Kelly Clarkson interview: "I now have the freedom to do whatever I want"

The American Idol talks about working with Sia and what we can expect from her next album.

Now 13 years into her music career, Kelly Clarkson has proven that not all TV talent show winners have the shelf life of a dairy product.

Her seventh studio album Piece By Piece recently became her fifth Top 10 on the Official Albums Chart - and third chart-topper in the States. 

We met up with the original American Idol to talk about working with Sia on her new single Invincible, and find out what she has tucked up her sleeve for album number eight... 

Hi Kelly! Congratulations on the success of your latest album Piece By Piece. It’s your fifth UK Top 10 album and third Number 1 in the US; you must be pretty pleased with that?

Totally! I’m not the sort of person that heavily focuses on sales figures, but I’m smart enough to know that if things go well, then the label gets behind you more and they believe in you and the project that bit more.

Do you feel like you’ve reached a point in your career where you’re now considered an ‘albums artist’?

“I know what you mean, but I think it’s just a generational thing. I’m 33 and I think my generation was probably the last that were album kids. We bought albums and not singles, and I think that’s why I make them - because I still buy them!

My kids buy singles because they’ve grown up with iTunes, so that’s all they know. My husband is also in the music industry and we’ve been trying to instil in them the story that can come out of an album. A lot of artists don’t tell stories anymore – they make four good singles and the rest is filler. I feel so old right now you have no idea!

Except you’re not old!

I feel it when I’m listening to the radio and I’ve not heard of any of the songs before. I like it though, I’m at that point in life where I can recognise it’s just another phase in music, like the grunge phase and the hip-hop phase…

Your new single Invincible (co-written by Sia) is BIG. On the spectrum of power ballads, they don’t get much more empowering than this. Where does this sit for you in the history of Clarko ballads?

“It’s my favourite song ever. I love it! It’s like a midtempo power-ballad and Sia can write one hell of a song. She wrote it with Jesse Shatkin, who is someone she works with and I’ve worked with for a long time. I remember he contacted me when they were writing it, saying I had to put it on my album. I mean, obviously I was going to do that anyway because I’m not stupid!

Are you one of the lucky few that has met and worked with Sia in person?

I didn’t, but I’m such a huge fan that it was enough of a big deal for me that we were working on a song together. I’m a huge fan of Sia’s – I mean who isn’t?! - so it’s nice our work connections have pulled us all together like that. Jesse also wrote Chandelier with Sia and has worked as an engineer for Greg Kurstin on several of my projects, including the Christmas album and Stronger. On this record he actually produced In The Blue, Invincible and Take You High. He’s such a cool dude.

We attempted to sing Invincible in the shower this morning and the results were disastrous. Does the prospect of performing such a big song live terrify you?

Oh my god no, that’s the most exciting bit for me! I’m totally game for it. I remember when we were recording it and I almost wanted to make it a duet because it’s so powerful. Fortunately the guys let me stray a bit from the original demo, because I’m the one who’s going to have to sing it forever. Thankfully they were totally okay with it, which is a real testament to them because lots of people in this industry aren’t okay with anything less than you copying their demo. They let me go bigger on those notes at the end, so I’m going to have to prove I can deliver it!

It’s often easy to work out when Sia has written a song for someone because the artist sounds like they’re trying to imitate her…

I couldn’t even do that if I tried. She’s a stylist and I’m not. I wish I was because they’re my favourite singers, but I’m like a chameleon; I can sound like different things. I can go country, R&B or very pop. I don’t think my sound is 100% definable as a single thing. For example, Pink came on the radio the other day and my eight-year-old son said ‘Oh my god I love this song of yours, you have to do this one live!’. I’m no U2 or Annie Lennox - or Sia.

Can we expect any more singles from Piece By Piece?

For me personally, it’s between Take You High and Piece By Piece. There are actually a lot of songs on this album I’d like to see released as a single: Dance With Me is great, In The Blue is great…

We’re just throwing it out there: Nostalgic is great song.

That seems to be such a guy song! It’s my husband’s favourite and my guitarist’s. Y’all some Nostalgia fools! In all honesty, I don’t have the pulse of the people with what to release as a single for radio, so my plan is just to make records which are, in my opinion, full of singles where I love every song enough for it to be a single.

You’re known for your pop-rock sound; have you considered switching it up for your next album?

I’m always thinking about it - I totally think all the time about switching it up. The difficult thing with me is that I love everything. I just did a broadway duet with Josh Groban and that is one of my favourite things I’ve ever done. I love my R&B music, big band… I’m really struggling with what direction I should go in for the next record.

The next album will also be the first that’s out of my original American Idol contract, so I feel like it’s time to really spread my wings and really try something new. Basically, there are too many options. I’ve thought a lot about doing a dance record as well. I’m sure I’ll do them all at some point - I’m just excited to now have the freedom to do whatever I want.  

Kelly Clarkson's new single Invincible and album Piece By Piece are out now.