It’s become a cliché for stars to try their hand at recording a country album. But for Oklahoma native Kristin Chenoweth, recording her first southern-style disc, Some Lessons Learned (out now), is simply coming home.
I recently sat down with the single Glee star and Broadway vet, 43, to find out where she got her country cred — and the one musical genre she'll never touch.
UsMagazine.com: Tell me a little bit about the album –you were born and raised in Oklahoma. You're one of those triple threats that people are very scared of!
Kristin Chenoweth: I can't sing, can't dance, and can't act. (laughs) That's what we always say in Broadway. They’re a triple threat — they can't sing, can't dance, and can't act.
Us: What made you want to tackle country music?
KC: It’s not my first time singing country music — it's what I grew up singing. Think for a second where I grew up and where my performing outlets were. It was either church or rodeo. It wasn't until I went to OCU – Oklahoma City University – where it kind of opened up and I became aware of all kinds of singing and music. But this is sort of like going home for me. And getting to write a couple of the songs and create this awesome album itself in Nashville was a gift. I had worked when I was 19 at Opryland, which is now no longer, as you know. I was hired as a singer in one of the shows called Way Out West. And I did not want to go back to OCU, I just wanted to live in Nashville for the rest of my life and work at Opryland. Turns out, when I came back to do this record, it felt really familiar. And
the people are so gracious and the community is so wonderful. They're very family-oriented, and I like that.
Us: Do you know Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert? They live close to Broken Arrow in Oklahoma.
KC: I do not, but you know who lives down the street from my mom and dad is Toby Keith. And, of course, I’m a huge fan of Reba, and I know here a little bit. I’ve never met Garth and Tricia but I’d love to. There’s something in the water there, isn’t there? And I think Miranda and Blake make such a cute couple. I guess that’s why they got married.
Us: What are the very special moments on this album? "Fathers and Daughters" is very personal.
KC: Oh, yes. I'm so glad you picked that one out. That's my favorite one. Obviously, "What Would Dolly Do?" the song I co-wrote, and "Dying to Love," another song I co-wrote — it's a little nerve wracking to put something out you wrote.
Us: Tell me about the Dolly Paton song. How is she an inspiration? I know you're a huge fan. Are you one of those obsessed Dolly fans who collects the dolls and everything?
KC: I do have a Dolly doll. I have a vintage 1970 Barbie doll of Dolly that someone gave to me as a gift. I think the way we approached the record is, 'What would Dolly do?' Would she do a crying in her soup record over a lost guy? No. And since I love her attitude and her spirit so much, we thought
when we were listing to songs — and, by the way, I’ve been listening to so much music over several years — it was all chosen so carefully and only things I wanted to say on the album. When you approach it as 'What would Dolly do?' you think, well, you've got to write the song. So I wrote "WWDD." It is approaching a turd boyfriend and how she would handle it. I think it's a nice tribute to her. (laughs)
Us: How were you able to juggle recording this with Glee?
KC: I just basically carved out the time. After Promises, Promises, I went to Detroit to do a movie and then I went to Nashville for a couple of months. I had everything all figured out and what I wanted to do. So Bob Ezrin who produced Pink Floyd's The Wall among other things, he's kind of amazing. You wouldn't necessarily put us together on paper, but in the studio, it really worked. It was Diane Warren who'd heard me sing Carrie Underwood's "Last Name" on Glee who encouraged me to do it. I've always wanted to do the record and I was always hoping I'd get to, but it can be scary. I was like I'm not really known that way and I don't know if I'll be accepted. But it's a risk worth taking because the genre fits me very well. I had a few things to say and I got to say them.
Us: I know you have been very open about saying you were a runaway bride and it was
about your search for finding unconditional love. Do some of the songs echo your experiences?
KC: Yeah. I’ve had some great men in my life and I've had some turkeys, like everybody. It's well represented and documented on this album. One of the more fun songs on this album is a song called "I Didn’t," where I say "what finally tore our love apart was a matter of religion. He thought he
was God, but I didn’t." I thought it was pretty funny. Being in love with a narcissist person — a lot of women can maybe understand that. Being in love with someone you shouldn't be in love with is represented on there. And being with someone who makes you need to be away from them and change. There's a song, a cover from Dolly Parton, it's a song called "Change," which I absolutely love. Then "Lessons Learned," from Diane Warren, which Carrie Underwood recorded several years ago, I just loved it. I've always loved the lyrics. It's just a beautiful lyric about what you've learned and how you’re going to handle it from now on. And sometimes the hard lessons help make us better. It's more of a women's album, not speaking from a young teen girl, but someone who’s experienced a little bit of life.
Us: Are you single now?
KC: Totally single and nobody on the horizon. Just my dog and me.
Us: But you’re happy?
KC: I'm so happy. One thing I've learned is that of course I want that partner in my life but it doesn't define me. It doesn't complete me. But, yeah, I'm at that point in my life where I'd love to share my life with someone. It has to be the right person though.
Us: Have you heard from Carrie or do you know her?
KC: Yeah, she's amazing, and she's also from Oklahoma. I did her TV variety show a couple of years back and I got to know her just a teeny bit from that. We had a great time together. I hope she's proud of the song. Her version is just outstanding, which inspired me. It's really a testament to
her that I wanted to do it anyway. I hope she likes it. I just wish her the best because I think she's a really good, good, good-spirited and hearted person.
Us: She found her prince charming, so there you go.
KC: See! There’s hope!
Us: Are there any other genres that we'll see you tackling?
KC: I'm going to try really hard not to do hip-hop. Something tells me I would not be accepted in that world. But I can see me doing another country record, to be honest. It feels very right to me. And I'm a new artist so in a way I feel like I’m starting over. I can also see me, before I die, doing an opera record. There you go. All over the map!
Us: What are we going to expect for you on the next season of Glee? Are you going to be back?
KC: I think that’s a question for Ryan Murphy. I’ve been a guest star now for two seasons. If he deems April Rhodes appropriate for season 3, I would love to come back. I’m working on a new show, Good Christian Belles, for ABC, which is really funny. But I’m always available for Glee.
Us: What was your favorite moment of that or is there anyone you bonded with in the cast?
KC: Matthew Morrison and I became really good friends. And I'm so proud of his album too. I think, for me, it's him because we've done a lot of our scenes together. But I just have to say that I love those kids and I’m so proud of them. They've inspired me too. They say I inspire them but they
Us: Did you and Matt give each other pointers on your albums or help out at all?
KC: I did a quick online interview for him where I was his James Lipton. When I heard his single "Summer Rain" on the radio, I pulled over in my car and told him I heard his song and the radio and I wanted to cry. When you get a song on pop radio, it's kind of a big deal. I wanted to acknowledge
that, and I hope he gets my record and likes it too. We'll see.
Us: Is there anyone you'd die to do a duet with? I know you have Dolly.
KC: That's it. Just her. She’s my favorite. Her, Barbara Streisand, and Julie Andrews. Those are the three.
Us: Do you think you’d be able to hold it together with Dolly in the studio?
KC: Well I had better, hadn't I? I'd better be able to. If I got her in the studio, I'd better be able to step up to the plate.
Us: I have one more quick question. You've covered so many great songs on your Glee appearances. Is there a song you’ve heard that you wish you could do?
KC: I’ve told Ryan in the past, please let me do "Little Sparrow." Just throwing it out there. Come on!
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