A quick two spins of Hilary Duff’s new album Dignity, and I was ready for a 10-minute phone interview with the 19-year-old starlet in March 2007. It was a dance record. I hate dance music and I’m not a young girl, but I interviewed her once at the Roxy and was impressed with her intelligence and manners, and the lyrics on Dignity were fairly overt.
Hilary seemed to be running around a lot at her house doing stuff while talking to me, but stayed in admirable focus. Looking back, it’s hard to remember all the tabloid drama that was playing out at the time. In a nutshell, Hilary had just split with Joel Madden (her lover since she was 16), who wasted no time hooking up with Nicole Richie and knocking her up. I guess it was a big deal then, but a reminder of how ephemeral this stuff is.
Dignity, by the way, opened at No. 3 on the U.S. pop album charts, lower than her previous efforts. Sales were also weaker. It was her last album as of May 2014.
THIS IS QUITE THE METAMORPHOSIS THAT YOU’VE GONE THROUGH ON THIS RECORD. WHAT WERE THE EMOTIONS GOING THROUGH YOUR MIND WHEN YOU SAT DOWN TO PLAN FOR THIS RECORD?
When I started to make the record, I didn’t really have a specific direction that I knew I wanted to go in, except with the tracks. I knew I wanted it to be like a dance record. But with the lyrics, really, I just sat down and would write on a day that I felt like doing it because I had some time off. I wrote my record with this girl named Kara [DioGuardi], and I’d be like, “I really want to write tonight. I’ve got this thing that I’m thinking about, and I want it to be about this.” Or, “I went out last night and this happened to me, and I want to write a song about this.” It was very, like, specific moments that happened as I was living, and making the record at the same time.
CAN WE SAY THIS IS THE MOST AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL RECORD YOU’VE PUT OUT?
Definitely. And it’s the most honest. It’s the first time that I really wrote it, and really had strong feelings about what I wanted the tracks to sound like and be like. It’s so exciting for me too, to feel confident enough at least to do that, this time around.
IT’S ALL VERY WELL TO SIT DOWN AND WRITE DOWN SOME SENTIMENTS IN A PRIVATE JOURNAL, BUT TO ACTUALLY SHARE YOUR INNERMOST SENSITIVE THOUGHTS WITH THE WORLD—
It’s scary, very scary.
DID YOU HAVE SECOND THOUGHTS ALONG THE WAY, OR ENGAGE IN ANY SELF-CENSORSHIP, WITH REGARD TO THE LYRICAL DIRECTION OF THE RECORD?
Sometimes. I would definitely write something or have a thought and then be like, “Oh my gosh, that’s really honest. Do I really want to say that?” Or, “Do I want this person to know this about me? Or that I’m not perfect?” At first, it was scary and I kinda held back a little bit, and then it was over, and I was completely into it, and wanted to let people know about my life, or what I deal with and that I’m not perfect and I’m just like them, y’know?
I THOUGHT YOU MIGHT HAVE CALLED THE ALBUM SCREW YOU, NICOLE RICHIE, BUT YOU OPTED FOR DIGNITY INSTEAD!
(nervous laugh) Oh my gosh, you know what’s funny, is it’s hurtful to me that so many people think—not “hurtful,” just annoying—that so many people think that I have songs on my record that are about her. There’s a song that I guess People magazine or Us Weekly or something wrote some article that said the song “Gypsy Woman” is about her. It’s absolutely not. My sister [Haylie] and I wrote that song, and it’s about this woman that kinda broke my family apart. It’s much more meaningful than what Nicole Richie means to me, y’know?
IT’S ALMOST GIVING NICOLE RICHIE TOO MUCH CREDIT TO SIT DOWN AND WRITE A CONCEPT RECORD ABOUT HER.
I don’t have anything against her. I broke up with my boyfriend, and I expect him to date other people, and I don’t know her, and I don’t have a problem with her, and I really don’t want her to think that I don’t like her because she’s dating my ex-boyfriend. I’m going to date people too, y’know?
HOW ABOUT “DIGNITY” THE SONG? WHO WAS DIGNITY WRITTEN ABOUT?
Mmm, certain people … It’s kinda like my outlook on the way that some of these talked-about Hollywood people act sometimes, the ones that are always in the magazines, and always doing things, and always getting photographed doing the most scandalous things, and trying to top one another. It’s kinda crazy to me. And it’s not only about people in Hollywood, it’s people that live in L.A., people that aren’t even famous. The way that I see them act is crazy. That’s what “Dignity” is about.
YOU’RE QUITE THE ANTHROPOLOGIST, WALKING AROUND ROBERTSON BLVD., CHECKING OUT THE PEOPLE AND COMING UP WITH THESE INTERESTING ANALYSES.
