by Jay S. Jacobs
Just about a year ago, Katharine McPhee was one of the last two contestants standing on the most popular TV series in the US. In arguably the most competitive season of American Idol – certainly the one with the most talented top six – McPhee had stood toe to toe with tough competition, coined the term “McPheever” and made it to the finals. As America watched, the tall, beautiful singer with the booming voice faced off against gray-haired soul man Taylor Hicks as Ryan Seacrest promised to let us know who would be the next American Idol – “After this commercial…”
Though Hicks ended up going home the victor, McPhee’s music career was on its way. Soon after the series finale, McPhee had her first charting two-song single, “My Destiny” and a spine-tingling cover of the Judy Garland classic “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Then she headed out on the Idols concert tour (though she missed several shows for health reasons, getting both laryngitis and later a foot injury.)
But that was last year, and now, frankly, McPhee is over it. She is all about looking forward, not reliving the past – as is evidenced by the fact that she declined to answer any questions on American Idol or even the “My Destiny”/”Somewhere Over the Rainbow” single.
Instead, McPhee is excited about her self-titled debut CD – a chance where she gets to show a range beyond the ballad-heavy Broadway diva rep that she got on that series we aren’t supposed to mention. However, the winning personality that she displayed on TV is in full display on the finished product.
Musically, Katharine McPhee is surprisingly diverse. There is more theatrical stuff like “Ordinary World.” “Not UR Girl” is pop-rock. “Open Toes” is a whimsical new-wave-by-way-of-Destiny’s Child jam. “Love Story” has a very modern pop feel, “Over It” and “Each Other” are very soulful, “Home” is more of a power ballad.
“I was just looking to put together the best songs possible,” McPhee says. “I can adapt to many styles so it’s great to bring a few genres together.”
The plan worked. In fact, “Over It” has become a top-40 radio single in early 2007, riding an indelible hook across the airwaves for the last several months. Now the up-tempo R&B swayer “Love Story” has been released as a second radio track, with McPhee hoping it will follow the predecessor up the charts.
These youthful sounding songs were important to McPhee, who was not sure that she wanted to do the straight Adult Contemporary album that so many people expected. In fact, as the recording of her debut was going, she made sure to write and find music with a contemporary feel.
“It was definitely a collaborative effort between me, RCA, and my producers,” McPhee says. “I pushed for the songs I connected with the most.”
The album was a life-long dream for the 23-year-old Sherman Oaks-based singer. Her mother, Peisha McPhee, was a cabaret singer and music teacher who brought her daughters into the art world from their first years. Peisha even sang a self-penned ballad for her small children, “Adriana and Katharine,” on her 1997 CD Out of the Blue, in which the mother promised the small girls, “Everything that’s good can happen….”
Little did Peisha know how true that line would become. Katharine McPhee was drawn to the world of entertainment from the start, taking voice lessons, doing local theater, dreaming of filling concert halls.
“Since I was really young, I have always sung,” McPhee recalls. “My mom is a voice teacher, so we constantly had students in and out of the house. I was always surrounded by music.”
All those years back in her family’s Valley home, she had no way of knowing that she would be working with some of the biggest names in music before her 25th birthday. She was signed to her current record contract by legendary exec Clive Davis. The album included songs written by respected songwriters like Babyface, Kara Diogiardi, Walter Afanasieff and Billy Steinberg.
“Well I surely dreamed it,” McPhee says, “but no, I never thought it would really happen!”
Of course, McPhee hopes that this is just the beginning. There is so much more that she wants to experience as a performer. For example, on the disk, there are only three songs she co-wrote – “Open Toes,” “Not UR Girl” “and “Neglected.” As she gets more comfortable with recording, this ratio may shift.
“I really enjoy writing, so I hope that I will have the opportunity to do more,” McPhee admits.
She has also very actively gotten involved in television – guesting on such shows as The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Jimmy Kimmel Live, Rachael Ray, The Tonight Show, Larry King Live and Live with Regis and Kelly, as well as guest hosting on The View and TRL.
She has also dipped a toe back into acting – playing herself on the popular television series Ugly Betty and did a cameo on the hip web series Lonelygirl15.
McPhee has signed to star in a movie project named The Last Caller. Rumors abound that she may also star in The Echo and possibly have a small role in an as yet-unnamed major motion picture.
She’s shown a refreshing comfort level and playfulness on camera – a clip of Tyra Banks feeling McPhee up on her talk show has become a YouTube favorite – leading you to believe that perhaps this will be a career path she may want to explore as well. McPhee seems to be open to anything she finds interesting.
McPhee also took advantage of her higher profile to speak out on a subject that was very near and dear to her. She has been very open about the fact that she had a serious eating disorder resulting from body image problems. She has been able get her own problem with Bulimia under control. McPhee hopes feel that by sharing her own experiences with her fans, she can help girls come to grips with similar illnesses.
“It’s not going to stop people from becoming sick,” McPhee acknowledges. “It’s just going to give hope to those who are suffering that there is a solution; there is help…”
In the meantime, McPhee would just like people to see her music as “Fun, inspiring and ME!”
That ME part is very important to McPhee. She has realized that you can become successful in a career without sacrificing the very things that make her unique. She is confident that her fans will follow.
“I think my fans know me pretty well and I love them for all their support,” she says.
Now that her album is taking off and McPhee is branching out into all different areas of show biz, she just has to smile as she looks at all that has happened. She is doing her best to comfortable with life in the limelight and yet stay the same person she always was.
“It’s a great life,” McPhee gushes. “What more can I say! I feel blessed that my dreams came true.”
Copyright ©2007 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: May 11, 2007.
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