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For "American Idol" winner Kris Allen, the past couple of years have been more dramatic than an entire season's worth of elimination nights.
In 2012, he issued his second post-"Idol" album, "Thank You Camellia," only to receive little promotion and part ways with both 19 Management and RCA Records shortly after its release. Then in 2013, he experienced the highest of highs and lowest of lows. He became a father, but he also shattered his wrist in a head-on car crash; after multiple wrist-fusion operations, he still has a limited range of motion that has affected his guitar playing.
But through it all, Kris has survived like the champion that he literally is.
"I remember the first time I looked at [my wrist], I said, 'I'll probably never be able to play again,'" Kris tells Yahoo Music. "But after three surgeries and playing with a cast on, over and over again, I figured it out. It's not the same way of playing, but I do play guitar, which is great. I'm glad that I'm still able to do that and write songs."
Kris didn't let the accident, which took place on New Year's Day 2013, stop him from touring (with a cast on, of course), despite doctors' orders. "They were like, 'You had surgery four days ago; please do not go out on the road for a month and a half!' So, yeah, it was a bad idea. It was dumb. But you know, I've never canceled a show for any reason — and I still haven't."
Truth be told, playing guitar again wasn't Kris's main concern. "My biggest worry was like, 'I want to be able to pick up my kid,'" he reveals. "I remember the day that he was born, I was able to pick him up, and I was like, 'That's all that matters.'"
Kris and his wife Katy's first child, Oliver, was born in July last year, and since then, Kris's songwriting has changed. "It's not so self-focused anymore. It's like you're trying to support this thing, and also, you want this person to be proud of you. So I feel like I've tried to step up my game a little bit, because I want my kid to look back on the things that I've done and go, 'Man, my dad was cool!'"
Among the songs inspired by Oliver's birth is "Beautiful and Wild," which is about seeing the world "through the new eyes of a child." The folksy ballad will be included on Kris's still-untitled next album, which is set to come out this summer on Kris's own label and is being produced by Charlie Peacock (Switchfoot, the Civil Wars).
As for the underrated and under-promoted "Thank You Camellia," Kris admits: "There were a lot of things that happened with that record that I would have liked to have happened better. And it just didn't. We did the best that we could; there were things that were out of my hands. But I love that record, I really do. The first record happened so fast, and there was no continuity to it whatsoever. The second one, I felt really good about it. Do I wish more people would have heard it? Yes. But that's just the way things are. And that's OK."
[Related: Kris Allen Covers "Faith"/"We Are Young"]
After all the highs and lows since Kris won "Idol" in Season 8 — and after all the setbacks the show itself has suffered in the seasons since — Kris still truly believes that appearing on "American Idol" is a viable way to kickstart a musical career.
"The only thing you need to launch a career is some kind of platform, and that's what it's doing," Kris says. "Look at [Season 11 'Idol' winner] Phillip Phillips — he's crushing it. You just can't rely on that. You have to go work your tail off, and you can't expect anything from the show. Because that's not what it's there for. They're there to make a TV show, and entertain people in that way. After that, it's all up to you.
"I was like a deer in headlights," Kris says of his "Idol" experience. "You get thrown into it all. But over the past five years, I feel like I've learned a ton, and I now really enjoy this career. It's a lot of fun."