David Foster has won 16 Grammys, composed some of the most recognizable songs of all time, and worked with legendary artists like Whitney Houston, Céline Dion, Michael Jackson, Barbra Streisand, Christina Aguilera, Madonna, Josh Groban, Michael Bublé, and Jennifer Lopez (among many, many others).
But before Foster’s new fiancée Katharine McPhee first met the 68-year-old songwriter, she had no idea who he was.
In an episode of the podcast Everything Iconic with Danny Pellegrino published on Monday, McPhee looked back on her first encounter with her soon-to-be husband — revealing that she was clueless to Foster’s resumé when she heard they’d be meeting.
Their introduction happened in front of the cameras during season 5 of American Idol back in 2006. McPhee, then 22, was a contestant on the show at the time and he a guest mentor alongside opera star Andrea Bocelli.
McPhee knew who Bocelli was, having previously performed his song “The Prayer” — the 1998 hit duet he sang with Dion. Little did she know, Foster wrote that tune.
“I grew up listening to Céline Dion and I love Andrea Bocelli — I knew ‘The Prayer’ because I’d sung it for something and my mom made me learn the Italian,” McPhee recalled to Pellegrino. “I remember calling [my mom] and I was like, ‘You’re never going to believe, the guest mentors this week is Andrea Bocelli and there’s this producer that I don’t know but he’s supposed to be really amazing. His name is David Foster.’ “
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That’s when McPhee’s mother broke the news to her.
“My mom was like, ‘Katharine, you know who David Foster is. You’ve listened to every artist that he’s ever created,’ ” McPhee said. “And I was like, ‘Ohh… okay.’ ”
As Idol fans remember, Foster was very complimentary of McPhee during the episode (in which she sang “I Have Nothing,” the song Houston made famous in The Bodyguard). “Katharine’s got a great, great future ahead of her,” he said of McPhee’s singing talents at the time.
The Smash actress, who was persuaded by now ex-husband Nick Cokas to compete on the Fox show, eventually finished as the runner-up to Taylor Hicks.
She later collaborated with her soon-to-be husband for a few live performances, including his 2008 PBS tribute concert Hit Man: David Foster & Friends. Foster even played piano at McPhee’s February 2008 nuptials to first husband Cokas, sitting at the keys behind the bride in PEOPLE’s exclusive photos from her wedding.
“We met on that show and then I did a lot of charity events with him,” McPhee told Pellegrino of their bond. “We’ve been friends for a long time. And.. yeah…”
Relationship rumors first sparked between McPhee and Foster back in May 2017, when the two were spotted enjoying a PDA-filled dinner date at Nobu in Malibu.
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Foster was also by McPhee’s side weeks later as she mourned the loss of her father.
“[My father] was so happy for me,” she said on social media, showing off her engagement ring for the first time. “My ring was the last thing I showed my dad before he passed and makes me smile when I look at this as a reminder of our last conversation.”
“And now I’m ready to share with all of you what has been my sunshine amongst this painful loss,” she continued. “My love wisely said to me the other day that ‘death is the only thing that is 100 percent inevitable and the thing we are least prepared for.’ So today we’re celebrating life and not forgetting love.”
Meanwhile, all these years later, McPhee has become very familiar with Foster’s work — so much so that she had trouble naming a favorite one of his songs to Pellegrino, instead praising his entire catalogue.
“People come see his shows and they’re like, ‘Wait, he wrote that? He produced that?’ ” she said. “Even stuff that I didn’t know when I was a kid, there’s so many songs that he wrote that I know now that are so amazing.”
Everything Iconic with Danny Pellegrino drops new episodes every Monday and Thursday wherever podcasts are available.