The American Idol alum talks about her debut album. 

A year ago, Candice Glover would have dreaded having to perform during American Idol’s results show, a night where dreams of victory are shattered for the contestant with the fewest votes.

But the days of singing for anyone’s vote are behind Glover now. She’s on the Idol stage rehearsing a medley of Cried and Same Kinda Man, taken from her debut album, Music Speaks.

“When I turned into (the studio), I felt like I was a competitor,” said Glover, 24, seated in her dressing room. “It was like graduating from high school and going back. All of those emotions come back.”

Even returning to the Idol competition as a champion, the stakes are just as high for Glover. Music Speaks was released last month to mixed reviews, and the album debuted at No. 14 on the Billboard 200 with the lowest first week sales of any previous winner. But Glover had a lot of chips stacked against her.

Most of the focus during her run last year was on the show’s sagging ratings, bitter judge rivalries and a pending reboot of the competition.

Music Speaks was originally set to arrive in July, two months after her Idol win. The rush release would have capitalised on the spotlight that begins to dim as the show’s annual tour winds down and a new season begins.

Instead, the album got pushed back – several times. Glover admits it was mostly her doing.

“At first, I wanted to rush it. I was like, ‘Let’s strike while the iron’s hot. People aren’t going to forget about me,’” she said. “And then I said, ‘Wait a minute.’ I don’t know anybody who can make an album in two months.” Glover’s album went from an October release to hitting stores in mid-February, when Idol was deep into its rebooted 13th season.

“Me being such a perfectionist … I take all the time that I need, and that’s why we kept pushing the album back,” she said.

Glover initially regretted the delays, because “people forget about (the show). But I had to get over that,” she said. “I had to get over those nerves.”

Watching Idol last year, it was clear that the aspiring R&B-soul diva from St Helena Island, South Carolina, would easily become the show’s first female victor since 2007. Having auditioned three times – she was rejected twice – Glover instantly became a judges’ favourite, and she wowed viewers with her rich, church-bred voice and knockout takes on the Cure, Bruno Mars, Emeli Sande, Adele and Drake.

The album was assembled by an impressive slew of collaborators, including Jazmine Sullivan, Harvey Mason Jr., the Jackie Boyz, Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins and Rock City.

With an R&B-heavy sound, the album is far from the mainstream pop one would expect from an Idol winner.

“This is the type of music I want to make. I’m proud of the whole album, and it took me this long to get to it,” Glover says. “I came across a lot of songs that weren’t me. But I wasn’t trying to put out an album that’s not me. People wanted me to do Teenage Dream or Pour It Up, they wanted one or the other from me.

“I had to learn to open my mouth and say something. I was very honest with (the label). It took me awhile to get there, because it’s a label and they can axe you in a minute.”

While her debut didn’t conquer the pop charts – it bowed at No. 3 on Billboard’s R&B chart behind Beyonce and Toni Braxton & Babyface – Glover’s just happy fans embraced her.

“I’m blessed that people like my album as a whole. I was so nervous when it came out, but the reception has been great,” she said, flashing a wide smile. – Los Angeles Times/McClatchy-Tribune Information Services