Kelly Clark­son build­ing her fame be­yond the mu­sic

USA TODAY Weekend Extra - - FRONT PAGE - In Life

The “Amer­i­can Idol” winner is a writer, a judge on “The Voice” and will soon have a talk show.

When Grammy Award-win­ning singer Kelly Clark­son is en­joy­ing a day off, she is just an­other mother of four kids com­plet­ing chores in her free time. While she could easily hire some­one to han­dle her er­rands, she chooses to do them her­self: No per­sonal shop­pers are work­ing on her be­half. No pub­lic re­la­tions team is shoo­ing away fans.

Since 2002, when Clark­son won the first sea­son of “Amer­i­can Idol” at age 20, she has tried to lead a nor­mal life. It’s not easy con­sid­er­ing she has sold more than 25 mil­lion al­bums and 36 mil­lion sin­gles. Two of her al­bums – “Break­away” and “Stronger” – won Gram­mys for Best Pop Vo­cal Album in 2005 and 2012, re­spec­tively. She also won the Best Fe­male Pop Vo­cal Per­for­mance tro­phy in 2005 for “Since U Been Gone.”

Now, the 36-year-old Texas na­tive is ex­pand­ing her ca­reer. In ad­di­tion to singing, Clark­son writes chil­dren’s books, in­spired by 4-year-old daugh­ter River Rose. “River Rose and the Mag­i­cal Lul­laby” came out in 2016, fol­lowed by “River Rose and the Mag­i­cal Christ­mas” in 2017. She is work­ing on a third vol­ume, as well as a book for young adults.

She re­cently voiced Moxy, a char­ac­ter in the 2019 an­i­mated film “Ug­lyDolls,” based on a line of toys. “It couldn’t have been more per­fect for my per­son­al­ity, which is good be­cause I’m

not a good ac­tress,” she says. “It’s one thing I never wanted to do.”

Un­scripted Clark­son seems to be a huge hit. She re­ceived rave re­views as host of the 2018 Bill­board Mu­sic Awards, where she promised view­ers her au­then­tic self. “You’re just getting me,” she said at the event. “I’m just go­ing to be who I am.”

Fans are ex­pect­ing the same when she hosts “The Kelly Clark­son Show,” a day­time talk se­ries de­scribed as a “week­day brunch party,” de­but­ing in fall 2019. “I love con­nect­ing with peo­ple, play­ing games, mu­sic and find­ing ways to help or give back,” she says about the up­com­ing show.

Then there’s “The Voice.” Given her ini­tial claim to fame, it’s lit­tle won­der that Clark­son is serv­ing as a coach and men­tor on a singing com­pe­ti­tion show. She joined Sea­son 14 of the pop­u­lar NBC se­ries ear­lier this year and re­turned for Sea­son 15 in Septem­ber. When per­suad­ing con­tes­tants to join her team, Clark­son re­minds them that she knows ex­actly what the singers are go­ing through. “I was the first winner on a show like this, and the pres­sure is in­de­scrib­able,” she re­calls. “Tak­ing a coach­ing role seemed like a nat­u­ral next step.”

On Sea­son 15, Clark­son works with fel­low Idol alumna and re­turn­ing “Voice” coach, Jen­nifer Hud­son and main­stays Adam Levine and Blake Shel­ton, to help one ris­ing star reach the top.

“When Kelly came on (Sea­son 14), she re­ally wanted to make her mark, and she did,” says “Voice” ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Au­drey Mor­ris­sey, who notes that Clark­son’s tute­lage helped se­cure the win for con­tes­tant Brynn Cartelli.

“Kelly is like a straight-A stu­dent. She does her home­work. She does ev­ery­thing at 1,000 per­cent. It’s all about the ma­te­rial and un­der­stand­ing it, find­ing songs that will show dif­fer­ent sides of the artist and keep the au­di­ence in­ter­ested,” Mor­ris­sey adds.

Ac­cord­ing to Clark­son, her can­dor and trans­parency have only en­deared her to fans.

“I don’t see that it gets me in trou­ble. Peo­ple are learn­ing that’s just how I am,” says Clark­son, who openly shares with her 15 mil­lion so­cial me­dia fol­low­ers. “A lot of artists are in­tro­verts; I’m not.”

