Katharine McPhee on Writing, Recording and Who She's Loving on 'The Voice'
With the series finale of Smash in her rearview mirror, Katharine McPhee said she can now devote her time to recording her new studio album for Columbia Records, as well as some “concert dates in the fall. ”
The American Idol season five runner-up said she had intended to release the album -- her third -- a year ago, but was delayed by the intense schedule of the now canceled NBC program.
“We had this idea that on my weekends off from working on the show, I would get in the studio and we would fly out writers to New York, and we kind of tried that,” she explained in a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter.
Before Smash’s first season, McPhee flew out to Texas for a writing camp to work on some demos, but while she enjoyed collaborating with several people, and even bonded with Anna Nalick, who had a hit in 2005 song with the song “Breathe,” she ultimately decided it would be better not to rush the recording process.
“I found it difficult to try and draw from an artistic place when you are day in, day out working on a TV show and it's all-consuming,” she said. “It's really hard on the weekends to be, like, 'Well, what are you feeling? What are you going through?’ and the only thing I can experience right now is the show, and that's what I'm going through. To try and write a record during that time... we found was challenging and unrealistic. ”
Fortunately for McPhee, Columbia was willing to wait rather than put out something the artist and the company didn’t believe in.
“It's not just something that you just throw together where you go into a session and you have to find inspiration,” she said of the process. “There are sessions that you go into and you don't have inspiration and that's OK. I have been really grateful because Columbia has been incredibly supportive as far as developing me and allowing me to put out an actual artist record. So that's been my journey so far with them. ”
McPhee’s still untitled album, due in the fall, deals with several themes, including her need for perfection and the realization that the goal is “completely impossible.” The record includes songwriting collaborations from Linda Perry, Salaam Remi, OneRepublic's Ryan Tedder and Sia, best known for her work with Flo Rida, Rihanna and David Guetta.
She added that Remi in particular has been instrumental in drawing lyrics out of her, which she describes as a “soul bearing experience." Said McPhee: “He has been taking time to just have me and him in the studio and figure out without their being other voices: Who is Kat? Who is Kat as an artist? What do her melodies sound like? What do her lyrics sound like? I find the songwriting process a daunting thing. It’s not like being on a TV show or in a movie playing a part. You can hide behind someone's words and be the character and not take responsibility for how it was written and you do the best with what you're given. But when you're writing a record, and making a record, you have to stand behind it.”
McPhee confessed that even though she hasn’t had much time to watch television, she enjoyed her return to the American Idol stage where she joined Tedder for a performance of OneRepublic's song, “If I Lose Myself.” McPhee, whose mom and sister are both vocal coaches on Idol, said she even got nostalgic joining season 12's top five girls.
“It was a nice thing,” she said. “It was kind of symbolic of where I started, sitting on that couch. I knew the pressure they were under."
Still, there is one singing competition that has her attention as it heads into the finale, NBC’s The Voice. McPhee is friends with Amber Carrington, currently the last girl standing on Adam Levine’s team. “She is an amazing country singer but she has a pop inclination,” said McPhee. “She is a huge star to me. I hope she wins.”
And while McPhee is focused on making music, acting is certainly not taking a backseat. Just last week, it was reported that McPhee will star in the film Depravity, a thriller written by Dennis Lehane with Paul Tamasy set to direct.
“The acting is not on the back burner at all, but I'm squeezing in auditions,” she said. “I get bored easily. I'm thankful I have a lot of outlets to focus on.”