WHO Kelly Clarkson
WHEN|WHERE 8 p.m. Thursday, March 7 NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale
INFO $38-$118.50; 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com
Kelly Clarkson stifles a laugh listening to Brynn Cartelli, the Massachusetts teenager she coached to a win on “The Voice” and is now the opening act on Clarkson’s “Meaning of Life” tour.
“I sing my songs all the time,” says Cartelli, who wrote her new single “Last Night’s Mascara.” “It’s really fun to explore and be creative with someone else’s piece of art that you get to make your own. I really love covering songs.”
That’s when Clarkson, calling with Cartelli on the line, lets loose. “You’re like the coolest 15-year-old ever,” she says, laughing. “I was not this cool when I was 15. Every time I talk with you, I’m just like ‘What?’ ”
If there were any remaining questions about the “Meaning of Life” changing for Clarkson, it’s clear that she wants her future to be filled with moments like this. Clarkson returned to “The Voice” last week for her third season and is currently undefeated, coaching winners Cartelli and last season’s winner Chevel Shepherd. She has a new animated children’s movie “UglyDolls” arriving in May. And in September, she will launch her own talk show “The Kelly Clarkson Show” for NBCUniversal as the lead-in for Ellen DeGeneres in most cities.
But first Clarkson is going to enjoy the “Meaning of Life” tour, which stops at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum on Thursday, March 7 with Cartelli and Kelsea Ballerini, and runs through the end of March. “I’m not sure when I’m going to be able to tour like this again for a minute because of all the jobs,” says Clarkson, adding that she is proud of the Grammy-nominated “Meaning of Life” album — with the hits “Love So Soft” and “Heat,” as well as the ballad “I Don’t Think About You” — and how she sounds on it. “I’m super-stoked because I love Kelsea and Brynn. I didn’t even plan to have an all-female tour. I’ve never had that, but it feels so right … I can’t wait for everybody to see it. And I can’t wait for everyone to see Brynn. She’s incredible. I’m not lying. I just wouldn’t say anything.”
Since winning on the original “American Idol” in 2002, Clarkson has learned a lot about the music business and how it works. And she is determined to help younger artists, especially those she coaches on “The Voice,” navigate the difficult industry.
“I just want to make sure that they are surrounded by people who, excuse my French, give a [expletive] and who are there for them and who are excited about having them as artists,” Clarkson says. “I was excited to get Brynn in with Atlantic because they liked her. Even on the show, I remember talking to them about her even in the Top 12, way before she won. I was like, ‘There’s this girl and y’all are dumb if you don’t look at her.’ And they said, ‘Oh my God, are you talking about the 14-year-old?’ And I’m like, ‘Yes!’ ”
Clarkson says young artists don’t get enough credit for knowing what they want to do musically. “It’s like with me,” she says. “Everybody wanted me to sing ballads on my first album. It was like, ‘I’m 19 years old. I like ballads, but I want a ‘Miss Independent.’ I want a ‘Just Missed the Train.’ I wanted all those faster songs too with guitars. You gotta let people be who they’re going to be. And if it takes off, it takes off. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. At the end of the day, at least they were who they were.”
Clarkson says she plans to have singers from her team on “The Voice” appear at several tour stops, including Shepherd, Kymberli Joye and Lynnea Moorer. “It’s just such a nice thing to have — I wish I would’ve had somebody to lean on a bit,” she says. “You have no idea what to do.”
“It’s amazing,” Cartelli says. “I know it’s not an obligation for you, but everyone is so grateful to have worked with you, Kelly. Now that you’re giving us this opportunity, it’s bigger than anything I could’ve ever imagined. It’s incredible. And I feel so lucky.”
Cartelli says Clarkson and her husband, Brandon Blackstock, who is Cartelli’s manager, have really helped her as an artist. “I love telling stories in my music,” she says. “I think that ‘Last Night’s Mascara’ is a really fun story to tell. I always had a really good feeling about it. After I write a song and I can already hear it, when I’m just playing it on guitar or piano, and I can hear it fully produced, that’s kind of how I know that it’s a song want to use someday and that it’s a song that I really believe in.”
