The Betty Interview: Katharine McPhee
The American Idol alum dishes with BettyConfidential about her new album, her advice for Adam Lambert, and the hoopla over the Paula-Ellen shuffle on the show that made her a household name.
In the five years since she came on the scene as the runner-up on the fifth season of American Idol in 2005, Katharine McPhee has packed in a lifetime of experiences. She was signed by RCA Records, beat her seven-year battle with bulimia, released a self-titled album that debuted at number two on the Billboard album charts, graced the covers of TV Guide, Self, Shape, Stuff and Lucky, toured the country, was dropped by RCA when her debut album failed to reach gold, married her longtime boyfriend, producer Nick Cokas (who is nearly 20 years her senior), made her big-screen debut in The House Bunny, signed to Verve Forecast Records, and today, she is releasing her second CD, titled Unbroken.
The California native, who was known for her long brunette locks, warm smile and big vocals, had millions of AI fans declaring they had caught “McPheever.” But after a failed, over-produced album in 2007 — that didn’t truly allow Katharine to be herself — she is back (and blond!) and doing things her way. The 25-year-old’s new sound is less cookie-cutter balladeer and more heartfelt singer-songwriter. The first single “Had It All” combines her likability with a newfound depth and an even more honed vocal strength. “Say Goodbye” is a Sarah McLachlan-style, piano-laced tearjerker, while “Unbroken” is a hauntingly, soulful tale of the trials of the first year of marriage. And “Lifetime” is a catchy, upbeat tune she truly shines on; proving the subtle nuances and vocal runs in a song can be more powerful than hitting the highest of notes.
Read on to hear more about Katharine’s new album, what Idol judge Kara DioGuardi’s like offscreen, and which Idol contestant she’s kept in touch with most.
Why did you name the album Unbroken?
I’ve been in this business for a short amount of time, but it’s a crazy business and a lot of things can happen. But I didn’t crumble. I still have my head together, so it worked on that level. Then I looked up the word in the dictionary and one of the definitions said “untamed and wild.” And I thought, “Wow, that’s a really cool way to explain the process of this album. My label game me an ample amount of freedom to figure out what I wanted to do. So I felt like it fit perfectly.
If you had to sum up the message of the album, what would it be?
I’m not sure there’s a theme. I really just set out to make songs that I thought people would really be able to connect with, and to have lyrics that went a little bit farther and deeper than just your average pop song. I wanted to have stories that would be relatable from what I’ve been through in the last few years. There was a lot of heartbreak about past relationships, and heartbreak from just being in the record business and hitting unbelievable highs and unbelievable lows. So I touched on a lot of that in my writing. But it’s not a total downer — I swear!