Interview: Katharine McPhee
February 01, 2007 02:15 PM
by Christina Fuoco
"American Idol" 2006 runner-up Katharine McPhee is known for her singing chops, but things easily could've turned out differently.
Many fans don't know that McPhee acted in an MTV pilot that wasn't picked up.
"Oh yeah, that was a long time ago--at least it feels like it," McPhee said in a recent telephone interview.
Acting was McPhee's second love--singing being the first--but she took it seriously. In 2004, she enrolled in the Broadway Theatre Project, a summer arts program in Tampa, FL, headed up by Ann Reinking. Guest lecturers included Julie Andrews and Ben Vereen. When her acting career waned, she decided to audition for "Idol."
"I always sung," McPhee said. "That was my first natural talent and first passion. I always said to myself, 'Whatever way I could make it in, I would just go with it.'
"I wasn't going for the right parts. I was going in for parts that were too young for me. That's kind of why I auditioned for 'Idol.' I just needed a change of pace," McPhee said.
For her "change of pace," she sang Whitney Houston's "Run to You" and made the cut.
McPhee talked to LiveDaily about her self-titled debut album, which hit stores this week, co-writing songs for the record, and her Feb. 1 appearance on "Ugly Betty." To promote the album, McPhee will appear on "Live With Regis & Kelly" (Feb. 1), "TRL" (Feb. 5), "The Early Show" (Feb. 6), "Jimmy Kimmel Live" (Feb. 7) and "Larry King Live" (Feb. 8).
LiveDaily: Tell me a little about your album. You must be thrilled that your debut is about to hit stores.
Katharine McPhee: I'm excited. I'm definitely looking forward to it. I'm putting together the band. I'm looking forward to getting out there on the road and promoting it and seeing what happens. There's nerves, too, about how it will do. I really believe everything happens for a reason. It'll take its course. We'll see what it does. I'm trying not to have too many expectations, but I'm being really positive. I'm really excited to go out there and do what I do and sing--sing with a new band. It's really exciting.
When do you expect to start touring?
I don't mean touring. I mean promo touring, like Jay Leno and stuff. That starts the end of the month.
Are you nervous about doing late-night shows?
I'm looking forward to it. I'm sure I'll have some sort of jitters. It will be nothing like it was on 'Idol,' that's for sure.
Were you able to co-write any of the songs on the album?
Yes, I co-wrote on three different songs, including "Neglected" and "Open Toes." I co-wrote with Kara DioGuardi [influential songwriter and Platinum Weird member]. Kara's great. So was pretty much everyone that was there. We were recording in Virginia Beach. But Kara and I did most of our writing together.
What was the most important thing you learned from working in the studio?
Patience. Patience. Your end product doesn't come immediately. I don't have a lot of experience with recording. Now I do. I learned a lot. I think those are probably the main things.
Was recording in a studio everything you expected?
I didn't realize how much work it is. Now, when I listen to the record, I don't listen to it quite the same. I think of the actual experience of them being in the recording studio--that person who's singing the song, how many times she stacked the vocals, how many times she did different harmonies on each line. I look at it very differently. It's much more time consuming than you would ever imagine.
I've heard it's difficult and it kind of turns people into perfectionists, even if they were not before.
Well I've always been a perfectionist. Unfortunately, I was cursed with that.
Was it difficult to handle in the studio?
Um, yeah. Difficult, like, letting go, and letting other people take control and say what they thought or whatever. That kind of stuff.
What was it like to work with producer Babyface?
Babyface produced some of the tracks and Kara DioGuardi did some of the tracks. But it was absolute perfection. Heaven. He was so easy to work with. He was just really quick. He has a great ear. He knows what he's talking about.
He has such a vast background.
I was so honored. I was just really giggly and excited. I've been a fan of him since I was a kid. I went to lunch with him and we got along really well. It was fun.
You recently dove back into the acting world by playing yourself on "Ugly Betty." Tell me about your forthcoming appearance on "Ugly Betty."
That was so much fun. I was there from 9 in the morning until 12 at night. These people are so amazing. They worked such long hours. We work long hours in the recording studio. It's just different. It's that whole thing of, "Hurry up and wait." I actually wasn't bored. I had a blast. You got tired, up and down, but then you get on the set and you're excited again. From America [Ferrera, who plays the title character] to the ensemble, everyone was incredibly great. The director was amazing. She made me feel incredibly welcome. I thought to myself, "Oh my gosh, I would have had such a different experience had they not been so nice and welcoming." Sometimes you can feel like the first day of school. You don't know anybody. You're the new kid in school. I get the feeling that most sets aren't like "Ugly Betty." This one is very unique and special, and they're all excited about working.