The debut album from America's latest "Idol," Jordin Sparks, will drop November 20. So why is the 17-year-old songstress — and youngest "American Idol" champ — still sitting in a Los Angeles recording studio? Well, she's not done with the self-titled LP yet, which has her feeling a bit nervous.
"It's all very exciting, but also kind of scary, because it doesn't give me a lot of time to finish it," she said. "I'm out here in L.A., finishing up the record, and then they're sending me back to New York to write some more songs, and then I'll be coming back to master it and set the order for the songs. ... I'm trying really, really hard to finish it."
Ever since taking the "Idol" title back in late May, Sparks said her life's been the very definition of hectic: She's been back home a mere three days, having just wrapped up the Idols Live Tour, and whenever she has some free time on her hands, she's been working on her album.
"My life has pretty much been airplanes, buses and hotel rooms," Sparks said, adding that even during the tour, she was writing songs for her debut. "To me, when I think of people making records, it usually takes, depending on who they are, nine months or so, maybe a year. I have a couple of months, so let's just try to get it done. Now that the 'Idol' tour's over, I don't have to balance that with finishing the record. I can just concentrate on finishing the record, and I'm working really hard on it."
Sparks said her label has largely been hands-off when it comes to her debut disc, but that the process has been very collaborative and filled with compromise. Sparks has enlisted several producers for Jordin Sparks, including production team the Underdogs (Ne-Yo, Chris Brown); Robbie Nevil (who has worked on the "High School Musical" and "Hannah Montana" soundtracks); Norwegian duo Stargate (Nas, Rihanna); Sam Watters (Diana DeGarmo, Jessica Simpson); and Eman (Nick Lachey, Katharine McPhee).
"So far, I have a whole bunch of songs I love and can't wait to perform," she said. "All of the producers are really awesome, and being in the studio with them is cool, because we can communicate. When they tell me to do something, I will try to do it — if I can't, they tell me to try it again. It's cool to see how they all work. They know exactly what they want, what they need to hear, and it's cool to get that direction."
Sparks said the album is "not complete R&B or hip-hop" — it also includes pop and country elements. "It's hard to make everything fit together," she said — something she feels she achieved on "Tattoo," the album's first single, which she co-wrote with Amanda Ghost (who penned the Beyoncé and Shakira hit "Beautiful Liar"). "I fit all of that into one song, so I hope the songs I have on the album will resonate with that. There are some slow songs, a ballad called 'Permanent Monday.' I'm just so excited."
Sparks said she's still getting used to life after "Idol" and still can't believe she won the talent contest. "It's so weird to hear I'm the 'American Idol,' " she said. "It's so weird for me. Some days, I'll just be sitting, and it will hit me: 'What in the world is going on here?' I think of how thankful I am, and how super-blessed I am to be doing this. I don't know many 17-year-olds who get to tour all summer with their best friends and make a record."
In fact, reality really hit for Sparks during a recent shopping spree, she said. "I was in the dressing room at Express, and 'Tattoo' came on," she said. "I started flipping out and screaming, and a lady came by to see if I was all right."
Of course, when the album does drop, Sparks will be busy touring and promoting the disc. But ultimately, she'd like to branch out, like season-three "Idol" finalist — and Academy Award winner — Jennifer Hudson.
"I would love to do some acting," she explained. "I did musical theater back home, and I love being on the stage and acting out. It's so cool to become a different character for a little bit, so if the opportunity comes along, I'd love to do a movie or Broadway. If I ever actually have the time, I'd love to do it."