Kelly Clarkson has two big-buck private singing gigs on Sunday before the Super Bowl — one at the Minneapolis Armory, another in an exclusive suite at U.S. Bank Stadium. The big question isn’t what songs she’ll sing, but rather will she stick around for the big game?
“We’d like to stay for the game but our kids are going to be in a different place than us,” said Clarkson, mother of a 21-month-old and a 3-year-old and stepmom to two older children. “It depends — if they’re asleep when my duties end, we’ll stay. If not, we’ll go. My life revolves around my children. But I may get outvoted.”
Family decisions rule her world.
That’s why singing early in the day — a challenge for many vocalists — doesn’t faze the 35-year-old pop star.
“I have four children so I’m up at 7 a.m. every day,” she said. “The only challenging place for me to sing is the early-morning TV shows, because I have to get up at 3-something.
“I’m all about these afternoon special shows. It’s when I’m most awake.”
Having grown up a sports fan in Texas, Clarkson hopes to stay for the Super Bowl at least long enough to hear her pal Pink sing the national anthem — they duetted on last fall’s “American Music Awards.”
Some singers lip-sync the anthem in stadiums but Clarkson piped up: “I guarantee you that Pink is like me and doesn’t lip-sync, ever.”
Clarkson has a tip for Pink because she knows the dangers of singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” in an enclosed stadium; Clarkson did it at the 2012 Super Bowl in Indianapolis.
“Definitely make sure you’re wearing in-ear [monitors] because boy, that two- or three-second delay [in the stadium speakers] can really screw ya. It can end up being the longest version of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ ever. There is so much pressure on you. Man, when you screw it up, people never let you forget it.”
Landing on ‘The Voice’
Clarkson has been doling out lots of advice lately as a coach on NBC’s “The Voice.” Tapings of her first season on the talent show, now in its 14th season, have begun, with the first episode due Feb. 26.
“I’m pretty blunt but I’m a constructive blunt,” she said recently in a phone interview during a break from a “Voice” taping in Hollywood. “I can’t not be my mother, which is very blunt. And I can’t not be kind, because that’s me as well.”
Clarkson has a reputation for being frank and vivacious. She enthusiastically and animatedly speaks her mind rather than spouting what publicists advise her to say.
Her opting for “The Voice” when she had a chance to be a judge on “American Idol” — remember, she won “Idol” in its very first season 16 years ago — may have seemed disloyal at first blush. But, once again, it was a family decision.
Her husband, Brandon Blackstock, manages Blake Shelton, a longtime coach on “The Voice.” So Clarkson and the kids have spent a great deal of time on the show’s set.
Plus, Clarkson fell in love with the concept of “The Voice” because it was “just based on the talent of the vocalists. And that’s how I started out singing opera. It was always behind screens; we weren’t allowed to be seen at auditions.”
Moreover, Clarkson and her husband can be together with their children during tapings. “It’s easier to navigate work with family,” she said.
New label, new sound
Joining “The Voice” comes at a turning point in Clarkson’s career. Last year, she moved to a new record label, Atlantic, and debuted a consistent new sound — soul — on “Meaning of Life.”
Her previous record deal at RCA was like “an arranged marriage” as a result of her winning “American Idol” at age 20. The contract tied her up for seven albums.
“Nobody [from RCA] really invested in me; nobody came to my shows regularly,” she complained. “It just wasn’t any fun.”
To be sure, she had her share of hits, including 2004’s “Since U Been Gone,” 2009’s “My Life Would Suck Without You” and 2012’s “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” as well as three No. 1 albums, three No. 2 albums and two No. 3 albums. She has sold more than 25 million albums and collected three Grammys. But she didn’t have control over her own music.
On record and in conversation, Clarkson brims with newfound confidence. “Meaning of Life” exudes her deeply soulful personality, from “Whole Lotta Woman” to “Slow Dance.”
“Obviously it’s a natural sound for my voice,” she observed. “It’s how I sounded when I first auditioned on ‘Idol.’ I’ve been dying to make this record for a while. I love pop-rock, as well.”
Her spirit and perseverance may speak to Clarkson’s popularity. Like fans pulling for an underdog Britney Spears a few years earlier, Clarkson is beloved by fans who know her back story, including her feuds with powerful record executive Clive Davis.
“I wake up every week going, ‘I can’t believe people are fans of me.’ Because I’m very weird. I just don’t fit the mold. I never have,” she said. “Maybe that’s why people are into me. I hear it at meet-and-greets all the time, they think we’re so similar. I’m not the unattainable star. I’m a little down-to-earth Southern girl next door who made it.”
Last summer, Clarkson jumped on Twitter to tell off a troll who had been calling her “fat.”
“It doesn’t hurt my feelings,” she said. “Maybe it’s because I’m from a small town and I grew up with people saying that my whole life.
“It doesn’t bounce off everyone. It really makes me mad,” she continued. “I think there’s such a nonchalant attitude toward it. It can be harmful for certain types of personalities and psyches.”
Clarkson is no glamour gal. In fact, she never wore makeup until she landed on “American Idol” except maybe to prom. She’s allergic to eye makeup.
“After eight hours, it tends to get bad,” she explained. “It is nice to play dress-up once in a while. People see me without makeup on social media and my webcast.”
“Idol” not only taught her about makeup. She learned on the show that she’s not a vocalist limited to one genre.
“I love country. I grew up on it. They definitely are storytellers. I grew up listening to everything from Reba and Vince Gill to Barbra Streisand and Rosemary Clooney. Prince, Aerosmith, U2, Mariah, Whitney, Radiohead. I love music, man. Vivaldi ‘Four Seasons.’ It doesn’t matter what genre. I love that I get to perform with Josh Groban and I get to perform with Jason Aldean.”
As excited as Clarkson is about “The Voice” and her new album, she can’t wait to get back on tour. But that’s a little tricky given her kids and their schedules.
Let’s see, the oldest, 15, attends an online school but she’s an equestrian who’s often traveling. The 11-year-old is in public school while the 3-year-old goes to a Montessori school.
“We just make it work,” she explained. “It’s a lot of extra effort. We have a really killer team. We have amazing grandmas, amazing nannies, amazing assistants. It does take every bit of everyone. Even if it’s an hour or two with my kids, I like to make sure I see them every day. That’s a goal of mine.”