It’s really not a judgment on them—
I DIDN’T MEAN THAT IN A NEGATIVE WAY—
No, no, no, no, I know that. I just don’t want people to think that I’m hating on them, because I’m really not. But it is how I feel sometimes. I love fashion, I love shopping, but people, it just seems like a lot of them, it’s all they care about. Like having the hottest bag, that makes you the coolest person. Or we should all pay attention to you because you do this or that. It seems a bit superficial and it’s how I felt that day when I sat down and wrote that song, y’know?
AT LEAST YOU HAVE YOUR OWN ACCOMPLISHMENTS AND YOU’RE SPENDING YOUR OWN MONEY—
IF YOU WANT TO SPEND YOUR MONEY ON JIMMY CHOO SHOES, GO AHEAD.
I definitely like Jimmy Choos, y’know? I felt like people were definitely going to think that that song was about Nicole Richie because of Jimmy Choos, and she was in the ads and all that stuff. But it’s not. Sometimes you do things lyrically that work. What am I going to say, ‘You have the hottest shoes. You have those Manohlo Blahniks.’ That doesn’t rhyme. In my song “Danger,” ‘Were you born in ’74?’ He didn’t happen to be that old, but ’74 works better than ’84, you know what I mean?
SO YOU HAVE A WEAKNESS FOR OLDER GUYS? YOU FIND THE OLDER GUY THING ALLURING?
I do. [Her now-estranged husband, Mike Comrie, is a mere seven years her senior.]
WHERE DO YOU DRAW THE LINE? 45? 35? 25?
I hope that they wouldn’t be older than 35. That’s definitely pushing it. You can never say. I’m really not one to judge. I think that everybody is unique, and everybody has different situations in life, and where they are in their life. And if you’re happy, you’re happy, and if someone makes you happy you can’t really deny love. I hope it wouldn’t be that old. If I find someone and I fall in love, I hope he’s not that old.
HOW IS LIFE LIKE BACK IN THE SINGLES ARENA? YOU ALLUDE ON THE RECORD TO BEING MORE IN CONTROL OF YOUR DESTINY, YOU CAN MAKE YOUR OWN DECISIONS AND NOT THINK FOR TWO PEOPLE. DO YOU ENJOY THAT INDEPENDENCE AND FREEDOM?
I do like it. I’m a girl that when I’m in a relationship I’m in the relationship. I like being in a relationship, but at the time for me, it wasn’t really right anymore. If you’re friends with the person that you’re dating, it’s nice to have someone to talk to that knows everything about you and you relate to. After your long day, you can talk to them about whatever you want to talk about, or whatever. But also it’s nice to only owe yourself your energy, y’know? I get to kinda be selfish right now, and go out and have fun with my friends, and not worry about someone being at home waiting on me, or not liking that I’m out. It’s also hard for me, because I’m so tired at the end of the day, sometimes I don’t feel like going out. But the last thing on my mind right now is wanting to be in a relationship.
YOU’RE STILL FRIENDS WITH HIM [JOEL MADDEN]? HAS HE COMMENTED ON THE RECORD?
He heard some of the record before we broke up, but I think he would like it. We’re friends, everything’s fine.
THIS IS THE LAST RECORD YOU WILL MAKE AS A TEENAGER. DO YOU SEE IT AS THE PORTAL INTO THE OLDER HILARY DUFF WHO WILL BE MAKING MORE MATURE RECORDS, MAYBE TAKING MORE MATURE ACTING ROLES?
Yeah, well, I think it is more mature. It’s somewhat of wanting people to see that side of me, and just like a natural progression. I haven’t made a record in three years, so obviously it’s going to be a little bit different. And, in the middle of making the record, I actually did a movie with John Cusack [War, Inc, also starring Marisa Tomei, Ben Kingsley, Joan Cusack and Dan Aykroyd], which was a much more mature role than people are used to seeing me do, where I really got to challenge myself and have fun, and I can’t wait for that to come out and people to see it. [No one saw it.]
THAT’S COOL. WELL, GOOD LUCK WITH THE REST OF YOUR ADULTHOOD, AND WITH THE RECORD.
Ha! Thank you, thank you. I’m sorry it was so rushed.
NOTE: Unrelated to the above interview, my gossipy rock bio Strange Days: The Adventures of a Grumpy Rock ‘n’ Roll Journalist in Los Angeles is available here. For more info, go to strangedaysbook.com
Copyright © 2007, 2014 by Dean Goodman. PLEASE DO NOT CUT AND PASTE THE WHOLE THING