Who says you can’t go home again? After coming in third on â€œAmerican Idolâ€ in 2003, Kimberley Locke signed a record deal with Curb Records and scored six Top 10 Adult Contemporary hits including â€œ8th World Wonder.â€ She also starred on â€œCelebrity Fit Club.â€
Last month, she released â€œStrobelight,â€ her first single under her new record deal with Dream Merchant, the label run by â€œAmerican Idolâ€ judge Randy Jackson. The deal has reunited the two. The tune deserves to be a dance smash.
Locke is funny, smart and committed to using her fame to help others. On June 19, she’ll host and perform at the Disco Diva Bash in Nashville. Proceeds from the charity event will benefit Camp Heartland, a camp for children with HIV/AIDS, homeless teens and those in the GBLT community.
How did â€œStrobelightâ€ come about?
In my initial conversations with Randy, we were trying to figure out direction. He asked me, â€œWho are your fans?â€ I said, obviously I have a huge fan base at dance radio because I’ve had three No. 1 hits. And I have a huge gay following which I love. He said, â€œWell, let’s do a dance record.â€ And I was like, â€œReally Randy, it’s that easy?â€ and he said â€œYeah.â€Â He had gotten this track with no lyrics. He said, â€œThis track is hot. We’ll send it out, see what we come up with and we’ll get you to co-write on it and we’ll go from there.â€ So he sent it out and somebody came up with a catchy hook of â€œStrobelightâ€ and that’s how it came to be.
You have such a fervent gay following in part because of your strong support for the gay community. Do you feel like you’ve ever gotten a backlash because of that support?
No, I don’t because one thing I think people know about me [is]I’m not afraid to talk about who I am and what I believe in. Not only am I a Christian girl, I’m a church- going Christian girl; you know what I’m saying? Everybody knows that about me. They also know that I make it my business not to judge people because it is not my place to judge and that’s how I look at it. My gay friends would give me the shirt off their back if I needed it and that’s all I care about: I don’t care what they do in their personal lives; that’s their business and they probably don’t care what I do in mine. (laughs).
In the last several years you’ve become a celebrity. That carries with it attention on things other than the music. Is there a downside to that?
I think that in the world that we live in, people look to celebrities for so much nowadays. They hinge on their every word, which can be scary because I don’t know that anybody’s words need to be hinged on that tightlyâ€¦There are things that I’ve said that people don’t like.
Is there anything you’ve said publicly that you wish you hadn’t said?
No (laughs). You know why? I don’t say things mean spirited. I don’t say things to deliberately hurt people’s feelings. People can interpret anything you say 1000 different ways and if that’s how they choose to do it, so be it.
Dream Merchant is a singles-only label. You just came out of a long contract with Curb Records. How does having a singles-only deal give you more control?
I think it’s fantastic. I was in a six-album deal [with Curb] and only did two albums plus a Christmas album and then I did nothing for two years on that label. Six albums could mean 20 years if that’s how that label wants to drag it out. From the artist’s perspective I think a singles-only deal is fantastic. With me and Randy, I feel like we have a partnership. The partnership is this: Randy is the label, I am the artist, the music is the common denominator and the music makes us both successful. If at any point that is not working for us, then we can walk away.
How did you get out of your Curb deal if you didn’t release your full six albums?
Because they didn’t respond to my attempts to move on to the next album and they only have so many daysâ€¦ there’s a grace period, once the album comes due or the contract comes due, they have a 60-to-90 day grace period and that grace period expired. The contract became null and void.
You’re shopping a reality show called â€œMaking The Curve.â€Â What’s the update on that?
We’re still pitching, still talking and still tweaking, you know, but it is a great show about the underdog.Â It’s about that girl that gets to sing back up. She’s always the bridesmaid, never the bride. Always the backup singer, never the artist. Not because she can’t sing, but because of her weight. That’s been going on for a very long time in our industry, so what we’re doing is offering a show that’s specifically for plus-sized divas. Our only prerequisite is that you have to be able to sing. It’s going to be a great feel-good show that a lot of women in America can relate to.
Have you found that if there’s not a weight loss component, there’s not a lot of interest?
It’s not that. What we’ve found is that networks are afraid of the music element because they feel like they’re in direct competition with â€œAmerican Idolâ€ But you know, listen, â€œAmerican Idolâ€ didn’t have that great a season this year and this show isn’t so much about the music; it’s about these women’s stories.
Speaking of â€œAmerican Idol,â€ who are you rooting for?
LeeÂ [Dewyze]. I am rooting for Lee because I like Lee’s style. I think he’s grown. In the very beginning, I wasn’t a fan of his. Not because he wasn’t talented [but] because I didn’t think he was having fun. And over the past few weeks, I’ve really watched him come alive. He’s got talent. And I think he’s got talent that he hasn’t even tapped into yet.
So many of your fellow â€œAmerican Idolâ€ contestants have gone on to Broadway. What about you?
I’ve auditioned and there just hasn’t been the right role. I definitely want to do Broadway at some point. When the right role and the right time come around, I’ll definitely be on Broadway because I love it.
What’s your dream role on Broadwayâ€”either bringing back a show or creating one?
My dream Broadway role would be â€œThe Wiz.â€ And then if I could create a role, if somebody would do a musical about Etta James or Judy Garland, I would love it. I don’t know if I could play Judy, but I could definitely play Ettaâ€¦my goal is to do what [Judy] did at Carnegie Hall:Â Stand on stage in front of a microphone in a beautiful gown and just sing her face off.
Your â€œAmerican Idolâ€ season mates Clay Aiken and Ruben Studdard are going out on tour together. Whom would you most like to do a two-woman show with?
I would love to go on tour with Whitney Houston. I know she’s getting such a backlash right now, but you know what? I’m a fan. I’m a diehard fan. I think she’s a phoenix. She’s coming out of the fire and she still has a career and she is Whitney and nobody can take that away from her.Â I’ve always been a Whitney Houston fan. When I was little, that’s who I wanted to be.
Do you still want to be Whitney?
Why not? I don’t want all of her drama, but yes, I would still love to be Whitney because Whitney is Whitney.