In the relatively short time Katharine McPhee has been on the scene she's had a variety of different personas.
Katharine McPhee, the fresh-faced "American Idol" runner-up of 2006 with the big voice. The diva with the long auburn locks and gowns to match. The pop singer. And, now, the blonde folky recording artist who tells stories through her songs with her new album, "Unbroken," in stores now. The singer says this record is a true representation of who she is.
The 25-year-old McPhee talked recently about her new music, surviving the "Idol" ride and finding her voice.
AP: Your new album, "Unbroken," is on a new label, Verve, and has a new sound.
McPhee: It's very different, I think, just organically from beginning to end the process. The record itself I think is more organic than my first record. ... I had a year and a half to work on the record and with the first record you come off that show and it's just like everything is going so fast and you're not sure what you want to do and you're not quite sure who all of these people are handling you. With this I really took time and figured out really where I wanted to go and what I wanted to say and I wrote about half the record.
AP: What was the writing experience like?
McPhee: It's funny. I never used to want to write. I grew up in that era of the Celine Dions and the Whitney Houstons and those artists who had the big voices and I (idolized) them but they weren't really songwriters. So I used to be like, "If people bring a great song to me I will sing it." I just wanted to be like that. ... And with this album I had so much more to say and I looked back at old journals and was able to pull some interesting material. Other songs are just things as an actress I can just put myself into.
AP: On "Idol," you sang big songs and wore long gowns and then you recorded a pop album for your self-titled debut record. Was it hard at that time to find your identity?
McPhee: It was really hard for me to be able to find my identity because the label I was with at the time didn't see me doing that and didn't see me wearing the long gowns. They wanted me wearing the very short-short dresses and be that sex kitten or whatever because, you know, the Rihannas and the Cassies were really hot at the time and they thought, "Oh, you know, let's put her in that mold." I have a lot more to say than just singing those pop songs which I love. I'm a huge Top 40 lover ... but I realized through that process it didn't really fit me. I'd much rather be authentic to myself than this machine that doesn't really stay true to you. It wasn't ultimately who I was. The cover of the first record, that was a hair campaign photo shoot. ... you live and you learn.
AP: There were all of these rumors when you were on "Idol" that Steven Spielberg wanted to meet you and John Mayer had a crush on you. Was that just a crazy time?
McPhee: I actually did meet with Spielberg, John Mayer did flirt with the idea ... I was just this girl from the Valley and so it was such a bizarre thing to hear "John Mayer likes you." I'm like, "Well, that's weird because if he had seen me walking down the street three months ago he probably wouldn't have." I've always kind of been able to kind of keep that reality in such a non-reality world. Entertainment is such a non-reality.
AP: There was so much hype surrounding you when "Idol" ended. Was it a disappointment for your first album to not do as well as you maybe hoped?
McPhee: I sort of knew that it wasn't the right record that I wanted to make ... I think that the audience — the voters from "Idol" who are the ones who essentially go out and buy the record didn't connect the dots and I didn't quite connect the dots. ... But, I don't look back and say, "Oh darn." This was meant to happen, you know?"
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