Clarkson says she is happy fans have already heard “Last Night’s Mascara,” but there won’t be a rush for Cartelli to release a full album. “What’s cool, Brynn, is what you did on ‘The Voice’ and kind of what I did on ‘Idol’ is you’re creating a fan base before you have the album, so by the time you release the album, people will be really ready for it. And I’m sure Brynn is going to be hustling, writing and recording during tour.”
“You know it,” Cartelli says, laughing.
“We’ve warned her it’s going to be busy,” Clarkson says.
It’s going to be pretty busy for Clarkson too. In addition to the tour and “The Voice,” she’s already preparing for her debut as a talk-show host — an idea that came from NBC Entertainment co-chairman Paul Telegdy, who Clarkson worked with at “The Voice.” “Paul Telegdy asked me, ‘Would you ever be interested in a talk show?’ ” Clarkson recalls. “And my first thought was, ‘Are you out of your mind?’ I was like, ‘Why would you give me a talk show?’ ”
However, Blackstock suggested that it would be a way for Clarkson to continue her “Miracle on Broadway” shows in Nashville, which highlight charitable organizations. “How Paul kind of led me into it was saying, ‘It could be cool and different. You could do music. It could be different from any other show that’s out there,’ ” Clarkson says. “I was like, ‘It might fail, but I’m down.’ Then we shot the pilot and it was so fun. Getting to interview the celebrities, but also the non-celebrities and doing the skits and then getting to do something really cool like working with this program that I’d never heard of — being able to do what I watched Oprah do growing up, what Ellen gets to do, even Kathy and Hoda, Jimmy and James and stuff, all the people who have their own shows. There’s some incredible things I can do with that spotlight. It’s kind of awesome.”
Another awesome selling point for the talk show is that it will keep her in one place for a while. “I’m not going to lie,” Clarkson says. “I’m a mom of four, so it’s very nice. I’ve never in my life — like not even before ‘Idol’ — I’ve never had the stability of going to one thing a day. Before ‘Idol,’ I always had like four jobs. I was never home. I worked really hard. It’s the first time in my life where I’ll be going to one place. ‘The Voice’ shoots a golf cart ride away from ‘The Kelly Clarkson Show,’ so it’s kind of awesome.”
And Clarkson says she’s ready for the unpredictability of a live talk show. After all, she remembers that the last time she performed on Long Island, at Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater in 2015, she accidentally threw her microphone into the crowd during “Since U Been Gone.”
“Usually you put the mic out there and say, ‘You sing,’ ” she says. “But it slipped and I’m so sorry that I nailed some guy with it.”
“No way,” Cartelli says, laughing.
“Dude, that’s like my life,” Clarkson says. “I was given an award in the 8th grade and I’ll never forget it — it was ‘Kelly Crisis of the Day’ … Something random always happens. It’s unreal. That’s nothing. I remember when we shot the video for ‘Since U Been Gone’ for some odd reason, I was going commando and I had these pants on — I was fully clothed — and the director at the last minute said, he’d been having me jump up and down on this little stage. I had been doing it all day. But this time I did it and my pants split right up the back and I mooned the whole band. I was like, ‘Who does this happen to?’ You know what, though? I kept going until he said stop. He couldn’t see the back of me, so I was like, ‘Whatever.’ This definitely just happens to me. I don’t know why.”
Kelly Clarkson’s V.I.P. fans aren’t just close to the action on her “Meaning of Life” tour. They are a part of it.
Like more and more shows, including the Broadway production of “Network” where theatergoers can choose a ticket that gets them dinner onstage during the performance, Clarkson’s tour includes an option for fans to sit at the “Minute + A Glass of Wine Bar.”
It’s a prime seat for a special part of Clarkson’s show where she goes live on Facebook for her web show “Minute + A Glass of Wine,” which she says in some ways was the forerunner to her upcoming talk show. That’s the segment where she brings on special guests and performs some of her favorite current songs — lately it’s included Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s “Shallow” and Brandi Carlile’s “The Joke” — in the “bar.”
At NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum, those bar stools at the foot of Clarkson’s second stage were part of a package that went for $699 and sold out almost immediately. “We’re going to have a couple of surprises,” Clarkson says. “It’s a different song every night.” — GLENN GAMBOA