Kelly Clarkson fought for what she wanted and it changed the trajectory of her career.
The multifaceted entertainer credits “Miss Independent” for paving the way for her as a songwriter. The 2003 song was the first single off of her debut album, “Thankful,” earning Clarkson her first Grammy nomination.
During the third episode of “American Song Contest,” contestant Grant Knoche from Texas performed a song called “Mr. Independent” that made Clarkson reflect on her first hit song.
“My big first single was ‘Miss Independent,’ and I had to fight so hard to get that song on my record, like, with the guitars how I liked it and everything how I liked it,” Clarkson told TODAY on the red carpet after Monday’s show. “Everybody wanted me to do ballads straight off of ‘(American) Idol.’ I was like, ‘No, I really like this song. I want to set up some kind of precedent.’ It was very important to me as an artist, and I got to write on it as well, which was important to me.”
“Miss Independent” was also co-written by Matt Morris, Rhett Lawrence and Christina Aguilera. Clarkson previously revealed during an appearance on “Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen” how, unbeknownst to her, the song was originally created for Aguilera before the pop star passed on it. Clarkson would go on to finish the song.
“That song doing well, the competition helped me as a singer, but that song helped me as a writer,” Clarkson shared, adding that “Miss Independent” gave her “a leg up” as an artist. “I think everybody kind of knew me as a vocalist and not a songwriter at that point. So that paved the way for the ‘Because of You,’ the ‘(Behind These) Hazel Eyes.’ All those songs...”
Clarkson noted that while she loves singing and it’s her “favorite thing" to do, “Writing is such a part of me not just because I’m a singer, because it’s my outlet for my emotions. So that’s why I love this competition. You get to see where everyone’s at emotionally.”
Clarkson co-hosts “American Song Contest” with Snoop Dogg, whom she calls “the best thing ever. He’s so much fun.”
Inspired by “Eurovision Song Contest,” the show features 56 artists from the 50 U.S. states, U.S. territories and Washington D.C., performing their original songs and competing to be crowned the winner. It also includes famous names like Jewel, Michael Bolton, Macy Gray and more representing their home states.
“This is going to be a very hard contest to win because there’s a lot of people that deserve to win already,” Clarkson expressed, adding that viewers will be “voting (for) the story.”
“They like the story. They want to go on that ride and that’s what a great song is all about, being a storyteller,” she added. “Regardless if it’s something fun or sad or intense, whatever the feeling or emotion is, I think it’s going to be something that really resonates story wise.”
Snoop also told TODAY that the first thing that captures his attention is how a song makes him feel.
“Then when I hear the song, if there’s something about it that’s catchy that makes me want to hear it again,” he said. “So those are the things that I look for as far as great songwriting; the feeling and then the impression that it makes for me as far as, do I want to sing it? Do I want to hear it again?”
As for his first hit, the 50-year-old rapper recalled how he felt after the success of “Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang.” The 1992 song was featured on Dr. Dre’s debut album, “The Chronic,” and reached the No. 2 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
“To see how people (reacted) to that record and how the whole world loved it and appreciated it — and suddenly that’s the feeling that you’re looking for as a songwriter,” Snoop expressed. “To know that your penmanship is felt across the whole globe. As my first hit record being ‘Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang,’ after that I was like I’m gonna write more and more just because I loved the way that felt.”
With a career spanning 30 decades, Snoop shared that what fuels him as a performer and songwriter is his love for music.
“I just love what I’m doing. I love listening to music. I love making music. I just love music. I’m a music baby,” he said. “I think my mom and daddy made me while they were making music. I think they had me when they were making music. So that’s why I continue to make music.”
"American Song Contest" airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on NBC.
(NBC and TODAY share the same parent company, NBCUniversal.)