Christmas After Midnight may be the title of her newest album and tour, but any time is a good time to listen to Fantasia.
The native of North Carolina won the third season of American Idol while staying true to her pipes, a wonderful mixture of earthy soul and vocal acrobatics. The show pulled her into all types of genres, but this is her first Christmas album.
"If I can be honest, and I always am," she says, "I always wanted to do a Christmas album and [former record label RCA] would never move on it."
Perhaps they were comfortable with the space she inhabited. After all, it had garnered her accolades and awards, including a Grammy. R&B is the name of her game: She made history when debut single "I Believe" came out at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and won Top Selling Single of the Year at hte 2004 Billboard Music Awards.
But it's been proven she is just as comfortable on Broadway, where she starred in The Color Purple and After Midnight. She says that the Christmas album is a jazz album, but almost every genre and style is represented, even someone she "had never touched:" Frank Sinatra.
"The good thing about growing up in a musical family (including cousins K-C and JoJo from R&B group Jodeci] is we were able to experience different types and genres of music and it made me love," she says. "When you love music, you love it all. It's being able to take those songs and embody them and pay homage to the people who came before you but take them and sing them your way."
Songs on Christmas After Midnight include the expected ("Silent Night," "This Christmas") and the unexpected ("The Snow is Falling" and Sinatra's "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning"). There's a duet with CeeLo Green on "Baby, It's Cold Outside"and there is"Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto."
And then there's Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." After watching a quartet cover of the song on YouTube, Fantasia fought to get it on the album.
"[Fantasia and producer Ron Fair] had a lot of fun just introducing songs to each other, just challenging each other. I remember 'Hallelujah' was the last song," she says.
"I Youtube a lot of different artists. Just on YouTube, there are so many gifts in the world that many people had not even ... recognized. So many people have covered this song... but I wanted to do it."
She dedicated to her grandmother. And stripped it down.
"I want them to just hear what's being said, hear the song and that's how we got it on the album."
Always an energetic and effervescent performer, the singer-author-actress refined her approach with lessons she learned on the stage.
"Broadway taught me a lot," she says. "I like the way they practice, I like the way they did things. I was, like, 'Oh, OK, so this is how it goes.' And I'm so glad that I did it because it opened up a whole new lane, a whole new door for me to just exercise new things, do new things and not be afraid to step out of the box."
She brings all those lessons to bear in her own concert, her "vision."
"I want the people to dress up and I want them to get excited like they're going to an experience that they've never seen before, look nice, sit down, relax," she says. "Because most people that come to my shows, they feel like they either have to wear their flip flops or a comfortable shoe because they're gonna be up and getting it all night. I'm used to that. I love that. But I want them to know you can put on your pretty shoes on this night and your beautiful dress and your coats and come out with your dates, your family members and sit and let me tell you a story. This is going to be something you've never ever seen me do before. And I'm excited."
The opening night of the "Christmas After Midnight Tour" is Sunday, Nov. 19, at 8 p.m. at Music Hall at Fair Park, Dallas, Texas. $49.50. Ticketmaster.