Maddie Poppe Reflects on What Made Her Change Everything: 'I Needed to Love What I Was Putting Out'

The singer-songwriter's longtime boyfriend Caleb Lee Hutchinson even plays the role of a detective trying his best to keep the convict from straying.

Maddie Poppe was ready for a change.

The Season 16 winner of American Idol found herself somewhat flailing as a music artist in the middle of a pandemic in the early summer of 2020. She had all but lost her songwriting muse, and she no longer could see what her career was meant to look like. And to make things worse, she was dropped from her label at the very same time. So, she did what many a woman has done before her.

"I dyed my hair black," Poppe, 24, tells PEOPLE in a recent interview. "I just kept on thinking to myself that if I was really going to start over, I better start over completely."

Maddie Poppe
Maddie Poppe. Kelsey Maggart

But that was only the beginning. Because as her new sexy and soulful single "One That Got Away" proves, Poppe is no longer that softspoken girl from Iowa willing to take orders from the powers that be.

"I feel like for a while, I just wanted to do what other people wanted me to do," she says. "I lived to please other people. And I felt that since people voted for my folk/Americana sort of sound on American Idol, that was the sound I was meant to have, because they were the ones that put me here, you know? That's when I realized that I needed to love what I was putting out."

So, in the summer of 2021, Poppe took that newfound mission into the writing room, and ended up writing her current single, "One That Got Away," with Connor Pledger and Scott Robinson.

"I wanted to get the same feelings from the music I put out that I would get from listening to some of my favorite artists," says Poppe of the song that serves as her first new music since her debut album Whirlwind. "But it took some time to get there. There were times that I was really frustrated. I didn't even know who I wanted to be and what I wanted my sound to be. But then we landed on this song, and I knew this was it."

Maddie Poppe, One That Got Away
Maddie Poppe. Kelsey Maggart

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And in the new music video for "One That Got Away," premiering exclusively on PEOPLE, Poppe not only shows off a new attitude, but also a Katy Perry-ish look and feel that just might take some of her longtime fans by surprise.

However, some things never change.

Caleb Lee Hutchinson and Maddie Poppe. Christopher Willard/ABC via Getty

Hence, longtime boyfriend and fellow American Idol alum Caleb Lee Hutchinson appears with Poppe in the teasing and slightly seductive music video, playing the role of a detective trying his best to keep the convict from straying.

"Caleb is so creative and good at everything he does," raves Poppe, who recently came back to Idol with Hutchinson for a performance of "Islands in the Stream." "But also, we were on a budget. He worked for cheap!" She laughs. "But yeah, there was never a question he would be in the video. We needed a detective and I think he was perfect for the role."

Hutchinson and co-director Sam Aldrich also came up with the entire treatment of the video, which was filmed not far from Hutchinson's home in Nashville.

"Originally, I had a whole different idea in the works, and it was just feeling very overwhelming," Poppe remembers. "But then Caleb was like, 'Screw it… why don't you just do this?' He really came up with the whole concept and directed it and directed me and told me what I was doing wrong and what I should be doing better. He was the genius behind the whole thing."

Caleb Lee Hutchinson and Maddie Poppe. Christopher Willard/ABC via Getty

It sort of makes you wonder if these two are just going to go and get hitched and make a few little musical geniuses of their own

"Oh gosh, I still feel like a baby myself," she says quietly. "I still feel like a child. I'm just not ready. Sometimes, I feel like I'm still 17."

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