McPhee finds yet another musical role: singer-songwriter
NEW YORK - In the relatively short time Katharine McPhee has been on the scene she’s had a variety of different personas.
First, the fresh-faced “American Idol’’ runner-up of 2006 with the big voice; then the diva with the long auburn locks and gowns to match; the pop singer; and now, the blond folky recording artist who tells stories through her songs with her new album, “Unbroken.’’
McPhee, 25, says this record is a true representation of who she is. She talked recently about her new music, about surviving the “Idol’’ ride, and about finding her voice.
Q. Your new album, “Unbroken,’’ is on a new label, Verve, and has a new sound.
A. It’s very different, I think, just organically from beginning to the end of the process. . . . With the first record, you come off [“Idol’’] 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.
Q. What was the writing experience like?
A. 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.
Q. 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?
A. They wanted me wearing the very short-short dresses and [to] be that sex kitten or whatever because, you know, the Rihannas and the Cassies were really hot at the time. . . . 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.
Q. 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?
A. 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. . . . Entertainment is such a nonreality.