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Catching Up With Kimberley Locke


Kimberley Lockes first came into the spotlight in 2002 when she appeared on the second season of American Idol, finishing third behind runner-up Clay Aiken and winner Ruben Studdard. Since then shes continued to make music (shes had hits with songs like 8th World Wonder and Band of Gold) and starred on VH1s Celebrity Fit Club. Locke most recently signed a deal with Idol judge Randy Jackson's Dream Merchant 21 record label and dropped her first single, "Strobelight," in April. We caught up with Locke to chat about what she hated about American Idol, keeping her Clay Aikens secret, and the reason the gay community cant enough of her.Out: Youve dabbled in all kinds of different genres of music from R&B to adult contemporary to Christmas. Strobe Light is very dance. How did you end up moving in that direction? Kimberly Locke: Im actually working on my fourth project. So, I felt that it was very important for me to have a very specific direction in which I was going to go. I have a new manager, Jay Schwartz, and we started talking about this and he was like, You know Im working on a project with Randy Jackson with Gladys Knightlets just call him up, you have a relationship with him, and lets just get his advice, and basically, thats what we did. I think an advisory meeting turned into Hey Randy, why dont you do this project with me? And unbeknownst to me, at the time, Randy had just started a new label called Dream Merchant 21 and this is a strictly dance label. I dont think I knew that Randy was so into dance music. One of our initial conversations, this is a question I dont get asked very much, but he said, What do you want to do? And I said, I dont know. I was like, You know Randy, I just love to sing and Ill sing anything. So we bounced around a lot of ideas. He said to me, Okay, then tell me where your fans are. I said, Well, obviously in the dance world considering Ive had three number 1 dance songs already. And he said, Well, lets make a dance record. I looked at him and I was like, Really, Randy? Its that simple? He was like, Yeah. Listen, you already have a presence there, people love you. Lets just take it to the next level. So, that kind of scared me a little bit because the track that we got was already a dance track. So, this song, whereas my other songs, "8th World Wonder," "Change," "Band of Gold," and "Fall," had all been remixed from adult contemporary. "Strobe Light" is a straight ahead, out of the box dance song, and weve already got remixes on it. So, thats kind of how it all came about. I read something where youre doing a singles deal instead of concentrating on an album. How did that come about? My first contract with Curb Records was a six-album contract. And six albums can equate to 20 years, at the end of the day. That contract expired. When I talked to Randy, I was so happy that he agreed that we should just do a singles deal. So my contract with Randy is based on singles only; its a new single every six to eight months. I think its genius. I think that for Randys label its great because if something isnt working for them, then they get to drop it and say, You know what, this isnt working for us. And as an artist I get to say, You know what, I dont like the way this thing is going. I gave you my single, Im out of here. I think its fantastic. And with the way the music world is going right now, listen, we all go to iTunes and download that one song that we want off of an album. And, besides that, if you have an album that comes out, theyre only playing one song at a time. So, thats whats in peoples heads. Its not like theyre going and listening to the entire album and saying, OK, I like this, I like that What Randy -- and I love him for this, he said, Lets just give them a hit every time. And if we give them a hit every time and we get to the third or fourth single, and theyre loving it, then, of course, were going to do an album. But right now, lets give them one single at a time. And I love that idea. And I think, for new artists out there, Ive already advised some people whove asked me, I tell them, Do not sign long contracts, because I think those days are over. I totally agree with you. It makes sense for a lot of artists in a singles-driven world. Randy explained it to me like this, he said, Randy in his own little way, Yo, normally what happens, and I know this, what happens on an album is, you have four singles, that you think are going to be singles. They pick out the initial four. But then there are six other songs, for fillers." Its like, why spend money on the filler songs when youve only got four hits? I think thats fair to the label; its fair to the artist, and its fair to the consumer. Were saying, We dont have any fluff. If you like the single, go get it. And if you dont like it, well try again or we wont try again." And I think that thats the whole idea of this -- to keep giving the hits instead of the fluff. We dont need the fluff. Who or what are some of your inspirations? I find a lot of inspiration in a lot of different places. When I was a young girl growing up, Whitney Houston -- I thought I was going to be her. I wanted to be her! Lets just put that out there. And even now, with all of her mess, I cant listen to the negative things they say about her because, to me, I still idolize her. And, you know what, I dont care; "Million Dollar Bill," I heard a dance mix of that, the other night, in the club, and I was like, What! I mean, I jumped up on my feet. Listen, no matter what shes been through, shes a phoenix. She has come through the fire and she is still doing it. And nobody can take away what shes already done. She might be in a different place now but she represents something serious in our industry. I get a lot of inspiration from her. When Im working out, one of my favorite songs that comes on my iPod is by Eminem -- "Collapse." When you go to the gym youre purging, youre thinking about everything thats going on in your life. And when that song comes on, it makes me want to get out of the gym, and just go do something great with my career. Its like, I can do this. Because this business is tough and when youre fighting for anything that you want, its hard. Trying to find those little inspirations in the places that you can -- whether it be from songs or artists -- its so important. Listen -- I can find inspiration in a Frank Sinatra song. Lets talk a little bit about American Idol. I promise I