'American Idol" 2007 finalist Melinda Doolittle has her repertoire ready for a Martin Luther King Day breakfast Monday in Minneapolis: "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing," "Happy Birthday" (Stevie Wonder's tribute to MLK) and "There Will Come a Day," which she sang on "Idol."

"And I'm going to add one more," she said Tuesday.

How 'bout Jonny Lang's "Anything's Possible"? She sang background vocals on the recording, and it features a snippet of a famous King speech.

"That's a really good idea, thank you," she said. "It's a perfect song for that day. I should ask [the producers] for the [instrumental] tracks. We're in Nashville, so it can be done quickly."

The producers of the Lang song happen to be collaborating with Doolittle on her debut. But more on that project in a moment.

First, let's talk "Idol." Doolittle was amped for this season's opening night. She was about to go "buy the fixin's" for a dinner party with friends to watch "Idol" at her suburban Nashville home.

"I'm ready to find somebody to vote for," she proclaimed. "I want to find that person and stick with that person through the whole process. I'm getting TiVo because it's very important that I not miss a night."

From backup to star

A year ago, Doolittle was a successful backup singer, with credits including BeBe and CeCe Winans, Michael McDonald, Alabama and Aaron Neville.

"I was so content being a background singer and I thought that's what I was going to do the rest of my life," said the 30-year-old vocalist. "'Idol' opened my eyes to show me that it was possible for me to get out there and actually sing lead."

While pundits debate the ability of recent "Idol" champs Jordin Sparks and Taylor Hicks to deliver hit records, Doolittle isn't concerned.

"I know the music business is changing and it may look like they have low sales," she said. "But I look at somebody like Fergie, who in her first week sold less than what Jordin sold in her first week, but now she's at 3 million [for 'The Dutchess']. So I think there are different ways to market Jordin's product and I think she's going to do great."

Since Doolittle's "Idol" tour ended last fall, she has sung at the White House for America's Youth Alliance (President Bush asked to sit next to her at dinner), toured as a backup singer for Michael W. Smith's Christmas concerts and starred in a PBS holiday special taped at Belmont University in Nashville, her alma mater. This winter, she began making her debut album.

"I'm loving every second of it," said Doolittle, who hopes to record a duet with Lang. "I'm really getting to tell my story. It's kind of old school meets the new school, kind of like soul music with an edge."

She thinks she's close to finalizing a recording contract. She is recording with producers Shannon Sanders and Drew Ramsey, who helmed background sessions she did for Lang and India.Arie.

Said Doolittle: "Drew and Shannon are amazing writers, and they are being helpful with me in the process and being patient because I haven't done a lot of writing in the past."

A native of St. Louis, Doolittle doesn't know how patient she'll be with the Minnesota weather this weekend. She may have to borrow a coat from her aunt, Diane Doolittle, who has lived in the Twin Cities for a few years. In fact, Aunt Diane was instrumental in Doolittle performing Monday at the King breakfast. General Mills, where Diane works, is a sponsor of the 18th annual event, which will be broadcast at 8 a.m. on KTCA, Channel 2.

"It's pretty early on a Monday morning," said Doolittle. "I'm not technically used to singing that early."

But anything's possible.

Jon Bream • 612-673-1719