It’s summer in Toronto, and for ten wannabe singers, Canadian Idol 2 is the fast road to fame. The Canuck version of the international star-making franchise is a hit for CTV, averaging over two million viewers each week, astronomical numbers for a homegrown summer television show. Whatever happened, though, to the contestants from Season 1, the season that made CI required viewing in households across the country and crowned Ryan Malcolm as the country’s first Idol?
While Malcolm signed an instant deal with BMG Records and released an album that didn’t catch fire but eventually went platinum, his friend and competitor Billy Klippert chose a more unorthodox route. Signed to fledgling indie label and Universal Music partner Orange Records (also home to local lights like Lindy and Melissa McClelland), Klippert, the third runner-up of CI known for his platinum blond hair and rocker style, recently released a self-titled album of his own, a guitar-laden, grunge-inspired record unlike anything one would expect from an alum of the Idol phenomenon.
“I’m a hard rocker; I like doing stuff that’s heavy,” Klippert explains during a recent interview at a downtown pub during a promotional run in Toronto. “Now I’m doing something that’s a little bit different, but it’s still another side of me. In everything, there are things that you’d change, but there are also things to be proud of, and I’m very happy with the record.”
Growing up in a musical family in Calgary and inspired by Seattle-sound grunge rock, Klippert took up the guitar at age 15, playing alongside his brother Benny’s drum set as they learned and composed tunes for their rap-rock outfit Kovered in Lies. While his claim to fame may have come from singing on a glorified karaoke show, Klippert insists he was, is, and always will be a bona fide musician.
“There’s definitely a stigma that comes with being an Idol,” he says. “The thing is, I was a musician, and then I went on the show and I became, so they say, less credible. But you can be a musician with tons of credibility and not sell any albums, or you could actually sell some albums. I think the most important mark of a successful artist is selling CDs, believing in what you do, and having a good time with it.
“I play guitar, and piano, and stand-up bass, and I co-wrote more than half the songs on the album,” he continues. “I definitely enjoyed the writing part the most of it, because that’s what I’ve done my entire life. It was really a neat experience.”
While many may feel that Canadian Idol is a quick-fix jump into the industry and that those who choose to take it are selling out, Klippert is quick to disagree.
“This is the only way I can think of that you can go from having nothing or being nothing to actually having a good start. People in the music industry should stop looking at this in a negative way, because it really is a good start. I think that there’s no amount of money that can do what that show does for people, as far as promoting them.”
Describing Idol as being “like summer camp for adults”, even one year removed from the experience, Klippert has no real regrets. While he muses that he’s probably glad he didn’t win the competition and jokingly says his advice for this year’s competitors boils down to “Don’t wear a velvet trench coat and sing a Stone Temple Pilots song”-the very thing that got him booted from the competition last season-he is still thankful for the opportunities CI has brought to him.
“For the 3.5 million people who like and watch that show, they don’t care about credibility. They probably don’t even know what that is! They’re just like, ‘I like this guy. I’d buy his record because I like what he sounds like and what he does.’ That’s the way people should be. They should buy it because they like it.
“It’s the reason why I got this record deal – how could I ever say anything was wrong with it?” he reasons. “Hey, if life hands you apples, you gotta make apple juice.”