From auditioning on American Idol to being a vocal coach on The Voice to juggling four kids to coming out with her own talk show, Kelly Clarkson is a superwoman. Her accomplishments to date include three Grammy wins, 11 Top 10 singles, over 25 million albums and 36 million units sold in the U.S. alone … the list goes on.
Born in Texas (though she's been living in Nashville more recently) Clarkson's first attempt at moving to Los Angeles was cut short when her apartment burned down, leaving her to sleep in her car as she saved enough money to return to Texas. But when singing and performing is your lifelong dream, you do what it takes to get there.
With her ability to transcend genres, Clarkson details her love for music as a whole.
“Well, I love everything, even Broadway. We're actually incorporating a lot of Hamilton now. Everybody's always asking me to sing the song from Hamilton, and 'Never Enough' from The Greatest Showman. You'll hear the pop-rock side of me on this tour, the more urban pop, which is the newer stuff, and the older stuff from the very first record.”
For the “Since U Been Gone” singer, family is first. With shows strategically scheduled toward the end of the week, balance means bringing her kids to The Voice set during the week and wearing the pop-star hat on weekends.
“I want to be with my kids every day. It's a point generally — the most I'll ever go is two nights without them. We're fitting in touring and shooting the new season of The Voice at the same time. We're preparing for the TV show and I'm also doing a movie! UglyDolls comes out in the spring.”
When asked how she does it, she exclaims, “Girl, juggling! I've become a juggler. There's a lot going on. I never want to be an absentee mom. I feel like either nothing's going on or everything's going on. In my career over 16 years, either nothing's happening and you're bored, or everything in the world is happening.”
Clarkson's Meaning of Life tour is going to be a treat for fans all across the world. For each show, she'll be performing live while incorporating her Minute + Glass of Wine webisode, equipped with a bar and all. The show then will be released for people in different time zones to tune in afterward.
“I know people are bummed that — because of my schedule — I can't necessarily make it overseas yet,” she says. “We wanted to do something that could incorporate everyone in the world that would want to possibly watch.”
And still, Clarkson's favorite part of performing is covering artists she loves.
“Usually we call it 'fan requests,' but there's less time this tour so I'm kind of being selfish and calling it 'my requests,'” she says with a chuckle. “I'm covering favorite artists of mine that either inspired me to want to be a singer from when I was a kid, or ones that are currently inspiring me. Like I really dig this Ariana [Grande] record. I love the whole 'God Is a Woman' album (Sweetener). I like 'Imagine,' all the new stuff she's been doing. It's really cool. I've been a fan of hers forever — her new stuff is just really hitting me in a different way.”
As usual, Clarkson's set will be chock-full of anthem songs: “Because of You,” “Stronger,” “My Life Would Suck Without You” and “Since U Been Gone.”
Speaking of the latter, she explains, “That song's fun for me in a way that I really fought hard to not be with the label at the time. They wanted me to just sing ballads all the time and be somebody I really didn't want to be. It was really cool for me to be able to record a song that had guitar and feeling like I could be 20 years old, and it was OK. We always go through different stages in our lives musically, not only as artists but as humans. It was cool to be like, 'See, I can make this work — with guitars as well!'”
The same goes for her 2003 hit single, “Miss Independent.” So what made her want to get back on the road after a three-year hiatus?
“Touring always been my favorite part of my job, for years. We have four kids total — my youngest just turned 2 last April. It was time for me personally to get back out. The big reason why is I definitely didn't make this record to not tour it. This is my favorite record that I've made. Since junior high, I've wanted to make this record. This record was made to feel, not only hear.”
She describes the musicianship — the horns, the singers, the guitarists, the guitar solos — as “next level,” which also accounts for why this is the longest show she's ever done. With a genuine desire to highlight all the amazing musicians on tour with her, she really wants people to be able to hear this album live.
Of course, this means less time during the set for fan favorites such as “'Beautiful Disaster” and “Standing in Front of You.”
“People get really bummed when you don't sing their favorite songs, certain songs that I don't generally get to do because there's not really time in the set list,” she says. “This time, we're doing a whole medley with mine and a fan's favorite song of mine from each album, and it ends with 'Would You Call It Love' from Meaning of Life. I always love working with Greg Kurstin. It's a really cool message that hasn't been said and is really hard to do, because there's only so many messages and so many notes. [laughs] It was a really cool vibe, so I'm really stoked about being able to do that one.”
In addition to being a mother, wife and daughter, Clarkson describes playing the big-sister role to Brynn Cartelli, her first winner on The Voice, who will be warming up the stage for her this tour.
“She could be my kid, because I have a kid her age,” Clarkson says, chuckling. “I'm in that sister role for her just because I didn't really have anybody right after I won. I didn't have any friends in L.A., on the road, I didn't know anyone. It was a really hard time for me. I was working with a few people who were not good people. My thing that I say to any artist is, 'I can't make you a superstar — I don't have that power. But I can help you try and make your dream happen, and make sure you got a friend.'”
She continues, “I don't care about winning. It's awesome when you do, but my biggest thing is to be there for the artists afterward. I really want to help them as much as I can, do what I can, push them, gain some fans — get them to where they can make a living doing what they want to do for the rest of their life.”
Clarkson describes Cartelli as an incredible artist, writer and singer, who “just so happens to look hot as hell as well.”
“All the things that anyone would ever want to work with in the industry, she happens to encompass,” she says. “She's a dream artist to work with in general. I'm really stoked for people to see her in her element. She plays piano, guitar, she's an incredible musician. It's unreal to get to witness, honestly. I definitely was not that girl. I can do chords on guitar and piano [laughs] but I am not a guitarist or pianist. I'm mainly a vocalist and a songwriter.”
In turn, Cartelli had some praise for Clarkson, describing her as “the best mentor she could have asked for.”
Cartelli explains, “She and I speak the same language. We surprise each other all the time of how similar we really are. Clarkson is so caring and truly wants the best for me. I'm extremely grateful for that. It's rare to find someone like her in this industry. I have always been a huge fan, and even after spending lots of time with Clarkson, she inspires me more and more every day.”
“Opening for Clarkson on tour is a dream come true,” Cartelli adds. “I honestly can't believe it's actually happening. It means the world to me that she and her team believe in me enough to let me open the Meaning of Life tour. Clarkson inviting me on tour is a reflection of how giving she is. I could not thank her enough.”
As for the L.A. stop on the tour, Clarkson leaves us with no spoilers.
“We have a surprise guest for Staples. It's a very well-known, talented individual,” she says. “We've sung together before but we haven't sung together in years so I'm pretty stoked about it.”
Kelly Clarkson performs at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 26, at Staples Center.