Kristin Chenoweth’s “For The Girls” album has plenty of familiar names, but they’re a little unexpected. The Tony Award winner is collaborating with pop superstar Ariana Grande, country legends Dolly Parton and Reba McEntire, and Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson, and Chenoweth told International Business Times that she handpicked these women.

“I don't very often ask people that I'm friends with, that I admire so much, to do a project, because I never want them to feel like they have to say yes,” Chenoweth told IBT in a phone interview earlier this month. “But on this particular record, I thought, ‘How can I not ask my favorite artists, who happen to be my friends?’”

The lineup is ideal for an album covering classic songs originally sung by females. Chenoweth has three tracks featuring four of her famous friends.

“Reba is just always the same. She’s always killer. She’s always been since she first hit it,” the actress said. “Jennifer Hudson has one of the best voices, as far as I’m concerned, in pop music and gospel and musical theater. The girl can do it all. And then, you have Ariana, who’s like my little baby. I’ve known her since she was a kid. And then, of course, Dolly, who is … probably my favorite entertainer, singer-entertainer there is. ... I'm still in shock if you can't tell.”

As for the songs they sing, some choices are more surprising than others. Grande teamed up with Chenoweth for a cover of Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me,” and the entertainment veteran put a lot of thought into the choice.

“Ariana came right to my mind because I think there’s some misconception [because] we’re both very petite…that we're not taken seriously, or we don't have an opinion, or we're little. You know what I mean? And I thought, two little, powerful ladies doing it, and I dug it.”

Kristin Chenoweth Ariana Grande
Kristin Chenoweth (left) and Ariana Grande attend the press junket for NBC's 'Hairspray Live!' on Nov. 16, 2016 in Universal City, California. Emma McIntyre/Getty Images

For “I’m A Woman,” Chenoweth went with the unexpected pairing of Jennifer Hudson and Reba McEntire. The Emmy winner said Dolly Parton’s Trio with Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt inspired her. “It’s probably my favorite thing to do, is work with people who you wouldn’t say, ‘Oh, let’s put them together,’ but then, it works,” she said.

“I'm always going to pay homage to the original artist, which in this case is Peggy Lee, and I thought it would be cool to have Jennifer Hudson, who’s just a queen, and Reba, who is a queen, and me,” she explained. “We’re all extremely different. And when I thought about what Dolly did, I thought, ‘Don’t be scared, just do it. It’s music.’ And they liked the idea, too. That’s what I mean. Women inspire women.”

She hadn’t picked out “I Will Always Love You” to sing with Dolly Parton, though. “I had another suggestion in mind for that song, for a song for us, and she got back to me and said, ‘I want to do one I actually wrote.’ And I thought, ‘No, is she going to give ‘I Will Always Love You’ to us? Is she going to give it?’ And she did, and I about just died. I just couldn't believe it. I'm so grateful. I'm so, so grateful for that experience,” Chenoweth said.

An Oklahoma native, Chenoweth grew up listening to and singing Dolly Parton songs, but she knew that she’d have to get over any intimidation in order to do the song. “When she said yes, I did do the ugly cry. I did cry. And then, I kind of put on my hat and said, ‘How is this you, Kristin? How do you want to relate to this? How do you want to sing it with paying tribute to her, but making it your own?’ God, when I got that track back with us on it together, I videoed her, and I was just crying. Again, crying, saying, ‘Thank you so much for that.’”

As for the other tracks, Chenoweth says it was a long process to narrow her options down to just 12 songs. It wasn't until she cut the list down to what she really wanted that she realized she had a female-driven album.

“I didn’t really start out going, ‘I want to make a girl power record.’ I just kind of wrote down songs that I was wanting to sing. And when I looked at the list, I was like, ‘All of these are women that I admire and I want to pay homage to.’ We started recording, and I said, ‘This is a total girl power record,’ I said to [producer] Steve Tyrell.”

It wasn’t long until Chenoweth had her album title. “He started saying to me, ‘You should call it For The Girls,’ and I went, ‘You’re right. This is for the girls. It’s for the girls, by the girls, to the girls, about the girls. All these girls, women, shall I say, that inspire me so and that I hope to inspire my younger fans, as well, with it.’ So, that’s kind of how it came about. It is timely, of course,” she noted. “But it wasn't that I just started out to do it like that. It was a happy accident.”

Kristin Chenoweth’s “For The Girls” is available from Concord Records at all major music retailers.

Kristin Chenoweth music
Kristin Chenoweth's "For The Girls" album released Sept. 27. Gian Andrea de Stefano