won't drag you down that road for too long. Do you think that the show is still relevant? I think that American Idol is still a great way to find talent. I dont know what happened this season, but its still a good way to find talent. I think that theyre going to have to go back to the raw talent. The other night, on the show, I think everybody except for two people, maybe, played the guitar. I dont play an instrument. I love people who play instruments -- I think its great -- but American Idol is a singing competition and I think it distracts and it takes away. I think some of them are better musicians than they are singers -- if you really want to know the truth about it. When I was on American Idol it was about raw talent; you had a microphone, a microphone stand, a spotlight, and a track. We didnt even have a band on my season! So, I do think its still a great way to find talent. I think they just need to get back to the basics of singing. Were there things about the show that you didnt like? Ill tell you the one thing I cant stand: When everyone has to do those cheesy group performances. Half of the people cant dance and dont want to be dancing -- its like a bad high school musical. Were there things that you had to do and just put a smile on but inside you were thinking I can't believe I'm doing this? One of the things I didnt like about Idol was the Ford commercials. It was like, Come on. For a lack of a better word they would whore us out, we did all these commercials for free, they got to use our image and our names. But the thing that upset me the most about it is that it took up so much time in our day. We were already exhausted running around doing press, people pulling us in a thousand directions, now weve go to do Coke and Ford and all these different spots for the sponsors. Those things would take, like, an entire day. Some nights we wouldnt get finished from doing just that until midnight. Its like, Really? And then theyre like, Practice your song in your sleep. I was like, Really? Come on. So, the Ford commercials were kind of annoying. And, we didnt get a car. So, go figure. Why do you think you have such a strong gay fan base? When I first realized that I had such a huge gay following, it was so perplexing. Every Sunday, this is funny, in L.A., when I first moved out there, Id go with all my gay friends and wed have Sunday Fun-Day. I, finally, one day, after a pitcher of margaritas, Im looking at them, Im like, Why do I have such a gay following? And literally, we went around the table like, Girl, you know. And everybody kind of gave me their take on it. One person said to me, We love a strong woman. We love a powerful voice and theres a little black girl inside of all of us. At first, I was shocked. Because when I was growing up in Nashville, I had one gay friend. He did my hair, he did my nails, he did my flowers for prom -- he did it all. If I had let him make my dress he wouldve made my dress. But coming off of Idol and seeing that, because it was very obvious, I was like, Wow. This is interesting. And I looked around and I was like, Why are they not fans of anybody else? Why me? I was very suspicious. But, after a while, I just stopped questioning it. Then, when I crossed over into dance music, I was like, Now I get it. I was like, I totally get it. Then I started going to the gay clubs, performing, and I was like, Now I really get it. Like, the light bulbs went off in the gym. Some of my most favorite performances are in the gay clubs; the energy is off the charts, they let me sing my face off; I can talk nasty to them. Ive got my clean show and Ive got my dirty show that I do for the gays. I love it and they love me. Im telling you, my gay audience, they dont know it, because they dont see it, but on the inside, what they do for me, in the way of boosting my confidence -- its unbelievable. I would do a family show somewhere and just perform with my band and then Id go do a gay club and Im like, I would much rather be here. Because, sometimes, those shows are hard when youve got such a blend of people and so many different age groups and everybody likes R&B or they like country and youre trying to please everybody. When you go to the gay club theyre like, Whatever. We love you And I love them. Let's talk about one specific gay, Clay Aiken, your former roommate. Do you have any dirt? Did you ever see Clay surfing Manhunt? [Laughs] I never saw Clay on Manhunt. Ill be honest with you -- Clay shared with me that he was gay early on in the competition. We were hanging out together and he was like, Ive got something to tell you. And I was like, Good. Because Ive got something to tell you too. And so he tells me and Im like, Oh, I knew that. Now let me tell you my secret. It wasnt really a secret to me but it wasnt really my place to push him in any direction. Thats his thing. And thats anybodys thing whos not ready to come out -- youve got to do it in your own time because your life changes after that. Its not one of those things you can say and take back. Youve got to answer a lot of questions for it. So, I did know and people grilled me about it and people asked me, every interview that I did, they were like, So, is Clay gay? So, you live with Clay -- is he gay? So, you and Clay are really best friends And Im like, You know what, I dont know. Ask him. Its not my place to tell. So, I kept his secret because thats what friends do. They keep your secrets. My friends better keep my secrets! What do you have coming up next and whats on your list of things you still want to get done? Im working on a reality show now called Making the Curve. Its about putting together a plus-sized singing group, which I know my gay boys are going to love. Thats kind of at the top of my list. I always want to continue to make music. I have a dream of performing at Carnegie Hall one day because Im in love with Judy Garland and I am in love with the one-woman show; give me a microphone and an orchestra and let me just sing. I want to do a clothing line. Im already working on that. I want to get back in the restaurant business. Ive even thought about developing artists and trying to help some artists get their music out there or pave their way. I want to act. I want to be in a movie. I have a whole list of things that I want to do. Kimberley Locke's new single, "Strobelight," is now available on iTunes. For more info, visit her MySpace page.Send a letter to the editor about this article.

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