There's a reason Kelly Clarkson has performed duets with country superstars like Reba McEntire, Jason Aldean and Vince Gill but never one of her Top 40 colleagues in the 10 years since she became the first "American Idol". They've turned her down — eight times.
"I have, like, 5,000 duets in country music," Clarkson says, flashing a smile. "I don't have one in pop. That's legitimately because everyone turns me down. I'm not even kidding. I've asked sooo many artists to sing with me. Everyone legitimately turns me down! The only one that hasn't was Chris Daughtry."
The sugary sweet pop star who's called Nashville, Tenn., home for the past six years isn't naming names (and much to the dismay of fans, her collaborations with fellow "Idol" alum Daughtry were never released.) While she hasn't exactly been able to hook up with the perfect pop ally, Clarkson has found a partner outside the recording studio.
When asked what's impacted her life most over the past 10 years, other than winning the "Idol" prize, Clarkson doesn't hesitate to say it's falling in love with current boyfriend Brandon Blackstock, a Nashville-based talent manager whose father is Clarkson's own manager and stepmother is McEntire. The pair has been an item for the past eight months.
"I completely fell in love," she says. "Welcome to Cheeseville! I did. I don't know. Your priorities kind of shift and you become happier, and all that stuff. It's probably my best accomplishment because I think, for me, especially, I just didn't think it would happen. It's like one of those cheesy love songs that didn't exist, but it does, so that's cool."
Clarkson says she and Blackstock never go two weeks without seeing each other. Though he's changed her life, she doesn't expect her lovey-dovey relationship status to end her fondness for man-hating tracks like "Miss Independent" and "Mr. Know It All." She points to thumping new tune "People Like Us" from her upcoming "Greatest Hits — Chapter One," out Monday.
"He's totally gonna piss me off at some point, right?" Clarkson said. "I'll write about it."
Clarkson was originally apprehensive about releasing a "Greatest Hits" album. She's only 30, after all. Her label convinced her that it would be a celebration of her music career since winning the first season of "Idol" in 2002. And she could record some new tunes, including "Don't Rush," her soulful throwback country duet with Gill.
Another duet, her "Don't You Wanna Stay" collaboration with Aldean, helped her score a nomination for female vocalist of the year at the Country Music Association Awards. Obvious fan interest combined with her affinity for the music has led to speculation she might one day release a country album.
Despite the camaraderie she feels from the Nashville music scene, she isn't fully committed to making a leap from pop diva to country star. Though she isn't ruling out goin' country from time to time.
"I'm not ever gonna be one thing," she says. "I want great music. I don't care what it is. I'm not gonna record a country song just to be on country radio. I want it to be something I'd legitimately have on my album, if I'm having a pop, R&B, whatever album. I guess it's hard for people to wrap their heads around. I don't want to be pigeonholed."
Follow AP Entertainment Writer Derrik J. Lang on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/derrikjlang.