The Season 14 winner of ‘The Voice’ is the youngest in the shows history to take the title.
Until Kelly Clarkson stepped back on an arena stage earlier this year, she didn’t realize how much she had missed touring. There hadn’t been any time to think about it.
These days, the pop star and part-time Nashville-area resident says she has “a full cup,” and her first headlining tour in three years is only part of it.
A few months after she released her eighth album, 2017’s “Meaning of Life,” she became a coach on TV’s “The Voice.” She’s been an unstoppable force on the show, coaching teenage singers Brynn Cartelli and Chevel Shepherd to championships in her first two seasons.
It wasn’t the first time Clarkson celebrated a big win on TV, of course. In 2002, she was the inaugural champion of “American Idol,” and the 36-year-old remains one of the biggest stars to come out of “Idol,” “The Voice” or any other singing competition you can name.
And in a matter of months, television might once again redefine Clarkson’s career.
“The Kelly Clarkson Show” is coming to daytime TV in September, airing just before “Ellen” on stations across the country. It seems like the perfect gig for Clarkson, who’s all but universally adored for her approachability, sense of humor and lack of ego.
But it also means that when Clarkson’s current tour brings her to Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena on Friday, March 29, it might be the last time Music City sees her for a while. Like “The Voice,” her new show will be taped in Los Angeles.
“Texas and Nashville have been pretty much my only (places) that I’ve ever called home,” she says. “It’s definitely a big move for us. We’re not excited about the geography. I’m not gonna lie. But we are excited about the opportunity to come with that show.”
In a recent chat with The Tennessean, she was characteristically candid about all of her roles: from arena headliner to mom, musical mentor and (maybe) daytime TV’s next star.
The tour: ‘Worth the wait’
Clarkson has been touring in arenas for more than a decade, but she agrees with longtime members of her team that this tour feels “huge” in a new way. It’s her first since she became a “Voice” coach — a gig that tends to reinvigorate singing careers — and the first in support of “Meaning of Life,” more than a year after its release.
“It was worth the wait, though,” Clarkson says.
Several elements of the “Meaning of Life” tour are quantifiably bigger: a larger stage, additional musicians and singers joining her longtime backing band, and a career-spanning set list.
Clarkson opens every show with her “Idol” coronation song, “A Moment Like This.” Before this tour, it had been more than a decade since she’d regularly performed it. As a musical theater lover, she’s thrilled to throw in her contributions to “The Hamilton Mixtape” and “The Greatest Showman,” along with staples like “Stronger,” “Because of You” and “Since U Been Gone.”
“I’ve just been blessed with a lot of songs that people know, so even when we’re doing the new stuff, it’s astounding at how everyone’s singing the lyrics.”
One of the highlights of her night comes during “Miss Independent,” when openers Cartelli and Kelsea Ballerini join her onstage to sing the 2003 hit.
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“It’s amazing, especially for women in music. I think a lot of times, females especially, feel threatened. Instead of feeling threatened, why don’t you just be confident in your skin and your talent, and just join us?”
But if Clarkson has to pick a favorite moment of the show, it’s the element that changes each night. During a segment called “A Minute and a Glass of Wine,” the show goes live on Facebook, and Clarkson tackles a one-night-only cover tune or mashup for her fans around the world.
“I’m trying my best to reach everyone, but I’m also a mother of four, and I have a lot of jobs. I’ve read enough self-help books to know you’ve gotta look out for yourself as well,” she says with a laugh. “I tried to do it in a way where I felt like I could connect (with them) until I can get to those places.”
Her ‘honest’ advice to ‘Voice’ singers
As the original “American Idol,” it’s hard to imagine anyone could be a better mentor to Cartelli and Shepherd than Clarkson. It’s a role she takes seriously.
“I’m a hundred percent honest,” she says.
“I always say, ‘Even if you win this show’ — and Brynn and Chevel ended up winning — but even before they won, I was like, ‘(Winning) doesn’t matter. You have to work. I know plenty of people that have won shows (laughs).’
“I mean, I won ‘Idol,’ and people thought overnight I was some kind of millionaire or something. And that was not the case. Everybody was plugging in our gear on stage, and we were playing state fairs, small clubs. We did that because you have to. It is a blessing to be on a show with that many viewers, and it is definitely an advantage, but it does not negate the fact that there is a lot of hard work coming.”
From their time together on “The Voice” to the current tour, Cartelli says Clarkson is setting an example.
“What impresses me the most is how kind she is to absolutely everyone she comes across, no matter who they are,” the 15-year-old singer says. “I hear a lot about celebrities being entitled and unfriendly, but Kelly has definitely taught me that their behavior is their choice, and choosing to be kind to others is a win-win for everyone involved.”
The next daytime TV star?
As she lays out her hopes for “The Kelly Clarkson Show,” Clarkson brings up Miranda Lambert’s “The House That Built Me,” a song about revisiting a childhood home where countless memories were made.
“I never really had that,” Clarkson says. “I really want to create (something) where people feel like, even if they didn’t have that, there’s a least a place you can go, a place you can watch. I do dream pretty big with the show in that sense.”
She’s hoping to highlight the things that bring everyone together, especially in a time with “a lot of divisiveness going on.”
“Obviously, it’ll be fun, too, and I’ll be very self-deprecating,” she continues with a laugh. “We’ll do skits, I’m sure, and there’s a lot of music involved. But I do want to focus a lot on togetherness and bringing people back together again. I feel like it’s been a really rough couple of years, regardless of what you believe and whatever side you’re on. It’s been pretty rough. That’s the one thing that keeps me going, not being able to be based in Nashville or Texas. It’s a positive change I’ll be able to be a part of.”
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If you go
Kelly Clarkson brings her “Meaning of Life” tour to Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena on Friday, March 29, with guests Kelsea Ballerini and Brynn Cartelli. The show starts at 7 p.m., and tickets start at $26.
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