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Kree Harrison Interview: Singer Talks ‘American Idol’ Tour, Upcoming Album

Kree Harrison
Erika Goldring, Getty Images

Kree Harrison hasn’t exactly been sitting around since ‘American Idol‘ wrapped its twelfth season in May.

The soulful country belter, who placed as the runner-up on the popular reality singing competition, released her debut single, ‘All Cried Out,’ toward the end of the season, and she barely had time to unpack her bags in Nashville before embarking on the American Idol Live 2013 summer tour. That road trek wraps up on Aug. 31 in Nashville, after which she’ll head straight back into the studio to work on her debut album.

The Boot caught up with Harrison to talk about the tour, her album, and much more in this exclusive interview.

How has the tour been going so far?

It’s been amazing. Obviously, getting to do what you love every night is fun, but getting to meet the fans in person, and tell them thank you — that’s really the best part.

What’s it like for you, adjusting to that size of an audience? Those have to be the largest audiences you’ve played in front of.

Yeah. Every night, yeah. [Laughs.] It’s definitely amazing. It feels good. It always does. The energy’s always different in each room, which is fun.

What kind of preparation went into it? How long did you have between the end of the season and the tour, to pull it together?

Honestly, I’m not sure about the time frame, but I know that we rehearsed a month for this tour. I only had a little bit of time in Nashville, doing meetings and stuff. So not that much. [Laughs.] I went right into it.

Have you had any down time at all to process everything that’s happened? It’s an enormous change in a short period of time.

Oh yeah, I know. We have more time now than we ever did on the show, so we get time. But yeah, it’s definitely all happened really fast, and I was just saying, it’s one of those things where I realized how fast-paced it is, so even to just take a second and kinda take it all in, and just to appreciate it, because it really goes by fast. We all do it, along this tour. Even if we get a day off, or two days off, it still happens quickly. The tour’s almost over, and that’s crazy! [Laughs.]

What happens for you after that?

Well, I’m making a record. Hopefully, nothing! [Laughs.] I mean, I just hope I don’t disappear. I’m gonna work my butt off, still. There’ll be no time off. I think probably the most relaxing thing in the world, the most amazing feeling is being in the studio, and kind of releasing everything, writing a song. So that will be my down time. Making music.

Do you have a preference in playing live or recording? Do you like one more than the other?

I like recording, because it’s obviously an art, and it makes me happy. But there’s not really any comparing the adrenaline that you feel onstage. It’s like a switch, and whenever I hit the stage, hear the crowd or see the crowd, that’s my comfort zone, is that stage.

The kind of music that you tended to gravitate toward on ‘Idol’ is a little bit more serious. How do you make that translate in a big arena environment? A lot of acts are cutting things specifically for that environment.

Right. Well, because I was on the show, and not doing an arena or stuff that I would necessarily put on my record, I got to take advantage of the fact that I did have those really intense, intimate moments — not just to tell my stories, but to show them that I had range.

But for this live show, it’s fun, because I have the best of both worlds. I’m doing ‘Up to the Mountain,’ which I’ve always loved that song, and I feel like, from reading and hearing about that song, it was a fan favorite, so I decided to do that. And I’m playing guitar, which I never did on the show. So it’s fun for me to pull that out.

And then the Alabama Shakes song that I’m doing is really fun, and it’s actually something that they sing along to, which is my favorite part. And then my single. So there’s a happy medium in there, and then my record is definitely not gonna be all power ballads. I think it’s gonna be the best of both. I’m not just a ballad singer that sings sad songs. [Laughs.] I actually like to perform.

With the album that you’re making, are you going to write more of the songs, or find more of the songs from outside writers?

Both. I’m going to write for my record, but as we all know, there’s so many amazing writers out there, and I don’t want to pass anything up if I fall in love with it, just because I didn’t write it. But I’m also writing for it.

You had a songwriting deal previously in Nashville. Maybe not everybody recognizes that; they think of you more as a singer, but you’re a credible writer.

Oh, thank you for saying that. I love to write. I mean, I definitely write for myself, but for other people, it’s fun. I get to take advantage of all types of genres.

You’ve done some really interesting stuff since your run on ‘Idol’ ended. For one, you performed on the Opry with Keith Urban.

I know, that’s crazy. It’s even weird to hear, to say that out loud. I got to debut my single, and I sang my dad’s favorite hymn, which is called ‘In the Garden,’ and then me and Keith did a duet together, which was really incredible.

Keith, at one point during your run on ‘Idol,’ predicted that you will become an Opry member one day.

That’s amazing. I know. Yes, I will take it. [Laughs.]

With the right kind of song choices, you could be this generation’s Trisha Yearwood. You’ve got that kind of vocal quality.

Aww, I love that! Thank you. She’s definitely an influence. I’ve loved her so much, since the first time I heard ‘Walkaway Joe.’ I think that there’s a happy medium, like I was saying, between keeping it on the radio, and then still having my pride. Because I love traditional country music, and I love soulful-sounding things. I just can’t wait to get in there and figure out exactly what that is for me. But I know my way is definitely in country.

I know you lost both of your parents before you were out of your teens. Does that inform the way that you sing? Because I’ve seen it over and over again, fans commenting that there’s an underlying sense of sadness in you when you sing.

Yeah. I mean, I think that we all try to sing with every emotion that we possibly can, and try to emote to the crowd. Always. So that doesn’t really surprise me. It’s definitely genuine. I always go to a place of, I mean what I say when I sing. So if that’s how it comes off, then it makes me happy.

If your parents could have seen one thing out of all that you’ve done recently, what would you have wanted it to be?

Probably the Opry. It’s not necessarily that I’m not as proud of everything else, but if I had them here to be a part of anything, then it would be the Opry, because I told my parents since I was three, all I wanted to do was play the Grand Ole Opry. There’s even footage of it somewhere on YouTube now. So that would definitely be the winner, in my book, for them to be a part of. But they were there.

Now that you’ve done so much TV and so many live appearances that people can look up on media like YouTube, can you wrap your head around how many people are engaged with you that you don’t even know about? Does the fame aspect of it impact you?

I mean, it affects me in the way that I appreciate it. [Laughs.] I don’t think that any of us — I know that none of us would be here if not for that. So getting to meet them, whether they’re on a level one to a level ten, it’s still amazing and flattering. I would never have expected that, but I really appreciate. For most of us, or all of us, I think it’s fair to say that doing what we love for the rest of our lives would be the best-case scenario, and if fame comes with that, awesome. [Laughs.]

Is there anything else that you want to say about your album, or the rest of the tour?

Please come see the rest of the shows. [Laughs.]

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