While the remaining contestants battled it out for the Season 11 finals, he got right to work collaborating on 13 new songs in 13 days, the start of a songwriting process that ultimately netted him 22 potential tracks and led him to sign with 19/EMI-CMG/Sparrow Records. His highly anticipated debut album A Messenger, (release date January 29, 2013), features 11 powerful and infectious pop/rock tracks that showcase Dixon’s trademark balance of vocal tenderness and intensity, his energetic piano playing and, above all else, a sense of hope and inspiration.
With the built in goodwill of millions of “Messengers” (his nickname for the fans he gained during his run on Idol) behind him, Dixon has been laying the foundation for months for an exciting breakthrough in 2013 that will include the release of the full length album and a late winter/early spring tour opening for the Grammy winning rock band, Third Day. Colton’s performance of “Never Gone” on the American Idols Live 2012 tour was the first time an Idol contestant has performed an original song (that he had co-written) on an American Idol tour.
The uplifting power ballad, “Never Gone,” was heard by over 360,000 on the tour and was an immediate hit digital single, selling 21,000 units its first week and heading straight to #1 on the iTunes Christian & Gospel singles chart and Billboard’s Christian Digital Songs and Christian/Gospel Digital Songs charts. The instant success of this track put him in unique company: he and Jennifer Hudson are the only 7TH place finalists in Idol history to reach #1 on a Billboard chart.
"This song is about how we sometimes need a reminder about why we do certain things or in this case, a reminder about whom we are living for," he explains. "When you are scared of the dark as a child, you just turn on the lights and know everything will be okay. That is the basic message of the song. I've experienced this feeling. "
“You Are,” Dixon’s subsequent debut radio single also hit #1 on those same charts and was selected as USA Today’s Song of the Week upon its digital release October 30. The inspirational message came to Dixon when his close friend was contemplating suicide. He wanted to find a song that could be the anthem for those struggling with difficult times in their lives. The healing power of these lyrics and the song “You Are” is one example of how Dixon embodies the collection’s title concept of A Messenger, which comes from a favorite scripture about a messenger never being greater than the one who sent him. The title also comes from the name of the band the singer fronted for several years in his late teens in his hometown of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. In the years before Dixon went after his dreams on American Idol.
Fans who have watched Idol the past two seasons know that Dixon’s journey on the show began in the Summer of 2010, when he and his younger sister Schyler stood in line under the hot summer sun, warming up for their duet version of Daughtry’s hit “What About Now.” While he didn’t make it to the Top 24, he never lost his resolve, and continued working on songwriting and developing himself as a performer. A year later he accompanied Schyler to auditions for Season 11 to offer moral support. Judges Jennifer Lopez, Steven Tyler and Randy Jackson recognized him and convinced him to sing for them. This time, they put both of the Dixons through to Hollywood.
Dixon’s success on American Idol and the recording of the new album are the singer’s latest steps towards fulfilling this unexpected calling.
“Calling the album A Messenger was a good way for me to put things in perspective in terms of my personal faith,” he says, “to make sure people realize, that while I am sharing honest emotions and experiences based on this. The album moves along like a rollercoaster ride. There are not two songs that sound alike, which is something I worked hard to achieve and am excited about. Working with my amazing team of writers and producers, I wanted to share different experiences that I’ve gone through, the lows and the high. I wanted to shed some hope on people no matter what they’re going through.
“We’ve all been deep in that valley, and I know what I’ve been through,” Dixon adds. “Whenever I’m in those dark places, I feel that God has pulled me through, and I want to inspire others by telling them about my experiences. That’s the central message of A Messenger. Those who never saw me on Idol will get to know where my heart lies pretty fast when they listen. Musically, I also think that it’s important to present a vibe that has a unique and fresh energy and point of view.”
The platform of American Idol was instrumental in helping Dixon hook up with a solid veteran team of writers and producers who could take Dixon’s artistry to the next level and help him realize his vision for the project. Chief among these is Red Decibel, the team of Adam Watts, Andy Dodd and Gannin Arnold—whose goal with each artist is summed up in three words: INSPIRE. CREATE. REPEAT. In addition to writing and producing on over 50 million albums sold worldwide, Red Decibel have had songs and productions in the Top 5 of the Billboard 200 every year for the past eight years; their diverse list of credits include Kelly Clarkson, Jesse McCartney, Jeremy Camp and one of Dixon’s chief influences, Switchfoot. Among the tracks the trio worked on with Dixon are “Never Gone” and “In and Out of Time”—a tune the singer says is about “wanting to make friends with what’s going on now, wanting to move on, but being held back by the past that’s haunting you.”
Dixon’s other collaborators on A Messenger include mega-producer busbee (Daughtry, P!nk, Switchfoot, Smash Mouth, Keith Urban), who co-wrote “You Are” (with Dixon and Dixon’s friends, Jared Martin and Rhyan Shirley) and the dramatic, theatrical “Noise”; renowned Nashville based songwriter Zac Maloy (Daughtry, Plain White T’s, Carrie Underwood), who penned the power anthem “I’ll Be The Light” with Dixon; Kevin Griffin (formally of the band Better Than Ezra) with “Rise” and Dave Bassett (Shinedown), co-writer of “This Is Who I Am.” Dixon also wrote “Where My Heart Goes,” with top writer/producer David Garcia (whose credits include former Idol contestant and fellow EMI CMG artist,Mandisa) and Ben Glover, named ASCAP’s Christian Songwriter of the Year for 2012. Scotty Wilbanks, touring keyboardist with Third Day, wrote the stripped down, acoustic driven “Let Them See You”.
Dixon, who is in near constant communication with his fans via Facebook and Twitter, sent out a blast to his fans, asking a penetrating question whose responses inspired one of A Messenger’s most powerful songs, the haunting, hard hitting “Scars.” He simply asked them to send in stories about some of their more difficult life experiences and how their faith played a role in dealing with them.
“I was overwhelmed with the responses I received both via social media and email,” he says, “and the one central word that kept popping up was ‘scars.’ I was really blessed to grow up in a home with a wonderful family, and learning about what these people had been through to get where they are today made me very thankful, but it was also humbling. I told some of those tales in abstract ways through the song’s verses, while the chorus is my way of offering symbols of hope. I really do believe that today’s another day to learn from our mistakes. Our scars shed light on where we’ve been and remind us of who we are no matter how far we’ve come.”
“I have a lot of passion for what I do, and I believe that people respond to artists who pour their hearts into every performance and connect with the songs they sing. For them to believe in what I’m singing, I have to believe it first. It’s all about being yourself, sharing your heart and being genuine. Those are the things that make a difference.”