cooper] told me, “You need to give them your gift. That’s all you need to focus on.” And that’s something that I tell a lot of artists now. I made a decision in Hawaii that I’m going to grow or I’m going to get salty and I chose to grow. You have to play to your strengths and support everyone and celebrate their strengths too and get in your own lane and realize that you have to be your own person and love that person. I think that’s where a lot of the songs like “First Day” came from, because I had to be me and love it. It was a humbling experience.
And I have in-ears now. Everybody in Nashville always would talk about how they had in-ears and I was using cheap headphones from CVS, but now we have in-ears. We’re good.
And also just being able to believe in myself and know that I can do things that people will think are impossible. And a big take away for me was the platform, being able to have a fan base and interacting with them. And seeing that the music industry is real, realizing that I’ve been working my whole life to be an artist and it’s worth it and it’s real and I can do it as a job.
What does it mean to you to record an album?
I really am overwhelmed. It’s been a lifetime of work to put this out. It’s an absolute dream releasing a record, and I’m still processing it. I’m so excited to put more out. Giving the fans content is what I’m excited about as well, because I get so many messages that they want to see more of me and the new musical landscape that I’m into. I’ve never put anything out with this much variety. I’ve never rapped or done crazy stuff or been involved in production like this before and I can’t wait to hear what they think.
Do you have any live shows scheduled?
Absolutely. I have a show on June 1 at Loudhouse Coffee in east Nashville. It’s a DIY art venue and the show is called “100 People Who Love Me.” It’s an intimate experience. We’re going to have projectors and there’s going to be exclusive merch for it and a meet and greet. We’re going to get some of the Santas from the video for a photo booth. It’s going to be immersive. I’m going to make some candles for it, the Island candle. It’s going to be like a sensory experience. The smell, the sight, the sounds, the Santas. We’re going to video it, and then we’re going to take it on the road. My dream right now is to do the Private Island Tour this summer. We’re going to do all private events and the June 1 show is a model for that.