LaReeca Rucker has been a journalist for more than 20 years, and her work has appeared in newspapers across the nation. She spent a decade as a features writer and multimedia journalist with The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi, where she was also a USA TODAY contributor. She is a freelance journalist and support journalism instructor in the University of Mississippi's Meek School of Journalism and New Media in Oxford, Mississippi.

Britney Spears backup singer goes gospel

LaReeca Rucker
The Clarion-Ledger

In her song “Oops I Did it Again,” Britney Spears tells the fictional boy whose attention she has deceptively stolen that although he thinks she’s an angel sent from above, the truth of the matter is, she’s not that innocent.

But Kelly Clinger, 28, was too innocent to continue a career in pop music after spending a year as one of Spears’ backup singers during the Kentwood, La., native’s first national “Baby One More Time” tour in 1999.

Clinger, a Jackson native who grew up in Florida, was one of two girls selected from thousands during an audition at Orlando’s Transcontinental Studios to fill the coveted backup spot, but after a year of having Britney’s back on songs like “(You Drive Me) Crazy,” and “From the Bottom of My Broken Heart,” Clinger realized she wanted to take different musical path.

“We toured all over the United States,” she said. “We kind of had an idea that Britney was going to be big. She had already gotten pretty popular at that point. She was only 17 at the time.”

Clinger said she learned a lot from her professional stint, and one lesson was that she did not want to remain in that environment.

“It was interesting just to be around that atmosphere and see how those things work,” she said. “It taught me pretty quickly that it was not the lifestyle that I wanted. It’s just a worldly atmosphere. There are no lines drawn, as far as what people will do, and it’s such a dog-eat-dog business.

“After I quit, I sort of wrote off the music business. It’s so hard, and it really takes a special person to be able to do it. I didn’t feel like I was strong enough, and years later, after I had matured and was older, I felt like I was strong enough to stand by my convictions.”

Clinger recently returned to the music industry, but took an entirely different path away from pop and into the genre of adult contemporary Christian music. Her new self-titled CD produced by Jacob Lowery of Austin, Texas, features 10 tracts that include “No God Like Our God,” “Jesus, Lover of My Soul” and “Rescue.”

“He (Lowery) came to our church to work with our choir and band,” she said, “and in the process, we became friends. He said he would love to produce an album for me.”

Clinger’s musical talent was first noticed and nurtured at First Baptist Church of Jackson, where her mother, Donna Bozarth, worked as the music minister’s secretary.

“I had my first solo in ‘Carols by Candlelight’ at First Baptist when I was 4 years old,” she said. “Singing has just always been my thing. I always felt like I could never be a cheerleader, and I could never do this or that, but I could always out-sing everyone.”

She attended Jackson Academy until her father, Roger, an insurance salesman, moved the family to Melbourne, Fla., where Kelly and her mom were miserable until they moved again.

“My mom and I got an apartment in Orlando so that I could go to Dr. Phillips High School,” she said. “I was in the performing arts magnet program.” The high school has several famous alumni, including Joey Fatone of *Nsync and comedian Wayne Brady.

Clinger made other modern day musical connections while working for three-and-a-half years as an extra on Disney’s Mickey Mouse Club, the old stomping ground of Spears, actor Ryan Gossling of last year’s film “The Notebook," singer Christina Aguilera and *NSYNC stars JC Chasez and Justin Timberlake.

Clinger still considers Timberlake a good friend. “We’ve been friends for years,” she said. “I’m older than he is, but he was about 12 when we met.”

Today, Clinger is a wife and mother of two, who met her husband, Matt, an Atlanta native, while attending a Christina Aguilera concert the same year she began touring with Britney. They married in November of 2001.

Matt, who's also a singer and was once a member of the boy band A440, (a term that means ‘perfect pitch’ on a musical scale), is studying to be a youth pastor and helping raise the couple’s children, Evin, 8, and Logan, 2.

Kelly sings on the Praise Team and works in the office of Ridgeland’s Church of the Highlands. Her CD will debut at the church’s upcoming conference, “For the Love of a Princess, He Came,” set for April 1 and 2, beginning at 6:30 p.m. and 10 a.m. respectively.

“This will be the first time I will be selling it and singing songs from it,” she said. “The purpose of the conference is to explain that we are all daughters of The King, and one of the things we will talk about is what our requirements are as daughters of The King, and that we are princesses. Everyone who participates will get a tiara.”

Three guest speakers from the church will share a message. They are Amy Lancaster, Vicki Weaver and Vicki DeMoney. Lunch will be served at noon Saturday. The fee is $12. Childcare will be provided, but you must call the church and request it prior to the conference.

With a budding new career and new focus on life, Clinger said she hopes to travel, perform and speak at other women’s conferences, spreading the Christian message of her music.

“I am really excited with where this is going to go,” she said. “I feel like God has good plans for me. He saved me from going down the wrong path. I was exposed to fame and fortune and all the things that people think they want so badly, and I saw how bad it was. That is not what I want for my kids, so I stopped.”


The Journalism Portfolio of LaReeca Rucker