“I’m working on my new album now,” the singer, 34, told PEOPLE during an interview at the S.H.E. Summit in New York City, where she was speaking on a panel about time management as a brand ambassador for Citizen watches.
“We are hoping the single will be in April, and then the album in June,” says the mom of two and stepmother of two. “It’s my favorite thing I’ve ever done. It’s the first time I got to pick my label, because I just got out of my [American] Idol contract. I’ve been dying to make this record since Idol.” In June, she announced that she had left her record label of 14 years, RCA, and signed a deal with the urban-leaning label Atlantic.
She describes the upcoming music’s new sound as “soulful urban pop” and not the “rock pop” familiar to her fans.
“It’s very much my personality,” she says. “I think it’s very much what people expected from me off of watching me on Idol. I sang all these Aretha [Franklin] things, I love Tina [Turner], I love Mariah [Carey], I love Whitney [Houston]. I think it’s very much what people expected in the first place. I love all my stuff that I’ve done but this is the record that has been in me since junior high. And that music from when I was in junior high is now coming back [into style] — like our 15-year-old listens to R&B that I listened to in high school.”
The album’s not quite finished yet, though. “We’re still working on it, but we have a good batch of songs already and I can’t wait to sing them live,” she says. “They’re amazing. After having a career for so long, it’s so weird that nobody knows [my sound] yet, so it’s going to be so good. It’s definitely a different chapter.”
Clarkson’s husband of three years, Brandon Blackstock, is by her side every step of the way of this new chapter, both as her partner and her manager. “It’s so great because he understands every part of my day so I don’t have to explain that to someone,” she says of why she enjoys working with him.
“He knows why I might be in a great mood or a sad mood or why things are hard,” she says. “At the same time we do have these moments where I’m like, ‘Okay, you’re managing me right now. And he will be like, ‘Okay, you’re being that really artsy person that’s like up and down right now.’ So we do have to call each other out but we’re pretty communicative, which is key. We pull the reins on each other when we feel like we need to. But we’re definitely yin and yang. We’re different personalities.”
For more on Kelly Clarkson’s new music and how she and husband Brandon Blackstock make it work, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now.
However, it’s a partnership she loves — both in work and in marriage. “With this specific job, it’s such a busy job,” she says. “It’s 24/7, so if I weren’t [managed by him], I wouldn’t be with him. So it kind of makes sense. I think that’s why Céline [Dion] did it. I think that’s why Mariah [Carey] did it. I know a lot of artists do that because it makes sense.”
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Ultimately, she’s just happy she’s doing what she loves — singing. “I feel really lucky in the sense that, yes, I did know that I wanted to sing but my actual goal was to be a background singer,” she says. “One, because I don’t think it’s far fetched to anyone to believe that I don’t really fit the mold for what a normal pop star is. And, two, I am so jealous of my background singers. They get to work with all these amazing artists and go to all these amazing places and they actually get to see them, because they’re not working the whole time.”
Instead, she auditioned for American Idol in 2002 because she “needed money,” she says. “It went from there,” says Clarkson. “It wasn’t a goal to be a solo artist but I guess I’m super controlling, so it’s probably good that it worked out this way.”