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Chris Daughtry couldn’t be more pleased with his trajectory — personally and professionally — since becoming a finalist on American Idol in 2006.

“I’m thankful for the fact that I’ve been married nine years,” the No Surprise rocker, 29, who performs with his group Daughtry on the American Music Awards, tells me. “I’m thankful for our position in the music realm right now. There’s so much.”

He and wife Deanna raise her stepdaughter Hannah, 11, and their adopted son Griffin, 9.

What’s their secret to keeping their union strong?

“Appreciate each other,” he says. “You made the decision to be with this person, and as a married couple, you all bring great things to each other as people. We have to appreciate that.”

He looks forward to Ellen DeGeneres filling the spot Paula Abdul vacated when American Idol returns in January.

Ellen’s a quick, witty person,” he says. “I think she’ll handle herself very well. Her opinion as far as a fan of music will be very valid, and it will be very reflective of the general public’s opinion, because she’s coming at it from a fan of music standpoint, not as a professional musician. I think it’s going to be a great fit.”

Here’s a pic of Chris and I at Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun.

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The American Music Awards airs tonight at 8/7c.

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