How Kelly Clarkson went from singing about Steve Martin to her unlikely banjo cameo on ‘I Hate Love’: Exclusive

While ruminating on her nearly 10-year marriage and recent divorce for her new album, Kelly Clarkson turned to a pair of films from the 2000s to illustrate the difference between idealistic young love and often messy adult relationships.

“I hate love and Notebook lied,” she sings on the cheeky “I Hate Love,” the latest release from her 10th studio album. Chemistry, out June 23.It is complicated looks more like what’s going on, so you can keep Gosling and I’ll take Steve Martin.

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“I feel like both exist,” Clarkson says Billboard love stories from the 2004 Nicholas Sparks epic, starring Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams, and the 2009 Nancy Meyers romantic comedy, starring Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin – whom she calls one of his “favorite films”. “One is the beginning, when all is bright and shining, and It is complicated is more reality,” says Clarkson, who pointed to the standoff Streep’s character is going through with Baldwin’s ex-husband (“She comes back, and she’s like, ‘Why am I doing this?‘”) and Martin’s affable architect (“It’s what you should looking for and what you TO DO deserve”).

Clarkson’s cinematic inspiration didn’t just impact the song’s lyrics: it also led to an unexpected instrumental cameo. While writing much of the new project at the start of the pandemic, Clarkson had watched Martin play his banjo in live videos to entertain fans during the lockdown. She went to “I Hate Love” producer Jesse Shatkin with an idea: Let’s take that lyrical reference one step further and add Martin’s banjo to the anti-love song. “I was like, ‘I know this sounds crazy,'” Clarkson recalled. “Jesse was like, ‘I think that sounds rad.’ ”

Shatkin tells Billboard, “In one or two connections, Kelly can get in touch with anyone” – and she blocked Martin with just one email. “I don’t usually ask because I get really nervous about bothering people,” Clarkson recalled, “but literally within hours I got an answer, ‘Oh my God, he’d love it, when are you recording it?’ ” Shatkin ventured to Martin to record his part and met a very professional musician, unlike the frequent Saturday Night Live guest and movie star he had grown up with (“He didn’t do stand-up for us,” laughs Shatkin). “We finally went to do something that could have taken 15 minutes, and we spent a few hours playing the song,” Shatkin recalled. “He was really, really amazing on the banjo but also really, really concerned about getting it right.”

The result, as Clarkson describes it, is “a pop-punk song with that really rock ‘n’ roll banjo part”. Shatkin recalls Clarkson’s team wondering aloud while creating the song, “Could the banjo be on the radio?” That remains to be seen — but perhaps Martin could make his first return to the Billboard Hot 100 since the 1970s, when his “King Tut” (billed to Steve Martin and The Toot Uncommons) hit the top 20 on the chart. “I love the idea of ​​things happening organically,” Clarkson says of the circuitous route she took to collaborate with Martin. “So many things had to happen for this to happen.”

For her part, Clarkson still hasn’t met Martin, but she hopes she can lure him to her Emmy. The Kelly Clarkson Show now that their song has been released to the world. “My perfect time is for him to come on my show and then we play it – but I’ll only take him on my show so we can talk and hang out so I can, like, meet him.”

A version of this article will appear in the June 3, 2023 issue of Billboard.

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