Get Ready for the New Katharine McPhee
Aside from the gorgeous voice, go ahead and disregard most of what you remember about Katharine McPhee, as the 'Idol' alumnus is revamping her sound, image (and yes, hair) as she takes the next step forward in her career. McPhee stopped by the PopEater offices to talk about her upcoming album 'Unbroken' (out in January) as well as her new single, 'Had It All.' "Coming off of the show that I did and making the record as fast as I did, I always just sang. I didn't develop myself as an artist and know who I was and where I wanted to go," McPhee tells PopEater about her past. There's also talk of pregnancy, adoption and marriage ... and a bunch of "Just kidding!" disclaimers.That, plus her new video and more fabulous pics after the jump!
'Unbroken' comes out in January. Is it hard waiting around?
Well, it was supposed to come out in October, and they decided to push it for various reasons -- scheduling, and things like that -- and the very first thing I said was 'What am I going to do for the next four months?' But there's already plenty to do, visiting radio stations and doing the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. This time of year is my favorite time of year, so gearing up for a record is very exciting.
Your new label Verve has a long history of legendary artists. Is that intimidating at all to you?
It's not intimidating at all, it's just a pleasure to be in that great company of iconic women. I'm just really kind of amazed that I'm in such a legendary record label.
You've said the new album is a different side of you and your personality. What exactly is in there that wasn't in the past?
I think spending a whole year trying to figure out where I wanted to go musically and who I was really as an artist comes out in this music. Coming off of the show that I did and making the record as fast as I did, I always just sang. I didn't develop myself as an artist and know who I was and where I wanted to go. It was a little confusing for me and this last year I spent a lot of time discovering that. It's real discovery and the hardships that I went through and trying to discover musically who I am in a more grown up perspective. One of the lyrics from the song is "Get up out of that bed/turn the lights on/try to forget where it went wrong." So many things I can relate to in my life -- not to say that it's depressing, but it definitely has darker lyrics with a positive outlook. There's a lot of negative things in life, but it's trying to keep that positive energy. It's a rebirth of myself.
You mentioned you went into discovery mode. What did you do to really channel that?
One thing I wanted to do was really feel like I was singing a song, a melody line. My first record was more of like a pop driven record, but I really just wanted to sing a song with a simple melody. Doug Morris, who's the head of Universal Music, suggested I go to Nashville, not because I was going to make a country record, but because there's so many great songwriters. When I went there, I actually cried in one of the songwriting and listening sessions because I was so overwhelmed with this plethora of gorgeous melodies and meaningful lyrics. That was a discovery for me. I was thrilled to be writing with people who had stories to tell.
How therapeutic is the lyric-writing process for you?
It depends on the day and who I'm in the room with. A lot of times I was really stubborn going into some of the writing sessions because I didn't want to write that day or something. But at the end I was really excited about what we did, and obviously all of it doesn't make the record, but it's cool to hear the finished product and have that memory of what it takes to go from a blank piece of paper to a full song.
So you've reinvented yourself musically, and famously dyed your hair blond. Was the dye-job a spur of the moment kind of thing?
It wasn't spur of the moment. I can't say it wasn't calculated because I didn't want it to be a complete disaster and have my hair fall out, but it was a natural thing to do. I always wanted to know what it was like to have blond hair. People get complacent and know you as the girl with long brown curly hair. People always say 'Oh, your hair is so beautiful and curly.' Really, my hair is completely pin-straight. I have no wave in my hair. So this image gets created, which is great because then people identify you, but I just wanted to turn things upside down. I felt like seeing what it was like to be blond with short hair and doing something people wouldn't expect. It's fun. Now I wake up in the morning and look in the mirror and see a different person. Maybe six months from now it will be a redhead.
Have you noticed people acting differently towards you now that you're a blonde?
I wish that was the case. I always thought blondes got more attention walking down the street. I'm like 'That guy totally checked her out and didn't notice me and I'm wearing higher heels!' But, I haven't really noticed a difference at all and the reason is I'm not a true blonde. Only true blondes get the real attention.
Any other major changes coming up?
I'm pregnant with four children and I'm really looking forward to it ... just kidding! No, I'm still married, no real controversy going on right now. I might adopt a child from China like Katharine Heigl just did, but I'll have to go there and see how it works out. Just kidding again! No, I'm just trying to get this record out and trying to enjoy it!
You mentioned your marriage...
Actually I'm getting a divorce ... Just kidding!! [laughs]
Is it weird to you that there's people curious about every aspect of your life now that you've made it as an artist.
I think celebrity is just weird in general. I was in New York for fashion week, and it's fun to be a part of, but it's weird. As a celebrity, you feel very strange. You get ready for 15 minutes of photos and you've spent two hours getting your hair and makeup done. When you think about it, it makes no sense, so for me it's just weird in general. Celebrities and what their babies look like, what your wedding looks like -- obviously I got married and people know what my wedding dress looked like, and that's just fun girl stuff. It's slightly strange, but it has its benefits and opportunities to try to make a difference.
You got your start on 'Idol,' a massive reality show. Now that there's more talent reality shows giving people their big break, do you think the audience gets a false perception of who the contestants are as artists?
I think on those shows you definitely try to be who you are, but there's so much pressure and you don't know how to act. Looking back I was who I am, but one of the things people always say is 'Oh, you're so much funnier/crazier/weirder than I thought you were.' But really, if you put yourself in that situation, there's not much time to show your personality other than when you're performing.
Aside from the music, any other acting gigs coming up?
No. I did a movie in Hawaii that's being edited right now, so I'm just waiting for that to finish up. It's called 'You May Not Kiss the Bride' ... really cute cast, but that's it. Now it's just the music.
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