The time has come. Kelly Clarkson has arrived with her 10th studio album, Chemistry, and with that, the bar has been raised.
LISTEN NOW: Audacy Check-In with Kelly Clarkson
The 41-year-old recently stopped by the Hard Rock Hotel in New York for an Audacy Check In with Mike Adam and got into the details of the creative process for the vulnerable body of work. The album was weaved together as she navigated a highly-public divorce from ex-husband, Brandon Blackstock, after nearly seven years of marriage.
“I don’t limit myself with songwriting,” Clarkson shared, admitting she let her emotions roar and take over writing sessions as a form of therapy. While she was sure to let it all out, the former American Idol winner took the high road when it came time to select which 14 songs would make the final track list.
“There was already access to a lot of the information [about the divorce],” she said, revealing she wasn’t shy to get into the details of topics that had already become public information. “’Red Flag Collector’ is probably the hardest song as in, I was pretty hurt and angry, but that information was already accessible. I held back what I thought like was too much, but I put on what I felt like was still raw and still what I felt.”
With an album so personal, Clarkson refused to make any sacrifices when it came to the music, something that hasn’t always been a reality in the past. “There were definitely points in my career where I compromised,” Clarkson admitted. “There are definitely songs that… they’re not horrible, they just wouldn’t have been my pick… but not so much to where I’m like, I hated something.”
Clarkson says the sacrifices she made musically were more-so to ensure success in order to protect the individuals whose livelihood depended on her success as an artist.
“It’s like, ‘If I don’t do this, then that means my crew is going to be out of work, my band is going to be out of work' — there’s a lot of weight to everyone you pay under the umbrella,” she shared.
Now, with 20 years in the music industry, a strong sense of who she is and great success, Clarkson feels she’s “allowed to just do whatever the hell you want,” and that’s exactly what she has planned for the future. “I will, for sure, at some point make a Country record,” the 3-time GRAMMY-winner said confidently of what’s to come. “Maybe not one that people are wanting it to sound like. [I want it to be] the kind of Country I love. That’s definitely going to happen — just for me. I just want to do it because I love it and a lot of my influences are from that genre.”
Like the idea or not, Clarkson bluntly shares she “doesn’t care” how much praise she gets for the projects she releases anymore. “I don’t have a lot of ego when it comes to that,“ she said when asked if she gets the recognition she deserves as a vocalist.
“Art is subjective,” she maturely stated. “I do a good job and some people are going to like it and some people aren’t and… how can I judge someone when I don’t like everything? I don’t like everybody’s sound, I don’t like their music. You don’t have to like everything.”
She may not like everything she hears, but one artist Clarkson made clear she enjoys is 21-year-old, Billie Eilish, who she praised for keeping music “fresh and different.”
“Billie Eilish, she’s not like a huge singer, but she’s one of my favorites because it’s so intimate and it feels personal and it feels fresh and different from what anybody else is doing… there’s room for everybody to be different.”
While she admittedly takes some notes from the new generation of stars, it’s the women who paved the way that Clarkson says admires most. She says women like Tina Turner, Cher, Dolly Parton, Alanis Morissette, Reba McEntire, Bonnie Raitt and more give her “no reason to complain” about the status of women in the music industry today.
“I think none of us [women] can complain — my generation or the latter — because women that had to pioneer… these women that came before us, that like, really paved the way,” she said. “It was incredible to be like, ‘Oh, we can do that too? For those women to be that brave when it was not accepted then, you don’t realize how hard that was in the beginning… you watch these documentaries and you’re like, ‘Damn!’”
Clarkson is known for being a bit of a pioneer herself as she was crowned the very first American Idol in 2002, and remains one of the show’s most successful contestants to date. Clarkson shared she considers it an “advantage” to have competed early on in the competition show phenomenon. “It was a lot easier on us [in the beginning of singing competition shows] because there were no comparisons,” she shared when asked why the shows don’t produce as many mega-stars anymore.
“Now, every person that goes on, [if] they’re a Country singer, they get compared to Carrie [Underwood], if they’re a Rocker, they get compared to Chris Daughtry, if they’re a Pop artist, they get compared to me… there’s so many of us now that came in the industry this way and I think they just started to get compared and that’s hard.”