Mcphee is still idol material

PEOPLE MIGHT not recognise Katharine McPhee, American Idol runner-up, as Katharine McPhee, the recording star. ­The Idol sweetheart has undergone a complete makeover, from the way she sings to the way she looks.­

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Published: Tue 6 Feb 2007, 11:03 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 11:59 PM

Instead of syrupy ballads, they're more likely to hear McPhee singing pop-flavoured dance tunes. The prom-worthy gowns she wore on the show have been replaced with a playful, sexy new look. On the cover of her self-titled debut CD, in stores Tuesday, a curly haired McPhee wears a slinky minidress with thigh-high boots.­

It's been a whirlwind year for the 22-year-old Los Angeles native, who spent the summer on tour and fall in the studio, where she learned the art of recording during a two-month crash course. The experience taught her new ways to use her voice, she said, and expanded her repertoire beyond traditional ballads.­

Between bites of a grilled-cheese sandwich at Mel's Diner in Los Angeles - and a pause for an autograph-seeking fan - McPhee talked to The Associated Press about her new album, newfound fame and why she's enjoying indulging her 'girly' side.­

You're single just came out, your record is next. How do you feel?­

I am so excited. I just look back to a year ago, at this time I was getting ready, preparing for Idol and I wasn't able to tell anybody I was going to be on Idol. It's a pretty miraculous thing that I'm now promoting my first single, Over It, which I'm just loving. ... It's just a fun pop, uptempo record. It gives you a little bit more of an insight to who I am, a different side of me. I dance in my car to it and have a great time. It's kind of a celebration of young girls coming together and a lot of those kinds of tunes.­

How has your sound changed since you left Idol?­

I always wanted to just sing the kind of things that were a little bit more challenging, rhythmically challenging, like different syncopated kind of beats and stuff like that I didn't get a chance to do on Idol.­

What should fans expect from this record?­

It's not a record that I'm just trying to be like, 'Oh, I want to be like everybody else.' It's something I really relate to and it's something that is a part of me. I think when you walk away from this record you're going to feel like you know a part of me better - the girl who was in college or the girl who was in high school versus the girl who was on Idol. You just get to know a little bit more which is important for a new artist.­

What was the songwriting process like?­

My process was that even if I wasn't writing on one of the songs, I was still really involved. ... But my specific writing was really fun for me. We came up with a song called Not Ur Girl, which is one of my favorites. It's kind of a girls' anthem. I think we built a really fun pop song for girls and it kind of has some old-school feel. And then Neglected I wrote on as well, which I think is one of my favourite songs on the record. Every time I listen to it it gives me these goose bumps. If you can make yourself get goose bumps with something you've done, that's a pretty good sign.­

How does working in the studio compare to musical theater?­

With musical theater, it's so much easier to obviously connect with what you're singing about because you have a live audience and you're getting energy from them. When you're in the studio it's so easy to just kind of be singing the lines, having no emotion behind it. ... That was something that I had to learn in the recording studio, that I had to not only just sing it and make it sound pretty but that the emotion had to carry through.­

Your image is much sexier now. Was that intentional?­

We didn't think, with this kind of music, a long gown was going to mix well together. That's definitely a part of me. What girly girl doesn't want to get dressed up and go to the prom and look beautiful? But for this kind of music, it was more the side of me who's a typical day-to-day jeans and T-shirt kind of girl with some cute high heels and a ponytail. The cover of the album is pushing the envelope. It's always about wanting to get people's attention and making a statement. You won't see me walking down the street with thigh-high boots and a little short shirt, but you'll definitely see a little bit more of the more comfortable Katharine.­

How concerned are you with album sales?­

You definitely think about it. You want to have a first great week and all that kind of stuff and ... these next couple weeks is really to just get the word out. So you worry about it but mostly you just want to be proud of the record that you made. It is a worry but for me I try to just focus on what I have to do today and what I can control.­

Any downsides to overnight fame?­

Right now there hasn't been too many downsides. I've really enjoyed all of it. You do get tired, like everybody else, and sometimes you wish that the Internet didn't have a right to say all the things they want to say, but also there's the upside that they write and they publicize all the things that you want to have people know. I really don't feel like I have any complaints.­

What's been the single best thing that's happened since auditioning for Idol?­

To be honest, I think it was making it into the top two and having that realisation with (Idol winner) Taylor (Hicks), that moment where we were like, 'Oh my gosh, we both have record deals. This is exactly what we wanted!' For me it was a moment of peace where I was like, 'Wow, I can't believe I did this. Out of all these hundreds of thousands of people who auditioned, I'm one of the last ones standing. I'm the last female in this entire country standing.' That was a huge moment. For what I've experienced, that was the biggest thrill.

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