American Idol Alum, Current Scorpion Star and Pop Singer, KATHARINE MCPHEE Talks New Album, Smash, Scorpion and What Experience Has Taught Her The Most!
Posted On 24 Jul 2015
Tag: 60 Minutes, Actors Fund, All Access, All Access Music Group, American Idol, Andrea Bocelli, Artist Interview, Blurred Lines, Broadway, Build On, Diane Martel, Don't Need Love, Emmy, Hysteria, Joshua Bergasse, Katharine McPhee, Kellie Pickler, Let's Drink, Malaria No More, Mariah Carey, Only One, Robin Thicke, Smash, Steven Spielberg, Theresa LaBarbera Whites, Tony, Unbroken
Ever since Katharine McPhee was on the fifth season of American Idol, she has been impressing us all with her incredible voice and raw talent. Her fourth album entitled “Hysteria” will be released on September 18th! The album’s lead single which has been blowing up the charts is “Lick My Lips”. While it’s been over five years since McPhee has released an album, in that time, the singer has been flexing her writing muscles with some of the music industry’s biggest players.
On her way to Providence, Rhode Island for a press event, the pop singer and actress, Katharine McPhee talked to All Access about her new album “Hysteria”, her current sizzling single “Lip My Lips” and more.
So it’s been a few years since you’ve released new music. Do you think that acting took over a while? Why the gap in time?
Well, the intention honestly when I got on Smash was to put out a record. A lot of people use a TV show as a platform to put out records. I had lots of strong musical influencers working on the record. Therasa LaBarbera Whites for instance is a very strong A&R person and she was working on the record and ended up being the executive producer on the record. She really encouraged me to live and find time and not let a TV schedule be the thing that dictates when something comes out.
So with that being said, I wish that I could have had the time to get it out sooner. My big problem was that I was so drained with the show schedule. So when you want to make something meaningful and find inspiration, it’s really difficult when you are just exhausted. It just worked out that I kind of had the record completed about a year ago and then I got on another TV show. Lucky for me. So it wasn’t something so calculated. It was just how life kind of just worked itself out. There was no agenda. Even with the style, I did a lot of writing camps that Theresa planned for me, where we got a lot of great writers for 2 or 3 days and I would go from room to room and be a part of the collaboration.
“Honestly, I feel like this is the first real studio record that I’ve been able to make. I got to review songs we already recorded and I really got an opportunity to make a proper record and make a record that has some real artistry to it.”
People say it’s my 4th studio record, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s kind of like my first real record that I feel really proud of the whole body of work.
You’ve kind of already answered this but ultimately, how do you think “Hysteria” is different then anything else you’ve released?
I think it goes back more to what my first record was like. It was more of a pop-leaning record and that feels more right for me. I think I can sing lots of different styles. Making a pop record was more of me representing myself.
How are you balancing all the album press events with all the acting you do?
Right now, I’m on a hiatus. Yeah, we’ve been on hiatus the last two and a half months and I only have a few weeks left before getting back to that crazy TV schedule. It’s very difficult to do it. It’s almost like being in a movie is easier because you have three months where you are shooting and then you are off for whatever length of time. Whereas TV is a set thing. You know for the next 9 months, you are going to be working on a particular thing. It makes appearances and live performances a little more challenging. I’ve been spending my hiatus not really hibernating but trying to get as much out as I possibly can to support something that I am really excited about.
I just watched your “Lick My Lips” video. You look amazing in it! It’s very sexy! How creatively involved were you with the video and the making of it?
Diane Martel is such a genius director and she directed Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” video so she has been around forever. She used to tell me about how she would help Mariah Carey with her stage fright before performing! She started out as a dancer.
So she gave me a treatment for the video and then I met with her and I thought her vision was really cool. The song is kind of this flirty and playful song with a lot of sexual innuendoes. So what I love about her is instead of playing into being a teeny bopper pop singer trying to play it up even more, her whole vision is to just pretend to be bored, these are my props, my little boy toys. So I loved that simple idea. Also, everything being larger then life and compiling that with being slightly less intrigued. But yeah, I am definitely opinionated about what I want to wear and how I have my hair and makeup a certain way. She is someone I really respect and I when I am working with someone I really respect, I kind of allow them to king of go with their initial instinct.
How would you compare working on a music video as opposed to working on a TV show or a movie?
Well, working on a music video is a lot easier. I mean, the hours are long like any other shooting schedule. But yeah, it’s different when you are the only perosn on set and you meet other cast mates and you try to be respectful. When its your video, it’s just your video. There is different timing, it’s not a rigid rushed schedule and it’s only for a day or two. You are thinking more about the end result when it’s just your music video. The end result is representing you. Whereas, in television you don’t have nearly as much control. When it goes off to editing, you see when it everyone else sees it on national television.
