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'American Idol' Alum Melinda Doolittle Says Making an Album Is 'Like Giving Birth'

The season six finalist reveals that her new EP, "You're the Reason," is a personal project from inception to final mix.

Melinda Doolittle 2013 P
Anthony Matula

When Melinda Doolittle released her first album in 2009, the songs were selected by her record label. For her new EP, You’re the Reason, issued digitally today (Nov. 12), the season six alum sought to make it a much more personal project and was involved from inception to the final mix. “I wanted to record something I felt was me,” she tells The Hollywood Reporter.

For the first time in her career, Doolitle turned to songwriting to fashion the songs she would record. “I started writing with my producer, Tre’ Corley, with the idea that I didn’t want to lose the R&B/soul vibe of the first album but I love the pop sound, too. I went to Tre’ because he understood me enough to marry the two genres very well.” Doolittle also recorded songs for the EP that were written by other composers, including Michael Ricks and Randy Davis.

Doolittle says she approached this project “from the aspect of love. It’s what shapes my life daily. I wanted to be transparent and honest. It’s about never giving up and dealing with criticism, including the words people said to me when I was on American Idol all the way up to now. Some people said great things but it was the negative words that stuck with me the most.”

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The EP features five songs, including the title track and the first single, “Never Giving Up.” There are also two bonus tracks. “I’m very excited about one of the bonus songs, ‘Home.’ People have been asking for a recording of that song for the longest time. It’s one of my favorites.”

Doolittle sang “Home” during the top 12 week of her season, when contestants were asked to perform a selection from the Diana Ross songbook. “I’ve known the musical The Wiz my whole life. My mom took me to see it when I was a child and I was scared of Evillene (the wicked witch of the west). When I was on Idol and they told me it was Diana Ross week, it was a no-brainer. The song said everything I was going through at the time.” Singing the Broadway tune on Idol, Doolittle purposefully deleted the lyric, “I wish I was home.” She explains, “I did it because I didn’t want America to send me home.”

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Recording the EP took nine months. “I equate it to giving birth,” says the season six finalist. “You go through the pains of what works and what doesn’t work, finding the perfect thing you want to present to people. After nine months you’ve got to get this thing out.”

You’re the Reason is being released independently. “It’s more work but it’s worth it,” says Doolittle, who has been involved with every aspect of production, including working with Nashville-based graphic designer/photographer Anthony Matula and selecting the album cover. “Every part of this recording represents me.”

Doolittle is planning to tour in 2014 to promote the album. This year, she’ll be performing at the charity event “Music with a Mission” in Nashville on Nov. 17, and will team up with season eight finalist Matt Giraud for “Finalists at Sea,” a live show on board the Celebrity Summit cruise ship in December.

Twitter: @fredbronson