Kris Allen won over hearts across America on the eighth season of American Idol, but his newborn son wasn't initially a fan of dad's music. "I remember when he was first born, I would play stuff for him he did not dig it -- he would start crying," Allen tells ET of his son Oliver, 1. "My wife is not a singer and she would sing for him, and he would love it. It would calm him and make him feel good."
The new dad admits with a laugh that his baby's reaction did make him consider, "Maybe this song is terrible." But not to worry, Oliver is totally into his talented dad today.
"Now if I pick up my guitar, he’s just honed in on it. He loves it," says Allen. "He'll listen for a little bit and then he'll try to grab my guitar strings and yank them off. It's been fun to play for him."
The 29-year-old unveiled his third post-Idol album, Horizons, on Tuesday. The 10-track offering features lead single "Prove It To You" and draws inspiration from, Allen says, his past few "crazy" years. Among the lows and highs: a serious car crash on New Year's Day 2013 that nearly rendered him unable to play music, and becoming a first-time father in July 2013.
From the good came "Beautiful & Wild," a song about the innocence of youth. "It was inspired by my son," Allen says. "We all want to grow up so fast and we want to become adults, but it's amazing to see your kid's excitement for things. It's just so genuine and so untainted and it's really awesome to see. It makes you wonder, what happened to us?"
And from the bad: "In Time," on which he croons "Seems like forever since I felt alive/My whole world was shaken in the blink of an eye."
"I definitely drew inspiration from [the car wreck] as much as I did not want to. I don't like to talk about it, but everyone tells me I have to. It's part of the healing process," he admits. "I wrote 'In Time' about that and even just writing the song was good for me as far as dealing with it."
Another learning opportunity for Allen? Creating his first independently-produced album without the assistance of a major record label. "That's been inspiring musically," he says. "I've learned a lot."
While much has changed for Allen since he beat out Adam Lambert for the title of American Idol in 2009, the show has also seen major changes. Sure, Ryan Seacrest is still on board as the master of ceremonies, but the show itself has had several new judges and a consistent decline in ratings. We had to ask: If Allen was just starting out, would he audition for Idol again?
"I would do it in a heartbeat," he says, allowing that NBC's The Voice does have a little more flash.
"I'm not gonna say that [The Voice] is better, but it's so much more entertaining as a show right now. [TV audiences] go for that," Allen says. "But I think that they lose something in the development of the artist. I think that's really sad. Those people that get on the show are hoping that they have someone that watches their back, but they're really just on a TV show. That's what I think is great about Idol, they do try to set you up for success. It doesn't always happen, but they do the best that they can."
Horizons is available now with a portion of sales benefiting Music Empowers, a charitable foundation supporting music education programs nationwide.
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