BuddyTV talks to Melinda Doolittle, third-place finisher on American Idol 6.
Melinda Doolittle, you might remember, is possibly the nicest human being the planet Earth has ever known. The third-place finisher on American Idol 6, Melinda is the possessor of a monster voice, and it's hard to argue that she wasn't the best all-around singer from American Idol that season. After a year and a half of traveling the world and performing around the country, Melinda is finally set to release her debut album, "Coming Back to You," on February 3. We had the distinct pleasure of speaking to Melinda this week, and we discussed the album, how it came together, what she's been doing outside of her music career, and what her favorite music of 2008 was.
You can find the full transcript of the interview below, as well as the audio mp3.
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Hey, this is Oscar Dahl from BuddyTV and I'm here with Melinda Doolittle, who we all know as the third place finisher from American Idol 6. Melinda, how are you doing?
I am wonderful. How are you?
I'm doing great. Thanks for stopping by. You have a new album coming out, "Coming Back to You." It's coming out February 3, right?
February 3. I cannot believe we are here now. It's approaching very quickly and I could not be more excited. I cannot wait. I hope that people will have at least half as much as I had recording it while listening to it. I don't know - I'm kind of beside myself. It's finally time! I can't wait.
One of the thing that irks me a little about the American Idol contestants is that they rush their albums out as soon as possible, and they skimp on the quality. Is that something that you thought of when you were making your album, decided to take your time, did you do that on purpose?
I did definitely take my time on purpose, just because I wanted it to definitely represent me, I wanted it to be something that I was very proud of and that I loved. So, it took me a little longer to do that, you know. If it was a fast process, then that would have been awesome too, but for me it took awhile to just get that retro-soul sound that I absolutely love, and to hook up with Hi-Fi Recordings. It was Mike Mangini doing the production on it and to really get those live instruments, those horns and those strings. That was a process that I didn't mind taking my time with. I'm really glad that we took some time with it.
How did the album come together, how did you decide to record, how did you choose the songs, how did the songwriting process go?
Well, for me, I did not write any songs on this first record. I told someone earlier that I don't want to subject anybody to my writing quite yet. I need to work on it a little more before I do that. However, Jon Pita from Hi-Fi Recordings, which is my label, he did a song presentation with me and just brought me some songs. He's in New York, but came to Nashville to bring me some songs and he thought I might like two or three of them, but he is a genius to me and I was like, "Can I sing every single song that you brought me?" So we got excited about the process, because these are songs that...I was really into the words, the stories, because I always love to tell a story with my music. I loved the Robert Johnson songs, the bluesy songs, he brought me an Eddie Singleton song that was just straight from the Motown days, songs that I loved, and we handed them over to Mike Mangini, who was the producer on Joss Stone's first two records, Chaka Khan, Elliott Yamin, Jonas Brothers, everybody. So, he gets a hold of these songs, puts together this all-star band, including Cindy Blackman, who played drums for Lenny Kravitz for years, and gets these tracks that are just live and in your face and I got so excited, and ran into the studio in New York where he's located and laid down some background vocals even and then did the leads on them and now I have this record that I'm really proud of and excited for people to get a chance to hear.
Did you have any big influences while working on the album?
Oh god. Gladys Knight, Tina Turner. For me, even Robin Thicke, Adele. I love Amy Winehouse and what she did with her record, and the way she did the background vocals, the way they were on there to me was just genius. That kind of sound for me got me really excited about going into the studio and really influenced what I did.
Your album is coming at a time when there's been a neo-soul renaissance in the music industry. Are you excited to be releasing this album right at this moment?
I really am. I think that the timing couldn't have been more perfect for what we were doing. You never know how to plan for anything like that, we couldn't plan for it, it just worked out perfectly and I'm so glad that we're hearing that neo-soul music coming back, really coming back to the forefront. It's kind of why we titled it "Coming Back to You," so I'm excited.
Outside the album, have you been up to anything cool since season 6 ended?
I have. I've been doing so many wonderful things. Part of it has been I've gotten to travel to Africa twice. Once with our former first lady Mrs. Bush and once as a presidential delegate, and this is on behalf of Malaria No More which is an organization that is very, very close to my heart, just trying to eradicate malaria in Africa, because a million children under the age of 5 die of malaria every year and it's preventable. So, for me, getting on board with them, realizing that it's ten dollars for a net and you can save the lives of so many children, that kind of thing was so exciting, so I'm proud to have been able to go to Africa twice. I'm also part of the Boys and Girls Club and the League Organization that was launched in New York in schools, just teaching kids about character traits and community service. Next to that, I've been on the road doing corporate dates, I've done two Christmas tours with Michael W. Smith, I've been recording a record, I've been singing as much as humanly possible and enjoying every second of it. Its been very busy, but very, very rewarding.
Alright, I'm going to put you on the spot here. Give me your five favorite albums of the last year.
Ooh, of the last year. OK. OK. I would have to say Jennifer Hudson. Adele. This is a hard one. Robin Thicke. Jason Mraz. And see, you got me, because Jordin (Sparks) did not release her record in the last year, it was before that.
We can stop at four. Four is a good number.
I can stop at four? Is that good?
I'm like man, that fifth one, it could be anybody. I'll have to think and get back to you.
All right, sounds good. I have to ask you about this season of American Idol. Have you been watching, and do you have any thoughts so far?
Of course I've been watching. I love the show. I've definitely been watching. I am excited that they have a fourth judge. I can't wait to see what kind of critiques she has once they get to the live portion of the show. That part for me is the exciting part, I can't wait to hear what Kara has to say. I really think she'll have a lot to offer. I am loving these auditions. I am a Noop Dog fan. And I love the little guy Alex, I know they call him a nerd, but I am a sucker for nerds, and he can sing. I'm loving it, I've been watching...I mean, I'm really excited, I'm having some friends over to watch tonight.
Any chance we'll be seeing you on this season?
We are definitely in talks about that. Hopefully. I'm a little nervous about it. The judges are still sitting in that same place that they were last time I was there. If given the chance, I'll revert right back to those nerves and the Oh My God face. But, I would be so excited to go back on the show.
All right, Melinda, I appreciate you talking to us today, and the album “Coming Back to You,” February 3.
Yes sir, thank you so much for having me.
-Interview Conducted by Oscar Dahl
(Image Courtesy of Hi-Fi Recordings)