Watching the season four finale of Stranger Things, Chris Daughtry was pulled in by the feature of Journey’s 1983 hit “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart),” and decided to cover the classic—as a duet. The accidental rediscovery of the power ballad also gave Daughtry the perfect excuse to connect with someone he’s wanted to collaborate with for years: Lzzy Hale.
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Before Daughtry called on her, the Halestorm singer never imagined that she would ever take her go-to karaoke song to the studio, much less record it as a duet. “We’ve been kind of chasing each other for years and years and wanted to do something together, so when Chris was in Nashville recording ‘Separate Ways,’ he cold called me,” Hale tells American Songwriter. “I was like ‘dude that’s my go-to karaoke song,’ so I ended up recording for about an hour and then screwing around for the rest of the time and just catching up on everything, on his life and my life. So that was the whole arc of our journey—literally, Journey.”
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Hale and Daughtry first connected in 2008 when Halestorm was working on their self-titled debut and Daughtry, who was a few years off his American Idol season five win, was piecing together his second album, Leave This Town, with the band. Both were working with producer Howard Benson at the time and had an immediate musical connection and later played a series of tour dates together in 2010.
“We just hit it off, and it’s been this kind of cat-and-mouse game of ‘Hey, do you want to do this? Oh, no, I got to do this. Hey, I’m too busy, but let’s do something,’” says Hale of their on-and-off-again desire to collaborate over the years. Hale adds, “Chris is one of those guys that since we met, no matter where you are in the world, you can pick up right where you left off. You don’t have to talk to each other all the time. We’re just on the same wavelength—and not to mention his incredible voice. I’ve sung with a lot of people and had a lot of collaborations in my day, and with Chris, we can kind of go toe-to-toe, and he’s just as nerdy about it as I am.”
For Daughtry, who was the 2022 American Songwriter Lyric Contest Dream Co-Write,” taking on “Separate Ways” was not only inspired by his admiration for former Journey frontman Steve Perry’s vocals, but also by Hale’s. “I’ve always been a singer’s singer, meaning I’m always gravitating towards people that I wish I sounded like or people that make me want to be better,” shares Daughtry. “And it’s why I wanted to work with Lzzy because she’s one of those vocalists. There are very few vocalists out there that make me very jealous of what they’re able to do with their voice and she’s one of them, and always has been.”
Reconvening was even more serendipitous since 2023 marked the 40th anniversary of “Separate Ways,” which the duo was able to record and get it out the exact day of its original release, Jan. 5. Released on Journey’s eighth album, Frontiers, “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)” peaked at No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
“I didn’t even think about it,” says Daughtry. “We didn’t set it there for inspiration or as a muse or whatever—it was just there. The 40th anniversary thing, I had no idea about it until after we had recorded it, and then it was like, ‘Oh shit, we got to get this thing mixed and mastered if we’re going to make this deadline.’”
Both live in Nashville and were also able to record the track in person along with producers Marti Frederiksen, who coincidentally had Journey drumhead in the studio, and Scott Stevens. Daughtry knew their more charged-up metal rendition was something special when they recorded it but had no idea that it was going to take off the way it did. Upon release, the duo’s cover hit the top 25 of the Billboard Mainstream Rock Airplay chart.
“Sometimes you have these feelings for songs that you work on, and think ‘this has the potential to do this’ but you’re scared to say it because you don’t want to jinx it,” he says. “This was one of those moments that it actually did exactly what we hoped it would do.”
[RELATED: Lzzy Hale Reflects on Halestorm’s First Grammy Award: “It Was Really Amazing”]
He adds, “All the stars lined up, and we happen to live in the same town, so we were able to be in the same room because it does add a different energy to it.”
Joking about working on another cover of the Journey Frontiers hit, “Faithfully,” released on April 16, 1983, Daughtry respectfully declines. “That was one of the most incredible vocals of all time,” he says. “I personally would never want to touch it. It’s one that I won’t even go near. I wouldn’t even do that for karaoke.”
Moving ahead, the next step for Hale and Daughtry is to create something original together. “Whatever moment arises where I can do anything with Chris, I’m down,” says Hale. “I’ll jump out of that plane.”
Daughtry adds, “That would be our next step in the evolution of this dynamic, and who knows, maybe a tour down the road. I’ve got a bunch to write about the last couple of years, and all of that will bleed into the music somehow. As far as where we want to take this song [‘Separate Way’], straight to the frickin’ top, right to the moon.”
Photo: Courtesy of Big Machine Johh Varvatos Records