Beverly McClellan wasn't about to let the fame-making brush of her run on "The Voice" change the music she made on her sixth album, "Fear Nothing."
"I would say everything on here is exactly what I want to be currently representing Beverly McClellan," the big-voiced, bald-headed and heavily inked singer, who was mentored by Christina Aguilera on the show, tells Billboard.com. "I'm heavily inspired by Etta James, so I stayed true to my blues roots and didn't necessarily shoot for (the album) to be one way or another. It's straight out of my soul, so it's very blues-rock-rootsy, with a shot of fire."
McClellan wrote 10 of "Fear Nothing's" 11 tracks, while her cover of Blind Willie Johnson's "Nobody's Fault But Mine" was inspired by Nina Simone's version. The set was recorded at House of Blues Studio in Los Angles and produced mostly by David Z ( Buddy Guy, Prince, Billy Idol), who brought in a group of ace session players that included guitarists Billy Vazquez and Josh Sklair and bassist James "Hutch" Hutchinson. "(Z) caught an essence I haven't been able to catch on my independent records," McClellan notes. "So it's another level. It's professional. It sounds wonderful. He caught the best of me. This is the best album I've done."
For the track "A Way Out," however, McClellan teamed with Keb' Mo', who produced plays guitar on the song and produced it at Stu Stu Studio in Nashville. "I was talking to my manager, and she asked me, 'Who would you like to work with?' " McClellan recalls. "I really haven't written with anybody before, and I said, 'It would be cool to write wtih Keb' Mo'. She said, 'Oh my God, I know him,' and she knew straight up we would just really jive with each other, and she was right. We had that instant chemistry as friends and artists." The song itself, meanwhile, was inspired by McClellan's experience on "The Voice."
"As we were talking and getting to know each other, Keb was asking me things," McClellan remembers. "He wanted to know how it all came to be, how America weighed in twice on keeping me there. He was like, 'How did you make that happen?' and I was like, 'I didn't. Love found its way out.' So that's where that came from, him and I talking. It's something I wrote and something he put music to. It's a song that basically drove itself."
McClellan says Aguilera's mentorship also impacted on "Fear Nothing," although "The Voice" judge had nothing to do with the album directly. "She herself has said, 'Beverly, you're a force to be reckoned with. I can't wait for the world to hear you,' so she knows I'm set in my way," McClellan notes. "We both share the same interest in Etta James. We shared some laughs. We made some great music and great television together -- her being herself and me being myself, so it was cool."
The Florida-based McClellan is playing live shows in support of "Fear Nothing," including the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 12. She's also looking forward to checking out the second season of "The Voice" from the perspective of an alumnus rather than a participant. "It's really a high-energy kind of thing, intense, so I know what they'll be going through," she says. "I've met a few of the contestants, so I can't wait to see what they bring to the table. It's gonna be awesome."