November 2003
By Steven M. Housman

That Kelly Girl

How many titles could one give Kelly Clarkson? Small town girl makes it big? A star is born? The real American Idol? Truthfully, there are those and many more that are apropos. Is Kelly as nice as she appears to be? Yes, even nicer! Is Kelly as talented as people say she is? Yes, even more so. Will Kelly be around as long as other big name artists through sheer talent and chutzpah? Absolutely. What a lovely and honest girl she is.

Clarkson broke all records earlier this year by becoming the first artist in the history of the charts to have a debut Number One single, “A Moment In Time.” Her album Thankful also debuted at Number 1, selling an astounding 800,000 copies in its first week alone. Her follow-up single “Miss Independent,” raced up the charts proving that Clarkson is no one-hit wonder. Presently, this Texas girl has her hands full. Between touring the globe, television offers, including her September 28th stint on NBC’s critically acclaimed series American Dreams, and numerous appearances and performances on the talk show circuit, promoting her appropriately titled CD Thankful.

We discussed everything, from her extraordinary success from obscure unknown, to becoming a household name practically overnight. She also spoke of her musical influences, which included everyone from Bette to Barbra to Gwen Stefani and Steven Tyler. We discussed her acting aspirations, life in Hollywood, her Broadway dreams, and even her surprise and delight when she learned of her devoted gay male audience. Kelly held nothing back, and that’s exactly what made her so refreshing. This girl is not only talented, she knows exactly what she wants and how to get it. There was no mistaking the title of her smash hit “Miss Independent.” She’s all that and so much more.

First of all, congratulations on your enormous success. Here’s a loaded question - What has life been like for a girl from Texas who was relatively an unknown just a year ago, to all of this fame?

To be honest with you, everything has happened so quickly. I’m kind of wondering what’s going on. I went straight from trying out for some audition [American Idol] to winning to performing all the time. American Idol kind of prepared me, so by the time I was doing my own stuff it was actually a lot easier. American Idol was really, really hectic, so it’s really cool that it taught me well. It was like a crash course!

I loved your performances on American Idol. You are an outstanding vocalist. When it comes to female vocalists, who are some of your favorites?

Wow, thank you so much! I’m a big fan of Bette Midler, Aretha Franklin, Reba McIntire, big, big fan of Gwen Stefani. I love Melissa Etheridge. And who isn’t into Barbra Streisand?! She’s just a given. There are male vocalists I love too, such as Steven Tyler, I love him!

“Miss Independent” is a great song, and also a great departure from what the public heard on AI.

This CD Thankful has so many different styles on it. I’m always going to be singing something different. No one grows up with just one style. My dad was very much into rock and heavy blues, my mom was very much into country, she also liked Aretha, Celine and Barbra. I’ve been exposed to a pretty wide selection. So, why stop and just do one just because people want to pigeonhole me. There are a lot of different styles on the album.

Who helped you pick the material for the new album?

First of all, I wrote four of them. Two of them I already had. I started to work with Babyface. One of the songs “Thankful,” it’s kind of bluesy, more towards what people were used to hearing from me, and then I found out that he really liked rock so I gave him a rock song that Tamara and I wrote (Tamara was one of the American Idol finalists). I just worked with a lot of people and it would just come from out of the blue. Some songs came from RCA. It was a bunch of collaborations. The CD is very different from anything that’s out and probably not what people expected. The bottom line was I wanted to make something I would be proud of in ten years.

What is the next single?

The next single is “Low.” I just performed it the other night and it got a great response.

You have had a taste of acting in your first feature film. Has the acting bug got you? Are there other projects you would like to do?

Growing up a lot watching Bette Midler, I especially loved For The Boys, and all the other stuff that she did. I wouldn’t turn stuff down like that. I love watching her do that kind of material, so if you can and you’re having fun with it, go ahead and do it. For right now, I’m really concentrating on my record, because it’s a lot to handle on its own. I’ve been going worldwide now, I’m just going everywhere with this record, so there’s just no time to do any extra things right now but definitely in the future, I know I’ll do Broadway. They keep knocking’ on my door and I really want to do it. I got the offer to do Belle in Beauty and the Beast, and I just about died because my schedule wouldn’t allow for it. I want to do it all. Life’s too short not to do everything you can, and take chances.

How are your family and friends responding to everything that has happened to you in the past year?

Well, they don’t see me a whole lot, but they’re very happy for me. They’re kind of used to it. I was always kind of a loner and an independent girl. I would always explore on my own and go on a road trip, and I would just return in a week and say, “I’m here!” They’re used to me being gone. It’s just weird for them to see me everywhere, like on television and in the newspaper. I mean, my friends are the same friends I’ve had since the second grade. I’m still just the same old’ Kelly, so I think they’re getting used to it.

Are you still residing in Texas? If so, do you have any aspirations for moving to Hollywood?

You know what, I don’t think I want to live here. I just bought a house in Texas, but I work in LA so much that I think I better get myself an apartment. I get cabin fever with hotels, I don’t like them at all.

Are you aware that you have a developed a devoted gay following?

No, really?! I think that is so cool, any fan is a great fan! People, any people, if you like the music, listen to it, enjoy it and have fun with it. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you are, ya know?

Gay men are a large part of your audience.

I think that’s awesome!

What venue do you prefer, the live stage or a recording studio?

Live stage. I love performing live. I feed off of audiences, it’s like an amoeba.

You like to hear the applause?

No, it’s not even that, I just love to see people really get into the music and see them get on their feet. It doesn’t matter if it’s a ballad or a rock song, anything. As long as they get on their feet and respond. When I see them enjoying themselves and sing along, it’s such a cool feeling to see people enjoy the concerts as much as I do. For example, I’ve been in rehearsals for the past two weeks and it’s just awful because there’s no feedback. I just can’t wait to get in front of the audience.

How much longer will you be touring promoting Thankful?

We’re actually doing a couple of weeks right now, then we’re going overseas again to the UK. I’m coming back for a few days and then we’re leaving again for Australia, Asia and the rest of Europe. It’s getting where I really want to just visit all the places. But, next tour I’ll try to make time for that.

Have you remained friendly with anyone from AI?

Oh, of course, yes! I probably talk to Tamara the most, I see Justin every now and then. I really stay in touch with everyone. We’ll probably all get together next year and do a tour. That would be really a fun thing to do.

Was Simon really as difficult as he appears to be?

I’m the worst person to ask because he was never mean to me. Even if he was, even if he had said something, he was just doing all of that for the critics. There are plenty of people out there that hate my CD, but that’s bound to happen.

People either love or hate the biggest talents, so that’s a compliment!

You’re right. People either love or hate Madonna. People either love or hate Cher. These are great artists. All this is doing is preparing me. This is definitely not an easy business.

Do you have plans for your next album yet?

I’m always working, always writing. I already have half the album done.

What’s next for Kelly Clarkson?

A huge world tour, (sigh) but believe me, I’m not complaining! I promise you, before the next album, I’m taking a couple of months off!

© 2003 Steven M. Housman. All Rights Reserved.