You just set a record on the Billboard Hot 100. What was your reaction, and where were you when you found out the news?
Funny story -- I actually had been up all night the night before because we had this big, huge ice storm, and I have dogs and horses, so I was trying to take care of all my animals. I was up really, really late. I actually literally got three hours of sleep before Barry Weiss, the head of my record label, was calling my phone, but I didn't recognize the number. It was pretty funny. I was so tired. I was like, "What?" and he was like, "Congratulations!" and I was like, "Oh!"
'My Life Would Suck Without You' is obviously a tale of love/hate. What was the inspiration behind the song?
Honestly, [songwriting duo] Max [Martin] and Luke [Lukasz "Dr. Luke" Gottwald], who wrote [my song] 'Since U Been Gone' ... it kind of came about the same way. They sent me the song, but it was kind of a different take on the message. I said, "I love the beat, I love the song, but I'd rather it be something I would really say, and I'll sell it better if it is something I would relate to." They kind of rewrote the message around this tough take on a sweet relationship. It's saying, "We're horrible for each other, but at the same time I don't want anyone else."
Your last album, 'My December,' was quite a personal affair. How would you describe the new album, 'All I Ever Wanted'?
It's kind of like a roller coaster, because 1) I'm a woman, but 2) I love that ride through an album because it tells a story. But there's some really fun stuff on here that I've never done before -- like this one song I did with Ryan Tedder from OneRepublic called 'If I Can't Have You.' It's very like Eurythmics meets the Killers -- very different for me. It's a lot sexier. People think it's so funny because they know I'm not that girl. Then there's other stuff like 'Cry,' which is the most personal song on the album and is about betrayal. Anyway, [the album] is very personal and all over the place. All my albums always have been. I don't know about you, but I get really pissed off when I buy an album and every song's the same. I'm like, "Man, you just wasted my money. I could've just got one song." Some artists complain about leaking a bit of the album with each song. I'm like, "That's just forcing you to come out with better music."
Is it accurate to say, as Rolling Stone magazine did, that Katy Perry is a major influence on your new album?
Um, no. I mean, what's funny … I like Katy Perry. Katy and [new 'American Idol' judge] Kara DioGuardi wrote a song, 'I Do Not Hook Up,' which is probably going to be my second single. But we're very different. I honestly don't think we're very comparable. I'm a huge Katy Perry fan, but no, I think people are saying that because I worked with Max and Luke. But I mean, I worked with Max and Luke before [her].
Your friend and former tourmate Clay Aiken recently came out of the closet. What is your reaction to that? Did you have any conversations with him prior to his declaration?
I was actually on vacation when I found out. He called and he just said, "You'll probably get a lot of calls about this, but I just wanted to give you a heads up." I honestly don't care if he is gay or isn't gay, and I don't care if he tells people or doesn't tell people. I'm not friends with him for either of those reasons. If I'm a fan of an artist, I don't really care if you're gay or not gay, as long as you're making cool music.
Have you met his son, Parker, yet?
Oh, yeah! I went to actually see [Clay] in 'Spamalot' in New York. Me and my manager and some friends met [Parker]. A lot of my friends work with Clay, as well -- it's kind of a tight-knit group.
A large part of your fan base is gay, and there's a longstanding rumor that you are a lesbian. Is there any truth to that?
I get that all the time. People are like, "Are you secretly a lesbian? Because I'd really love it." Lesbians tell it to me all the time. I'm like, "I'm glad it works for you and I wish I liked women like that because oftentimes men are very hard for me, but I happen to like boys." I could never be a lesbian. I would never want to date [someone like] myself, ever. I'm a crazy person. I need some kind of stable, quiet man. I don't really care if you're black, white, yellow, gay, straight, crazy, whatever. As long as you're cool and you like the music, and you're coming out to have a good time at the shows, I don't really care. I have everything I just said in my family, so I'm just used to being surrounded by that. I just don't know any different.
Celebrity gossip blogger P.e.r.e.z Hilton seems especially concerned about your weight and sexuality. How do you handle such scrutiny?
Honestly, I don't know what the hell I did to [P.e.r.e.z]. He's very concerned about my sexuality and my weight, which I'm not. I learned at a very young age from my father: "Honey, you're never gonna be able to control what people think about you or say about you; you might as well just stop worrying about it." I learned on 'Idol' not to read any of it -- never. You're either going to become one these people that you know have just totally lost perspective because everybody's tooted their horn so much, or you're gonna crawl in some hole and want to kill yourself because people are just so mean. I enjoy our conversation right now, but I won't read what we do.
Speaking of 'Idol,' are you watching the new season?
Oh, yeah. Kara DioGuardi, the new judge, is one of my friends. So I watch it to see her. Kara's very opinionated and blunt. She's such a kick-ass vocalist and writer. I thought it was kinda cool that they brought her on to freshen up the show.
There was talk of you possibly making a country album, fueled especially by your tour with Reba McEntire. Will you, in fact, make a country album?
I never know, obviously, what I'm gonna do in the future, but I grew up loving country music. It's one of the things that's been really close to me. I did a lot of country events, so I think people were thinking I was gonna [record a country album]. But the thing I love about pop music is that you can kind of incorporate any style you want. 'Cry' is very much influenced by country -- it's a waltz. There's always gonna be those influences in my music, but I'll probably never just do one thing. I would be bored out of my mind.
Would you ever consider doing a duet with fellow 'Idol' Carrie Underwood?
Definitely. She's got a kick-butt voice. I like Miranda Lambert, too -- I'm a huge fan of hers. I love Carrie, but the thing I dig about Miranda -- and I got to know her a little better -- is she's just so feisty. She doesn't care. It's very admirable, and I dig her writing.
You once said that you sold more than 15 million records worldwide, and still nobody listens to what you have to say because "I'm 25 and I'm a woman." Do you consider the record industry to be a boys' club?
I just know for a fact ... why I said that was because I was actually on a phone call with two people who did not know I was on the phone, and I literally heard somebody I used to work with say, "Well, you know what, he can get away with it because it's a guy. She's a girl, so let's just face it, it's different." And I was like, "Is this the 1950s?" I hung up and didn't listen to the rest. I'm like,"I don't get it." No one thinks that ... and I'm from a frickin' Republican state. It's just sad. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people in the industry that do think like that. I absolutely know that for a truth because I heard it from their mouths. It's a blow to the stomach. It kind of hurts when you work so hard and take the high road so much ... it's lonely.
We just elected the first African-American president. Do you think in our time we'll see a female president?
Oh, definitely. I don't care regardless -- female, male, whatever -- I just want someone that's about change, and that's what [Barack Obama] campaigned on, and that's what I'm hoping happens. I'm very much a Barack fan.
How'd you celebrate the inauguration?
I was actually with two of my friends here in Texas -- we were in my kitchen watching it on TV. We were crying -- all three of us. Seeing Aretha Franklin -- who in her lifetime has seen oppression and now seeing a black man become President -- sing ... that in itself is such a beautiful message to the rest of the world.
Your new album is called 'All I Ever Wanted.' You've achieved more than most at 26, so what is it that you want for the future?
I should've thought about this before I named the album that [laughs]. I've never been too greedy. But I do have goals; I'd love to do musical theater one day or theater in general. I'd never want to do movies or TV because I'm not about having to do the same thing 50 times. And, like every other girl, I want to get married and find someone I can love. It doesn't have to be now, but I'd like that. It's taken five years to get here, but I'm happy.