America will be represented worldwide this winter by a strong-voiced Texan -- and it's not George W. Bush. ''American Idol'' winner Kelly Clarkson is taking on competition from 10 countries on Fox's ''World Idol,'' with the winner set to be revealed Jan. 1 on Fox. Meanwhile, Clarkson is preparing for her first headlining tour, set for February, and working on songs for her follow-up to this year's double-platinum ''Thankful.'' Clarkson -- who nabbed a Grammy nomination for her hit ''Miss Independent'' -- tells EW.com about performing barefoot, getting inspired by Jimi Hendrix, and continuing to believe in Justin Guarini.
Are you friends with Clay and Ruben?
We don't, like, have sleepovers or anything. We're not best friends or anything, but I've hung out with Clay more than five times. So when you're in town together, you go out for dinner. It's like work -- if you have people you work with, you hang out with them. I actually hang out with Tamyra [Gray] more than anyone.
How about your movie costar, Justin Guarini -- have you talked to him since he apparently got dropped from his label?
Yeah. It's more of a sad thing for the record label because they just let go of a super-talented guy -- he plays piano, guitar, he writes music, he sings, and he's gorgeous. I don't understand what happened there. But I think he's already working with other people. Sometimes you don't fit somewhere and you fit better someplace else.
So he's holding up okay?
Oh God, yes.
How do you feel about doing a headlining tour?
I can't wait. I'm a completely different person when you see me perform on TV and then in person. Just because you've got to be a little more reserved on TV for all the housewives [laughs], and you can't really jump around -- you have only 5 feet to move in. And I love for people to hear me live, because it's usually better. On the CD, you record your stuff, and later on you figure out, ''Oh, I should done this or that,'' which you get to do in the live show.
Will your show have big, Britney-style production?
I'm not big into confetti or pyro. I love going to shows like that, but for myself, it's me and my band and having a blast onstage. Great lighting, great sound, and that's about it. And I'm usually barefoot.
That's how I'm most comfortable. I like my feet to be on the ground. I like to jump around, I like to fly across the stage.
I heard you screamed when you heard about your Grammy nomination.
It was on air, in Minneapolis -- I was doing a radio interview and I flipped out. I was doing a [phone interview] and my manager told me I got nominated for a Grammy and I went AWOL -- left the phone and screamed. I came back and started apologizing. It's EXCITING. I know there's plenty of people going, [in blasé voice] ''Oh yeah, I got nominated.'' They can play cool guy, but you know inside they're flipping out.
And what are you thinking about for your next album?
Hopefully it'll be out in the last quarter of 2004. On the first album, I wanted to showcase the versatility factor -- the fact that I like rock, I like soulful music, I like pop The next one is going to go deeper into rock and soul. There's gonna be more hardcore soul, more along the lines of a Jimi Hendrix, bluesy sound. Like bluesy rock. At the same time, there might be a big, huge ballad that comes up that I love. You never know with me. I like everything, so I'm not gonna limit myself.