What other songs on “Hysteria” are you excited to share with everyone?
I’m really excited about the whole body of work to be honest. One of my favorite songs, is a song called “Let’s Drink” and a song called “Only One” and the song “Hysteria” and there is even a fun almost discoey song called “Don’t Need Love”. Yeah, I am pretty excited about the body of it!
So far, what experience has really stood out to you as a performer?
It’s actually probably contrary to what people are impressed by. Oh performing with Andrea Bocelli was amazing. That really was an honor but the most I’ve learned from was when I’ve done live shows alone.
When I was promoting that second album, “Unbroken”, I was kind of uninspired and unimpressed by the music industry. I found it so confusing and it’s even challenging now. There are so many ways to try and sell music now. I always found it very scary and daunting. It’s different when you are hiding behind a character and someone else’s words as an actor. But as a musician, you are representing yourself so you feel more exposed so I guess I felt more vulnerable that way. I really loved to sing but for the first time, I was dreading performing and I was terrified to show up to places whether there would be thousands of people there or there would be a hundred people there. I would feel horrible about myself and would think what am I doing this for? I guess the thing that I got the most value from was learning that it was a show and people are there, whether it’s 10 or 10,000 people, you have to show up, it’s your job. And in doing that, I learned so much about performing live. I learned so much about being comfortable in my own skin and even if that particular album didn’t nail me as an artist, didn’t crack Katharine McPhee as an artist.
I really I think I found myself more on those stages that year or two when I was promoting “Unbroken” before I got cast in Smash. I gained a lot of confidence and I think that’s where I learned the most. I really think you learn the most from experiences and really living. That’s where you get the inspirations. It’s part of what makes you stronger and more vulnerable and what makes you more involved in your own career. It was good growing experience for me. I still get the usual butterflies when I perform but it’s so interesting to look back now and go, wow, I’m not nearly as nervous as I was and I’m way more confident now. I did myself a huge service just by showing up and working through those feelings.
Those fans who have been so devoted and showed up regardless of where and what venue mean the most to me. Musically, I was really not experienced. When I was on Idol, I created a perception that I was this polished singer and my mom was a voice teacher. But really, I was just a girl who had gone to college and taken classes and when back to LA to be an actress and who sang all the time. But I really had no live performance experience at all. So, really live performing is a totally different thing. Being in the recording studio is a way different thing too. There’s a learning curve for that too.
No, I honestly don’t watch it at all. I don’t mean that in a good or bad way. I don’t really watch TV much. I watch 60 minutes on Sunday nights. I find all that kind of stuff fascinating. You know, cures to cancer and interviews with dictators and such.
Are you in touch with anyone from your season of American Idol?
No, I haven’t been. I do have this great relationship with Kellie Pickler. We can go long periods of time and not see each other and not talk and then pick up right where we left off when we get together. She’s really my girl. She’s the only one from my season.
Everyday I woke up going to work, knowing I was on the kind of show that fulfilled every dream I had as a child.
Do you miss that role and the show?
Yeah, I miss the opportunity and the things we got to do on a daily basis. It was just such an exciting show to be working on. Also the amazing cast and having Steven Spielberg be apart of the show and drop in was incredible. It was just an amazing group of people to work with and be involved with. I enjoyed it. Everyday I miss that show.
You recently performed with the Smash cast again on Broadway for the Actors Fund. What was that like?
It was amazing. It was a really intense week of crazy rehearsals with our choreographer, Joshua Bergasse, who is incredible. He won an Emmy for our show and has been nominated for a Tony since then. He took the choreography from the show and was like, I know we did that on the TV world but I am still going to have you do it for the show. It was a great challenge and I just had a blast getting together with all the old people and for a great cause too.
Over the years, you’ve been involved with several non-profit organizations. Which ones are you still active with today?
There is an organization called “Build On” and I’ve supported them in the last two years. They build schools in different parts in Africa and they have a very interesting business model in terms of how they get the schools up and going and keep the community involved and make sure that young girls can go to the schools as well. And so I’ve been involved with keeping their financing going. They are an organization that I want to keep endorsing and also supporting.
I also went to Africa with a charity called Malaria No More. They were kind enough to take me to a pre-school and an orphanage where I build support every month.
So when can fans see you perform the new record?
Once the record comes out, I’ll know more about touring. In the next few months, check out my website, katharinemcphee.net it will keep people informed.
How will things work with performing and promoting “Hysteria” once Scorpion gets back to filming?
In the first season of Scorpion, I wasn’t doing any music so it will be interesting to see how it all works out in the second season. They have been very supportive and taken an interest in my extra curricular activity. I am hoping they will enthusiastic about supporting me when they can. I’m excited for next season. It’s been very successful so we must be doing something right. I’m hoping they will keep me around. I have no intention of leaving the show.