Kelly Clarkson building her fame beyond the music
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.