Kelly Clarkson recalls Amy Winehouse doing karaoke 'before she was who she was': 'I was like, wait, what?'

Clarkson recalls hearing Winehouse sing before her success. "She sang Etta James," Clarkson said.

Kelly Clarkson had the opportunity to see Amy Winehouse sing long before the success of "Rehab" and her Back to Black album.

On Thursday's episode of The Kelly Clarkson Show, the host discussed Winehouse with Marisa Abela, who portrays the "You Know I'm No Good" singer in the soon-to-released biopic Back to Black. "I actually saw her before she was who she was," Clarkson told the Industry actress. "She was just coming over with her boyfriend, and it was while I was shooting this movie that I absolutely hate — [presumably, she's referencing From Justin to Kelly] — but anyway, we all did a karaoke night."

Related: Amy Winehouse's 10 Best Singles

"It was before she was her ... and she almost sounded a little different as well," Clarkson continued. "I don't think she had a record deal or anything at that time. But we all went to karaoke and she sang Etta James, and I was like, 'Wait, what?' It was like she, just from the jump, had such a presence about her voice. It almost became more of a character, too, like with herself throughout her career."

<p>Daniel Boczarski/Redferns</p> Amy Winehouse

Daniel Boczarski/Redferns

Amy Winehouse

Abela shared how Winehouse's voice changed from her debut album, 2003's Frank, to her massive success with 2006's Back to Black. "That's the crazy thing about learning to sing as her," Abela, who did some of her own vocals for the movie, said. "It changes. Back to Black is very much influenced by The Shangri-Las and The Ronnettes. There's this sort of romantic 1950s thing, it's where the beehive sort of comes into play."

Related: Amy Winehouse biopic Back to Black is exploitative and tone-deaf

She further said that learning about Winehouse and getting into character built a new reverence for what singers go through. "The singing, people ask me now, 'Can you get up and do it?' It's like being an athlete, singing like that. I look at singers now with so much more respect — not that I didn't before. But, the technical, it's so hard," Abela said.

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Back to Black, which will arrive in theaters on May 17, follows Winehouse's early career in Camden through the release her final album. The singer died at 27 in 2011 of alcohol toxicity.

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