Next week, Kelly Clarkson will become the first act from American Idol to release a greatest-hits compilation.
"Well, I hope no one would have beat me on that!" says Clarkson, who won the show's inaugural 2002 season at age 20. "That would have been sad."
Greatest Hits: Chapter One, out Nov. 19, not only includes hits Since U Been Gone, Breakaway and My Life Would Suck Without You, it contains three new tunes. Two of those have been released as singles to different radio formats – Catch My Breath to pop and Don't Rush, featuring vocals from Vince Gill, to country.
Clarkson, now 30, wrote Catch My Breath with her musical director, Jason Halbert, specifically for the new compilation.
"When I found out that label wanted to release a greatest-hits project, I was like, 'I want to write something specifically to describe the arc and flow of how the last 10 years have been,'" she says.
During those 10 years, Clarkson has released five albums that have sold more than 11 million copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. She recently had the biggest hit of her career, Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You), which has sold nearly 4 million downloads. It's also the top-selling single ever from an Idol act.
On the personal side, Clarkson's involved with Brandon Blackstock, who manages country singer Blake Shelton. He's also the son of Clarkson's manager, Narvel Blackstock, and Reba McEntire's stepson.
"It's getting very Arkansas up in here," Clarkson quips.
The two first met several years ago, when Blackstock worked as Rascal Flatts' road manager. Clarkson found herself instantly attracted to him.
"I was like, 'Why can't that guy ask me out?'" she says. "Come to find out, he was, like, married. Then, come to find out, he was, like, Narvel and Reba's son."
Blackstock divorced in 2011, and he and Clarkson reconnected at this year's Super Bowl, where she sang the national anthem and Shelton sang America the Beautiful with wife Miranda Lambert. The two went out for the first time a week later, just before the Grammys.
"This is horrible, like a bad omen: Our first date was on the day Whitney Houston died," she says.
Clarkson and Blackstock recently bought a house in Nashville, and she says their relationship is even affecting the kind of songs she chooses to record.
"He's opening me up to new songs that I probably wouldn't have given a second chance," she says. "I don't know if I would have chosen a song like Don't Rush if I hadn't experienced being in love and if I hadn't gone through what the song is talking about."
Clarkson says she's looking forward to the return of Idol in January, especially given early reports of high drama and tension between new judges Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj. "Let's face it, that's going to be fun to watch. Let's not lie."