While a lot can be said for her bub­bly, warm per­son­al­ity, what mu­sic lovers re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate is Clark­son’s tal­ent. She’s of­ten ranked among the great­est fe­male voices, ap­pear­ing on lists with such leg­ends as Whit­ney Hous­ton and Ce­line Dion, and peers such as Pink, who once joked, “If I did a song with Kelly Clark­son, I would get out­sung.”

“The Voice” is a welcome ad­di­tion to the singer’s al­ready busy sched­ule. “I’ll shift to “The Voice,” and then I’ll shift to writ­ing (books),” says Clark­son, who is cur­rently work­ing with her la­bel to de­ter­mine the di­rec­tion of her next album.

“I am ex­hausted, but it’s good ex­hausted,” she ad­mits. “I’m just getting to the part of my life when if it’s not fun, I don’t ex­haust my­self. I have less time for bull.”

With mul­ti­ple projects – in­clud­ing her Mean­ing of Life Tour, launch­ing in Jan­uary – pulling her in var­i­ous di­rec­tions and re­quir­ing her time, the one con­stant in Clark­son’s life is fam­ily, es­pe­cially dur­ing the hol­i­days. That’s when ev­ery­one usu­ally gath­ers at the Nashville, Ten­nessee, home she shares with hus­band Bran­don Black­stock.

“We have a blended fam­ily,” she says. River Rose and Rem­ing­ton Alexan­der, 2, are her chil­dren with Black­stock. Two older chil­dren, Sa­van­nah, 17, and Seth, 11, are from Black­stock’s first mar­riage and spend every other Christ­mas with the fam­ily.

Clark­son jokes that when it comes to the hol­i­days, her hus­band re­minds her of Clark Gris­wold of “Christ­mas Va­ca­tion.” “I mar­ried the movie ver­sion of Chevy Chase,” she says. “We have the most lights.”

Clark­son and Black­stock, 41, met in 2006 at the Coun­try Mu­sic Awards Fest. She was per­form­ing a song with Ras­cal Flatts, and Black­stock was the group’s tour man­ager. They met again six years later at the Su­per Bowl, where Clark­son was singing the na­tional an­them. One thing led to an­other, and they mar­ried a year later.

One year af­ter they mar­ried, River Rose was born. The re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of moth­er­hood changed Clark­son’s life. “I’ve al­ways been con­fi­dent, now I’m more so,” she says. “I’m a tough mom. I love fiercely, but I dis­ci­pline just as much.”

Clark­son makes sure she spends time each day with her chil­dren. “When I’m work­ing, I’m pretty adamant that I ei­ther wake up with my kids and have break­fast with them, or I put them to bed at night and fol­low our rou­tine. I need to do this for them but also for me. I suf­fer from aban­don­ment is­sues,” she says.

Clark­son’s parents di­vorced when she was 6. The youngest of three, she grew up with her mother, her older sis­ter, Alyssa, was raised by an aunt, and her brother, Ja­son, lived with their fa­ther. Clark­son never re­ally re­con­nected with her fa­ther and wrote about the es­trange­ment in two songs, “Piece by Piece” and “Be­cause of You.”

Her frac­tured early life taught her the im­por­tance of be­ing there for her chil­dren. “I have a great job, but fam­ily comes first,” she says.

With 15 years in the mu­sic in­dus­try, Clark­son is aware that pop­u­lar­ity ebbs and flows, but she’s not fo­cused on stay­ing in the lime­light. “I’m so not that kind of plan­ner,” she says. “You’ve got to just en­joy your­self and quit worrying if you’re on top and peo­ple are dig­ging you. To­day you might be cool, but to­mor­row it will be some­body else.”



“You’ve got to just en­joy your­self and quit worrying if you’re on top and peo­ple are dig­ging you,” Kelly Clark­son says. “To­day you might be cool, but to­mor­row it will be some­body else.”


Clark­son will get her own talk show in the fall of 2019.


Clark­son, sec­ond from left, with Adam Levine, Jen­nifer Hud­son and Blake Shel­ton, sees her role as a coach on “The Voice” as a nat­u­ral step.

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