'American Idol' finalist Katharine McPhee comes to Baltimore

McPhee takes a break from acting to play a charity concert

April 09, 2010|By Sam Sessa, The Baltimore Sun

It's not uncommon for "American Idol" winners and finalists to sell countless albums after appearing on the show.

But Katharine McPhee is one of a few "American Idol" contestants to break into film, TV and music alike. Besides releasing two albums, McPhee, 26, has appeared in " The House Bunny," "Community" and " CSI: NY."

When she's not shooting the pilot for an NBC comedy called "The Pink House," McPhee is playing sporadic live shows — such as the Care For Kids Concert at Goucher College on Saturday. The performance, which raises money and awareness for young patients at Sheppard Pratt, will give McPhee a brief break from her budding acting career.

It's hard for McPhee to draw a line between acting and singing, and she doesn't like to play favorites.

"The music industry and the acting industry are like apples and oranges," McPhee said. "They're very, very different. ... I feel very lucky to get to do both. They're two different worlds, and I never get bored."

In "The Pink House," McPhee plays a character named Emily, a pharmaceutical rep who moves from Chicago to Los Angeles for work. Emily and her roommate are often at odds, and hang out with two guys who live in a nearby apartment.McPhee can see a little of herself in Emily, who has a girl-next-door charisma.

"She's kind of smart and can hang with the guys," McPhee said. "I can definitely relate to that."

With two albums under her belt, McPhee is no stranger to the ups and downs of the music business. Her self-titled debut sold more than 100,000 copies its first week, but less than phenomenal overall sales led to a split with her record label, RCA. McPhee regrouped and began working on a follow-up effort called "Unbroken."

McPhee signed with Verve Forecast Records, a subsidiary of Universal, and "Unbroken" came out in early January. With about 15,000 copies sold its firs week, "Unbroken" didn't match the first album's commercial success. McPhee could not care less, she said.

"I'm happy with my record label, I'm happy with everything that's going on," she said. "I don't pay attention to that kind of stuff. I have no complaints."

For "Unbroken," McPhee penned songs with fellow female singer/songwriters Paula Cole and Ingrid Michaelson.Working with Cole, who rarely collaborates, was a highlight for McPhee, she said. Cole and McPhee worked on the album's title track, which is one of McPhee's favorite songs on the record.

"The melody is beautiful," she said. "It's such a simple, simple melody. It talks about a really important relationship, and how you can let each other down and disappoint each other. But through all the hard work you do in your relationship, you can make things work."

McPhee is one of the more mainstream musicians to headline Sheppard Pratt's annual Care for Kids Concert, according to Steve Tuttle, the hospitals vice president for philanthropy.

"We really tried to broaden our horizons here," Tuttle said. "In years past, we've had performers that didn't appeal to the masses. … I think a lot of people will recognize her. We're excited about the evening."

When McPhee sings, she tries to show her audience some background about the songs. She hopes that helps bring her closer to her fans.

"People want to connect artsts and learn a little bit about their lives," she said. "I want people to feel like they're sitting in the living room with me and I'm telling a story."



If you go
Katharine McPhee headlines the annual Care for Kids Concert at 8 p.m. Saturday at Goucher College, 1020 Dulaney Valley Road. Tickets are $50. Call 410-938-4020 or go to givetosheppardpratt.org.

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