Pussycat Doll Nicole Snares Timbaland, Will.I.Am For Solo LP

Singer's debut due early 2007; PCD's second album is in the works.

Nicole Scherzinger is in a bind. Because, well, her name is Nicole Scherzinger.

Nothing against the Pussycat Dolls singer, but it’s just not one of those obvious pop-star names — then again, neither was Christina Aguilera. Though she’s often identified as “Nicole from the Pussycat Dolls,” Scherzinger isn’t exactly sure what moniker to put on her debut solo album, due in early 2007.

“Maybe Nicole Scherzinger, maybe just Nicole — definitely nothing to do with the Pussycat Dolls,” she said last week. “Fergie got her name from her last name, Ferguson. I guess people can call me Scherzie … or Zinger.” Or not.

Whatever she picks, Scherzinger is confident the yet-untitled album will make a name for her outside of the Dolls. “I’m excited because it’s really fresh, something new,” she said. “I like to sing a lot of styles and kinds of music, so it’s kind of an infusion of all kinds of things.”

Of course, Nicole is not the first singer to claim a vast variety of influences, but at least she’s put her music where her mouth is. Her recording career so far has included singing backup for late-’90s rockers Days of the New, fronting the girl group Eden’s Crush (formed on the pre-”American Idol” show “Popstars”), covering “Breakfast in Bed” for the “50 First Dates” soundtrack (under the pseudonym Nicole Kea) and collaborating with a Spanish starlet (Belinda), an Italian opera singer (Vittorio Grigolo) and plenty of rappers (Will Smith, Shaggy, and, most notably, Diddy).

“I’d never met Diddy in my life,” she said of her co-star on the current hit “Come to Me,” from Diddy’s Press Play. “We were actually on tour, I was about to go onstage to do a huge French television show and [my managers] were like, ‘Diddy wants to talk to you.’ I was totally nervous. I get on the phone and he’s like, ‘I saw you in that video, “Buttons.” I’ve studied you, watched everything you do, you’ve got the eye of the tiger. I want you to do this song with me, the first single off of my last album.’ And I freaked out.”

“She’s definitely, to me, one of the next female superstars,” Diddy told MTV News in August (see “Diddy On Singing Debut: ‘I Represent All Of The Shower Singers Out There’ “ ). But while the Bad Boy guru has yet to return the favor on Scherzinger’s LP, she collaborated with a host of other big names for her album, including Akon, Polow Da Don, Sean Garrett, Kara DioGuardi (who wrote an Eden’s Crush song back in the day), Timbaland (who also got Nicole to sing on his upcoming album) and Will.I.Am.

“We were on tour with the Black Eyed Peas, so me and him had a studio bus that we played around in a lot,” Nicole said of Will.I.Am (see “Black Eyed Peas Unveil Dates For Headlining Trek, Tap Pussycat Dolls As Openers” ). “We’re working on a song that’s really unexpected. I don’t think you would realize that it’s Will singing on the track.”

Scherzinger’s not revealing other song details quite yet, but said some tracks date back to when the Dolls first finished their album and she got right back into the studio. And as for the burlesque dance troupe-turned-pop group, Nicole’s solo venture isn’t marking their end.

“Hopefully I’ll make them even bigger,” she said. “We’re going to do a second album and I’ve kind of written some stuff keeping them in mind as well.” The Pussycat Dolls are also continuing to push their debut, PCD, and just signed on to tour with Christina Aguilera (see “Christina Aguilera’s Heading Back On Tour For 41 North American Dates” ).

“We’re going to have some new songs with new elements, new choreography, some fresh looks,” Scherzinger said. “It’s an honor to be on tour with Christina because we respect her not only as a top female artist today, but also as a vocalist. And we definitely want those fans behind us.”

At some point in the future, Nicole also plans to return to her roots in acting. She had bit parts on the TV shows “My Wife and Kids” and “Las Vegas,” as well as the movies “Love Don’t Cost a Thing” and “Chasing Papi” before joining the Dolls.

“That’s what I went to college for,” she said. “I really take my acting seriously and anything I do, I don’t want to do it half-ass. If it’s the right time, the right script or the right role, I’m going to do it — but it will all come in good time.”