Kelly Clarkson (center) flanked by National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell (left) and fellow NFL Anthems Artist Travie McCoy at the Pepsi NFL Anthems Kickoff Eve event in New York. (Photo by Mark Von Holden/Invision for Hard Rock International/AP Images)
On the eve of the 10th anniversary of her historic win of the first season of "American Idol," Kelly Clarkson was celebrating the milestone the best way she knew how - by making more music.
Though her fifth studio album "Stronger" is less than a year old, Clarkson was already hard at work on her sixth album over the Labor Day weekend, cutting a pair of tracks with producer Greg Kurstin - the man behind her biggest hit to date, "What Doesn't Kill You (Stronger)."
Ten years ago when Kelly Clarkson won the first season of American Idol (while Justin Guarini, behind her, could only look on)
"We're always working," Clarkson said Tuesday night at a New York event for Pepsi and the NFL's new Pepsi Anthems program, for which Clarkson recorded an original song for her home team the Dallas Cowboys, "Get Up." "I go overseas for awhile and when I come back it's the holidays. I wanna make sure I have actual time off, so I like to get ahead of the game."
Though new material is already in the can, it may be a minute before it sees release. Clarkson is still very much riding the waves of "Stronger," which was certified gold this year and leaped to No. 19 on last week's Billboard 200 on the strength of a $6.99 sale tag at Target stores.
'"Stronger' [the single] was so successful and we're kind of having a hard time getting it off the radio," Clarkson said with a laugh. "And 'Dark Side' [the third single], that's starting to climb so we might be pulling back a bit and waiting. It's a great thing to have such a massive hit, but at the same time kind of a double-edged sword.
The album has also doubled as a calling card for producer Greg Kurstin, who co-wrote "What Doesn't Kill You" and produced "Dark Side." As a result of his success with Clarkson, Kurstin recently teamed up with Pink on six tracks for her album "The Truth About Love," out Sept. 18, including first single "Blow Me (One Last Kiss).
"He's a very focused guy - very much a musician," Clarkson enthused. "He has this whole jazz background, brings kind of a cool element to pop music. The cool thing about it is he gets in the studio and he doesn't have a formula. It's like everything could change.
He wasn't that prominent when we worked together. He'd done Lily Allen, but nobody was really wanting me to work with him. Finally my A&R guy Jeff Aldrich was like 'let's get together' and we made this massive hit. So I'm really happy for him."
"Stronger" was also Clarkson's first release for RCA and one of the first releases under the label's current, consolidated structure under co-presidents Peter Edge and Tom Corson. Having openly called her first four albums and label relations "a struggle" in previous interviews, Clarkson called the RCA developments "good changes" - with the exception of the departure of her longtime A&R rep Aldrich, whom she called "my favorite guy I've ever worked with."
"Everyone's doing a great job - it's a great working relationship right now," Clarkson says of the current RCA team. "It's one of mutual respect, which I have not had in the past. [Peter]'s a song guy. It's not just about sales for him, it's about finding a great song and the fact that he has that A&R background is a good fit."
Kelly Clarkson (right) performing with on ABC's "Duets" singing competition show, which she was "50-50 on the experience."
Clarkson is currently in the midst of playing A&R rep herself, having mentored singers Jason Farol and Jordan Meredith on ABC's "Duets" this summer. Though the show was a welcome chance for Clarkson to pay forward the lessons acquired from her own days as a reality TV competition winner, it came with a few setbacks.
"I'm kinda 50-50 on the experience," Clarkson said. "I love finding new talent. I didn't know I would like that as much as I did. Doing what I'm doing it was a really cool thing I love investing in people. I'm still working with Jordan and Jason right now trying to get them a record deal. But there's also the negative of that. It took a lot of time out of my schedule. I couldn't go to Asia or South Africa or the rest of South America. It just took up so much of my time and I didn't like that, 'cause I love touring that's my favorite part of my job. So that was a bummer."
Clarkson will wrap the U.S. leg of her "Stronger" tour this month before wrapping up in Australia and Europe. Though Australia's always been a good market for Clarkson, the singer wouldn't mind a fanbase as rabid as those of one of her favorite pop singer's.
"They love some Pink down there. It was like what - 50 shows sold out?" Clarkson said, referencing Pink's record-breaking Funhouse tour from 2009. "Pink has invested a lot more outside of the U.S. because outside of the U.S. they responded to her more - and obviously they just have better taste…I loved 'Try This' [from 2003.] She does this one song…I can't remember the name, but it's number 11 ['Walk Away']. She's talking about whiskey, and it just sounds so Janis Joplin. I love it."