Donald Kravitz, Getty images
"When you first start out, there's a lot of paying your dues kind of thing. The more I do this, the more freedom I get with it," Kellie tells The Boot. "There's a whole different team of people that I'm working with now, for this record. There's been a lot of changes. I've really been able to go in the studio and just play, and really find myself as a songwriter. I've been writing since 'Idol,' but I've found more of who Kellie, artist Kellie is."
Spending her time working on her upcoming project has been a sharp contrast to the way she started out, and she says she has no interest in reverting back to her former ways. "The first record, I don't even remember cutting the record," she acknowledges. "We had the 'American Idol' tour, and we had 60 shows in less than 90 days, and my producer at the time, Blake Chancey, was just flying to wherever we were on tour. I never met the musicians that played on the first record. Some of the musicians that played on this record, the new record, I'm just now getting to know -- and they played on my first record. I've been able to take the time to develop as an artist. With recording 'Small Town Girl,' I didn't think about any decision. It was just like, 'We gotta go, we gotta go. We have a deadline. We have to strike while the iron's hot, because in a couple months, it was out with the old and there was a whole new top 24.'"
Instead of having input into the creative direction of her freshman CD, 'Small Town Girl,' the entire album was created without her -- including using another singer for the tracks. Kellie would then go into the studio after one of her shows, in whatever city she was in, to lay down her vocals. It was an exhausting process for the new star. "I didn't know there was any other way, because this was my first time making an album," she acknowledges. "It wasn't a pleasant experience, but it was better than [working as a waitress at] Sonic, so I wasn't going to complain. Now, with this third record, and really being able to go in the studio, and figure out which buttons do what, how this machine is put together, how it runs, has been really, really good for me, and it's really helped me develop as an artist. I think, with this album, I hope that it shows that side of me, and it shows the growth that's happened since I was 19."
If the debut single, 'Tough,' from her upcoming CD is any indication, it seems like the highly-anticipated album will be worth the wait. 'Tough' is in the Top 30 and climbing. The video, which promises to show a new side of Kellie, is expected to be released in the near future. Keep track of the album's progress here.