Now-sober singer Daniel Powter over his bad days with 'Turn the Lights On'
Canada AM: Daniel Powter performs off his new album
Published Wednesday, August 15, 2012 2:03PM EDT
TORONTO-- He had a bad day. Many of them, actually.
But British Columbia-bred troubadour Daniel Powter, whose 2006 Grammy-nominated hit single "Bad Day" became a global hard-knocks anthem, has turned his life around and is singing a more positive tune with the newly released album "Turn the Lights On."
The pop-rock singer-songwriter says the title of the sunny new disc reflects a brightness that's permeated his life since he kicked a drug and alcohol addiction, went through a divorce, got engaged to his former personal trainer, and had a second child.
Now two years sober, he says he feels like a different person than he was when "Bad Day" was the Billboard Top Hot 100 song of 2006, as well as the theme song for a Coca-Cola ad and "American Idol"'s fifth season.
"A lot of people will say that they got sober for other people, but I got sober for myself," a chiseled and tanned Powter, who counts surfing and yoga among his hobbies, said in an interview.
"I was so sick of myself, the redundancy of my life, and my patterns were so predictable. If I put a graph of my behaviour I could see: Things are tough, resentment, resentment, OK, I'm getting angry, I'm angry, I'm angry -- use. You could just see it all the time, and when ... I wanted to really change my life, I had to learn how to have a more positive way of dealing with resentment and anger and things like that. And once I learned how to do that, then everything started turning around for me."
Powter admitted he was "in a really dark place" before he got sober.
"I was on the fast track to kind of going down the wrong road and just ending up dead, which I would have, eventually, if I'd continued the way I was."
A lot of the anger that was fuelling his addiction stemmed from trauma in his childhood in Vernon, B.C., but he's since learned how to deal with it, he said.
He's also had to learn how to write songs "from a different place," which wasn't easy.
"I always wrote from a lot of pain. Even the 'Bad Day' record, it was easy for me to galvanize a lot of energy when you have a lot of pain in your life, and so I would just bash away. But then all of a sudden, I'm really at peace, I'm really humbled and I'm really grateful in my life -- 'Now, go write a song!' It's just like, they come out awful!" said Powter, 41, laughing.
"You're just writing crap the whole time. It was just like, 'I'm a little teacup,' you know what I mean? Literally, my songs started to sound like that, so I had to kind of take almost two years to find the ... right direction of music and actually write good songs again."
Another struggle for the Juno Award winner was getting over his issues with "Bad Day."
The catchy tune is from Powter's second self-titled album, and though he's had another record out since (2008's "Under the Radar"), he's never struck music gold like he did with "Bad Day." And he felt like it was defining him.
"It wasn't that I don't like playing it, it was more like, that's all I was playing," he said. "I was always playing 'Bad Day.' It was like, a TV show: 'Bad Day,' go over here: play 'Bad Day,' and then I had such a hard time trying to break another song around 'Bad Day' because it was so big."
Eventually Powter realized: "It's something that's never going to go away but it doesn't have the power that it used to have.
"I used to think it had a lot of power over me so I decided that taking the time away would be a really healthy thing for me to do, and that way I could turn back and re-approach my career without fearing 'Bad Day' or without fearing the success of 'Bad Day' anymore, and I think that's what's happened again. I feel great.
"I'm bigger than 'Bad Day' now," he continued with a laugh, noting he feels the tune belongs to the world now and not him.
"'Bad Day, Shmad Day,' I'm me now -- Daniel Powter is much bigger than 'Bad Day."'
Powter composed many of the tunes from his new album on the piano in his Los Angeles home, where he lives with his fiancee and his two children, nine-year-old Sophie from his previous marriage and nearly six-month-old Billie.
He wasn't sure if he was ready to hit the recording studio until he met renowned producer Howard Benson, who helped him craft the album.
The first single is "Cupid," on which Powter croons about love. The album also has a dance track, "Crazy All My Life," on which Powter admits he's "tired of trying to fake it."
It's the most honest he's ever been on an album, but he can handle being vulnerable now because he doesn't get hurt like he used to, he said.
"Somebody told me a long time ago, I love this, I keep this in my mind: 'I just do the work and I stay out of the results,' and that has been my saving grace, I swear."
Powter's been playing the new tracks on the road for about three months and is due to tour Japan soon.
Being back onstage "feels amazing," he said.
"Like, I don't remember it. It's almost like all the memories I had about being on the road with the 'Bad Day' record were mostly not good, you know, based on my condition, and I don't remember a lot of it. So this is like, although it's more work again, I'm loving every minute of it.
"I love being busy, I love getting up in the morning and I love getting to play music. It's so strange. I keep waiting for it to end but it's not. I love it more. I'm just reinvigorated, you know, and I'm so in love with my career and I'm so grateful and humbled and lucky to be doing what I do. A lot of people that have been where I've been don't get a second chance, you know."
Powter doesn't plan to be away from home as much as he used to, though, stating: "It's not worth it."
"Plus, I don't want my kids to read something stupid about me in the newspapers, that's why I keep my side of the street clean as much as I can."