Real talk? This isn't the McPhee of American Idol yore. This isn't even the Katharine McPhee of five years ago. Speaking with the star, it's clear McPhee has come into her own as an artist.
For starters, "Lick My Lips" — the first single off Hysteria, which is super-sexy, ICYMI — was written by Florence and the Machine's Isabella Summers. McPhee also collaborated with Sia on the album. In fact, McPhee earned co-writing credits on nearly every track, a new development that hints at her growth in the span since her last album.
"There wasn't pressure, like, 'You have to write on every song,' but the goal was to try and get me in the room with great people," McPhee tells us, "so that even if I decided I didn't want to write at all, I could at least give the writers some inspiration. And what came out of that was me really just kind of growing and flourishing with these particular writers, and really enjoying the writing process."
It helped that McPhee didn't have any shortage of inspiration. In addition to surrounding herself with an incredible group of writers, she had a lot to draw from in her world. "I think that particular time when I got most of my songs, there was a lot going on in my life and a lot to write about. I had a lot to say, and these writers really helped me put it on paper," she says.
Listening to the vitality she brings to Hysteria, it's hard to imagine McPhee struggled with a period of disenchantment with the music industry before putting the album together. It wasn't until she returned to her roots that she was able to overcome her creative block.
"I had to remember what the main love was — which was always singing," she said. "It's such a huge piece of me. If I didn't create music, I wouldn't be able to do this publicly... with that being the driving force, everything just kind of fell into place."
And fall into place they certainly did.
McPhee shines across the spectrum, from the plucky folk-pop feeling of "Feather" to the lilting harmonies of "Fiction" to the haunting reverb of the track she connects with most personally, "Break."
"I feel like I was the driving force in that writing session, where I was coming up with the inspiration and even the lyrics and the melodies," McPhee says of the track she started penning on a holiday weekend when she felt particularly sad and lonely.
"It's a nostalgic feeling when you're looking back and you remember a specific time, so that's what that song does to me. And I think that everyone can relate to different songs on the album like that, and I think that hopefully that's what it'll do — that it'll make people feel nostalgic about something in their life," explains McPhee.
Naturally, Hysteria isn't McPhee's only project fans are rejoicing over. When Scorpion returns tonight (9/8c, CBS), we finally get to see Paige open up to Walter about kissing him at the hospital while he was unconscious.
So will these two finally decide to, well, consciously couple? "I think you'll see Paige and Walter (Elyes Gabel) having some revealing conversations about their feelings for each other," McPhee teases.
It's dynamics like these that give the show such widespread appeal, says McPhee. "Beyond the action and the comedy are these real relationships, and I think that's why people tune in so much. People are intrigued by the dynamics within the relationships."
And as if that wasn't enough motivation to tune in, McPhee promises Scorpion's second season is — dare we say? — even better than the first.
"I think this season's a little sexier, a lot funnier and even has more drama," she reveals. "They're just doing a really good job of finding more silliness in the circumstances, and it's really fun to play."
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