American Idol alum Katharine McPhee dropped her second album, Unbroken, this week, and J-14 sat down with Kat in NYC to talk about her new songs, Idol, and her new blond 'do!
J-14: Your last record was very R&B influenced. Is that the direction you're going with the new record?
Katharine McPhee: It's totally different. There's no knock on the first record in anyway, but I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do on it and I had to make it in a very small time frame. I really allowed people to do what they thought I should do and steer me in a certain direction, so that's how it came out the way it did. I love some of those songs on the record. Not entirely me, but it was good in that it gave me the opportunity to realize what I didn't want to do anymore. When it came time to make a new record, I didn't know if I wanted to. I had no other experiences other than my first, and I was just anxiety-ridden with not being able to have control. So I really had to just start over and go slowly. I went to Nashville. I found some great songwriters there, and it also gave me a great opportunity to spread my wings as a songwriter and find a group of people I was really comfortable writing with. I felt like I could open my journal and say, 'I'm embarrassed right now but this is what I wrote about.' This is a much more personal, deep record with songs about my past relationships, coming off of Idol, making a record, being new into the business, excitements, and disappointments.
J-14: What's your favorite track on the album?
Katharine: Right now my favorite is "Surrender," which I wrote with Ingrid Michaelson. It's just a sweet, sweet song. It talks about that self-loathing we all have, like it's never good enough. It's not even physical, it's with everything -- your relationship, your career, all those things. But this song in particular talks about someone who loves you so much and wishing you could see yourself the way that person does.
J-14: What's the story behind the first single, "Had It All?"
Katharine: The song is basically a theme I think a lot of girls go through of looking for something else rather than realizing what they have in the moment is the best and perfect scenario. I think all girls every once in a while go after the guy that maybe everyone tells them not to go with. I definitely dated somebody like that. I think this lyrically just explains the story of going out there and thinking, 'Where are all the fireworks I thought I'd see?' It's looking for something that you already really have.
J-14: Was it weird to see Kara DioGuardi, who you worked with on your first album, as a judge on Idol?
Katharine: It was. We became such good friends with Idol not being attached to anything and then she was suddenly on the show. I was talking to her about her non-harsh words for contestants. I was like, 'You are so much more opinionated than you are on TV.' She was like, 'I am warming up! I'm taking my time.' This was early on in the show.
J-14: Do you still watch Idol?
Katharine: I think it's like reasonable to think that someone coming off of the show would be done watching the show, at least for one season. You have to get it out of your system a little bit. But I've definitely watched different seasons since I've come off the show and I still enjoy it. I look at it a little differently after being on the show but it's still American Idol.
J-14: What made you decide to go blonde?
Katharine: I was pretty much finished with my record. I think it an expression of being excited that I finished my record, and I was also just ready for change. It's inspired me with clothes, taking risks, and not caring what other people think. I would say at the moment blondes are having more fun. Of course when I go back to being a brunette -- and I will be at some point -- I'll be very on one side again. I'm having fun whatever side I am.