Former bandmates sue Chris Daughtry

Home might be “where I belong” for pop music star Chris Daughtry, but it also is the place where he faces a lawsuit from his former bandmates.

Three former members of Absent Element, the band which featured Daughtry as lead singer before he became a contestant on “American Idol” and a highly successful recording artist, filed suit Thursday in Guilford County Superior Court.

The three are seeking royalties from “Home” and three other hit songs they say they have a share of.

Daughtry, who lives in the Guilford County town of Oak Ridge, responded late Friday by saying he was "very hurt by these false accusations."

In the suit, the three claim they had a role in writing the songs -- or should have gotten a share of royalties because they, along with Daughtry, had agreed to share revenues equally.

Daughtry, who is scheduled to appear in concert Monday night at Ovens Auditorium in Charlotte, disputed the claims.

"The songs listed in this lawsuit were written solely by me and no one else," he said.

At stake could be millions of dollars. Daughtry is the third-ranking “American Idol” contestant in terms of record sales and concert profits, trailing only Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson -- and the most successful non-winner of the event. He finished fourth in the show’s 2006 season -- and has been far more successful than the season’s winner, Taylor Hicks.

Ryan Andrews, Scott Crawford, Mark Perry and Daughtry were attending Integrity Community Church in Burlington in 2004 when they decided to form a band, which eventually became known as Absent Element. Daughtry was lead vocalist and played guitar; Perry was lead guitarist and backup vocalist; Andrews played bass guitar; and Crawford was the drummer.

According to the lawsuit, “All four members wrote music and lyrics for Absent Element’s songs, collaborated on the arrangement and recording of those songs, regularly consulted with each other on matters relating to the business of the band, and made partnership decisions based on majority votes.”

The suit spells out what the three former band members say were their specific jobs. Andrews and Perry, for example, designed the group’s website. And Crawford, with the help of Andrews and Crawford’s family business, created Absent Element T-shirts, which were sold to fans.

The band recorded an album, “Uprooted,” in late 2004, and in the suit, they acknowledge that a disagreement over how to share revenue nearly caused the group to break up. But they eventually reached an agreement, they say.

“Daughtry shared this understanding ... and conducted himself in a way that reflected that understanding,“ according to the suit.

The three plaintiffs also say the April 2006 copyright of songs on “Uprooted” shows that all four members had equal interests in the lyrics and music.

In the suit, the three former band members say they agreed in autumn 2005 that Daughtry’s audition for “American Idol” could help Absent Element become more successful, especially since, at the time, there was no reality TV show available to music groups.

But that proved to be the beginning of the end of the relationship.

Daughtry auditioned for the show that autumn in Denver and despite a negative vote from judge Simon Cowell (he won the support of Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson), Daughtry was picked to advance. He eventually reached the 24 finalists and continued in the competition until being eliminated in early May 2006.

In the suit, the three former band members say Daughtry wrote “Home” during the time he was competing on “American Idol,” but they say he began working on the song before that. The three other songs at issue in the suit are “Breakdown,” which the plaintiffs say they performed together as Absent Element; “Conviction”; and “Sinking.”

The band’s final performance was in June 2006, in Greensboro. That was shortly before Daughtry went on the annual summer “American Idols” tour. And about the same time, according to the suit, Daughtry told the group to stop using his name in connection with Absent Element’s album and website -- an action Daughtry said was required by the producers of “American Idol.”

Daughtry’s self-titled first album was released in November 2006 and sold about 6 million copies. That was followed by another successful release in 2009, “Leave This Town,” and then “Break the Spell” in 2011.

In the suit, the three former members say they have not received credit as being co-writers of the four songs, nor have they received royalties.

They are represented by Raleigh attorneys Charles Coble and Coe Ramsey.

Daughtry isn't responding beyond his denials.

"At this time, I have no further comment," he said.