By Matt Conner

Melinda Doolittle wasn’t sure where the road would lead.

After the sixth season of American Idol wrapped up, Doolittle found herself in a place where few artists have stood. Some former finalists had moved on to much larger stages, such as Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, while other favorites had found post-Idol life difficult. In short, many stars faded from view when the popular television show wasn’t the one shining the spotlight on them.

Doolittle finished third overall, but was hailed by famed judge Simon Cowell as his favorite, as her powerful vocals wowed crowds in person and at home week after week. Fortunately, Doolittle’s natural talents have been in demand ever since she left. She’s recorded albums of her own, collaborate with numerous others and has toured around the world.

Doolittle is currently serving as the special guest on Michael W. Smith’s current Christmas tour, a perfect mix of longtime friends and musical gifts. Ten years have passed since Doolittle last joined Smith for his Christmas shows, and it’s a welcome reunion for the vocalist.

“I’ve been a fan of Michael for my entire life, but it was the first time that I understood the genius of his writing and arrangements,” says Doolittle. “I feel like he can literally write Christmas, which I think is really hard to do. I’d hear the arrangements and I’d be backstage jumping up and down because it felt like Christmas. It’s my favorite time of year, so if you can make Christmas happen for me through music, you’ve done an amazing thing.”

Longtime fans have been craving some new music from Doolittle for some time, and the artist insists she’s finally getting around to it in 2019—at least if her team has its way. Next year will be the 10-year anniversary of her only full-length release, Coming Back to You.

“I am the slow one,” says Doolittle. “When I go into the studio, I’m such a perfectionist that it’s not fun for anybody. Our plan now is to do a live CD, because I can leave it all in the moment. Now we’ve decided that’s what we’re going to do, so we’ll move ahead with that next year.”

In addition to the new album, Doolittle says fans should expect to see her on the road performing with orchestras around the U.S. and the world.

“I’ve been just about everywhere at this point,” says Doolittle. “I have an amazing band and we do a lot of performing arts theaters. Then I also do a lot of symphony shows. I think there’s been 12 shows now with the Boston Pops, as well as the Nashville Symphony. There’s also Cleveland and Cincinnati and Buffalo. I am honored to be able to sing with all of these amazing symphony orchestras and with my band.

“The show that we do right now is The Great American Soul Book. It’s classic soul music that everybody knows and loves, so we have a great time singing old Motown and then some songs from the Great American Songbook that we put a soul twist on. It’s been fun to do it with just the band and orchestras. We’ve been all over to Tunisia and Qatar—you name it. We’ve had a good time and I’m so grateful that it’s still going. After American Idol, I had no idea what would happen, and this journey has been more than I could have ever asked for.”

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