"I always felt like a little bit of a black sheep," says Josh Krajcik, looking back on his time spent on The X Factor. The singer has a point: throughout the inaugural season of the U.S. version of Simon Cowell's reality singing competition, the scraggly-haired, occasionally unkempt 32-year-old ex-burrito maker from Columbus, Ohio stuck out – not only for his against-the-grain looks, but also thanks to his massive, growling, Joe Cocker-esque voice.
While the singer would ultimately take second place in the competition, losing to diva-esque belter Melanie Amaro, he says he's nothing short of thrilled with the way his cards fell. Krajcik's debut album, Blindly, Lonely, Lovely, will be unveiled April 2nd on BMG.
"I remember having a sense of relief, almost, when I got second place," he admits. Yes, the $5 million recording contract and the title of X Factor champion would have been swell. But he always anticipated having more creative freedom with no contractual ties to the show. "I wanted to make a record with an open mind," he explains. "The two things I wanted to make sure of – was it soulful and honest?" He pauses. "I think I got there."
Krajcik wasted little time getting to work on his debut following the season's December 2011 finale. It was a year ago exactly that the singer began crafting tunes with a top-tier team of producers and writers, shuttling back and forth between Los Angeles and London. While he admits there was pressure to capitalize on his newfound fame and release an album quickly, Krajcik felt it was far more important to take his time and get it right. "I think that if you rush something out it can be a mistake," he says. "I wanted to make sure that the product was great."
Blindly, Lonely, Lovely is not the "straight-rock" album Krajcik believes many fans might have anticipated he'd make. Rather, it's a collection of blues-drenched melodies that incorporate jazz and soul in equal parts. Naturally, they make use of the singer's best instrument – his voice. Over biting piano on the lead single "Back Where We Belong," he ruminates on a love gone sour ("We hit rock bottom/ not a thing to lose/ I know you thought of leaving/ but love don't choose") before letting his grizzled vocals run free on the hook. "No Better Lovers," a Rod Stewart-style lullaby, finds the singer offering a more tender touch as he coos sweet nothings over twinkling acoustic guitar.
"That song was important for me to get on the record," he says. "Even though it's sort of in its own lane. What I like about it is it's different from the rest of the record. It fits in its own little place."
More often than not, Krajcik tends to write from a "dark place," he says, a result of his childhood infatuation with metal bands like Metallica and Megadeth. "It's good to be a youth listening to metal," he says with a laugh. Eventually, though, he found his way to classic blues artists like Muddy Waters.
While he waits for his album to drop, Krajcik is busy polishing up his live show (he plans a full tour this year and is playing a one-off gig in Chicago on March 22nd). "That's mainly what I've been working on," he says. "I plan on doing both solo shows and full band shows. The live thing is where I feel most comfortable. But there's also a little bit of pressure to make sure the songs translate well.
"But that's the fun part, man. I can't wait to get out there and tour this year. I'm ready to hit every market I can."
The enormity of how much his life has changed in the past year is not lost on Krajcik. "I always believed that I can be in this position, but I never imagined how or when," he says. "So yeah, it's a bit of a mind-blower."