Brooke White

Hard to believe, but American Idol judge Randy Jackson — despite incessantly trumpeting his music-producer cred on the show — has never collaborated with an Idol alum — until now, that is.

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Jackson has lent his talents to Season 7 fifth-place finisher Brooke White, whose debut album, High Hopes & Heartbreak, is out Tuesday, July 21. The pair also cofounded the indie label on which it will be released. "I'm very appreciative of Randy taking on this project and to have him on my team," White tells TVGuide.com. "I don't know why he's working with me!"

The collaboration was not planned. White and Jackson ran into each other at a guitar store months after her Idol run had ended and started chatting. "We talked for over an hour. He was so nice. My husband was there and he talked to him too," she says. "And then he said, 'If there's anything I can do to help you out, let me know,' which I just thought he was saying to be nice."

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But a dawg of his word, Jackson did help White out a few months later — unsolicited — to work on the breezy, folksy and "California-style" tunes on Heartbreak. Jackson, the "sounding board," hooked her up with producer Dave Cobb and gave her advice on every song. The duo, along with White's manager, Carl Stubner, launched June Baby Records (White's birthday is June 2) after the singer-songwriter concluded a major label wasn't the right fit for her.

"It was the right decision and it felt good. Music is such a personal thing and now I'm attaching it to a business," she says. I take my art, my love, and I attach it to record sales and all this stuff so that people know that it is there. I'm excited for people to hear it, but of course you get nervous. I'd like to say I don't care what people think, but of course I do!"

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White hopes to launch a tour soon in support of the album, possibly with fellow Season 7 finalist Michael Johns. The two have recorded a song together, "Life Is Okay," and White is already looking to future duets — with another Idol grad.

"I'd love to duet with Kris [Allen]," she says. "He can call me up any time. It'll be us and our guitars!"