NEW YORK — Giving birth to her first child — and watching her husband tend to their daughter — made Kelly Clarkson realize how much her father wasn't around when she was growing up.
"I think when you hold this little human you've created, now I think I understand the depth of the loss I had not having a father figure growing up," she said in interview last week. "I didn't really get that or grasp what that was until falling in love with my husband and seeing him be a father and what that actually is when it's done well."
Clarkson, 32, and music manager Brandon Blackstock, are the parents of 8-month-old River Rose.
The Grammy winner, known for hits like "Stronger" and "Since U Been Gone," sings about her father on the heartfelt, revealing "Piece by Piece," the title track of her new album.
"And no offense to my father, you know, he is a product of his upbringing, like, I don't know what that was, but you know, I just think now that I have River, like holding her, I can't imagine walking away," she said.
"Piece by Piece" debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's 200 albums chart this week. While there are some serious tunes on the album, it also features upbeat jams, like the first single, "Heartbeat Song."
In a recent interview, the original "American Idol" champion talked about giving birth to her daughter, watching her old "Idol" performances and recording music, including a country album.
AP: What's your relationship like with your father now?
Clarkson: I don't know him.
AP: Was it difficult recording the title track because of the subject matter?
Clarkson: It wasn't hard recording 'Piece by Piece.' It's proving to be harder singing live. ... It's not even the sad parts of it because I'm not there. I'm not in that place anymore, like where I'm sad about it. I'm in a very forgiving place about it and everybody's human. But I think I get really choked up because I just realize how lucky I am. ... And a lot of girls that grew up with their daddy issues and with not having that figure in their life, you know, take a very different road and I just feel lucky that I'm not that girl.
AP: Was it different to record music during your pregnancy?
Clarkson: They're just hanging out on your diaphragm, jumping up and down. But also, just like emotionally, it's different. I told my husband I want to be pregnant the next time I make an album because it makes much more, everything is enhanced ... I've just become more of an enhanced vessel for the lyric, you know? It becomes more emotional, more passionate and more vulnerable.
AP: Mariah Carey actually said her voice was more powerful after she gave birth. Do you feel that way?
Clarkson: I did feel more powerful while being pregnant. I guess it's just because I'm like, 'I can create life! What did you do today?!'
AP: Do you play music for your daughter?
Clarkson: I sing for her. I play guitar for her. She's obsessed with watching the guitar. I haven't done it well. ... She loves sound. She's like any baby. She's not some prodigy.
AP: You only co-wrote three songs for this album. What happened?
Clarkson: I wasn't really feeling inspired. And all the songs I was writing like 'Piece by Piece,' 'I Had a Dream' or 'Tightrope,' they're just very intense songs, and I was like, 'This is developing into a very dramatic album.'
AP: You've lived in Nashville, Tennessee, for eight years. Have you thought about recording a country album?
Clarkson: I've done more than thought about doing a country album, I actually started making one. I love it. I love country music. And who knows? I love big band, too. I'd love to make a complete standards album.
AP: Any interest in doing a gospel album?
Clarkson: Well, my country album sounds very soulful. ... My country album isn't too far from gospel on some parts of it.
AP: Do you watch your old music videos or performances?
Clarkson: A fan tweeted me some video, a 'Throwback Thursday' kind of thing, and I watched it. And then I went down the YouTube vortex of watching all my 'Idol' things. And I was like, 'How did I win?' It was so bad! I was like so bad! I mean, every single performance. The only one I ended up liking actually was the big band one.
AP: I'm sure they weren't all bad, were they?
Clarkson: It was just fun because it's been like 13 years. I was like, 'I don't feel like I'm any different.' Then I was like, 'Whoa! It's like a big difference!'