All Grown Up And Everywhere To Go
Tiffany Is On The Comeback Trail and Headed Straight To The White Party!
Getting a hold of Tiffany was no easy feat. Between her new tour, which recently kicked off in New York City, and returning to California to perform for two of the many White Party events on April 14 and 15, this girl is as busy as she was back in the fall of 1987, when radio stations were playing her #1 smash hit “I Think We’re Alone Now.” That smash hit was the first of four singles to be released from her #1 self-titled debut album that landed on the Billboard charts before her 16th birthday. Tiffany, on MCA Records, also went five times platinum that very same year. The ballad “Could’ve Been,” the second single to reach #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, was followed by the Top 10 hit “I Saw Him Standing There.” Tiffany was also known as the artist to knock Michael Jackson’s Bad from the top of the charts. Following the success of her follow-up platinum album, Hold An Old Friend’s Hand, Tiffany seemed to be everywhere, including her infamous mall tours and the cover of practically every high-profile magazine, and her TV performances were plentiful, most notably Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. Yes, Tiffany was everywhere, including the tabloids. It seemed the rags had a field day “inventing” everything from her competition with her then “rival” Debbie Gibson, who she had actually never met at that time, to her real-life troubles with her mother over the handling of her finances. After the early 90’s, too many tabloids, a manager who was “busy being a businessman,” a marriage, a son, and her struggles to understand an industry that was as foreign as the cars she could afford, Tiffany seemed to disappear as fast as she arrived. Only her absence was one that was chosen, not one that escaped her. Fast forward to 2000, Tiffany wrote and recorded the album The Color of Silence, which was claimed as “One of the finest pop albums of 2000” by Billboard. This past year, Tiff, as her friends and fans call her, decided it was time for an all-out party album. The first album of its kind to be recorded by the pop star is titled Dust Off and Dance, and the first single to catch club DJ’s ears is “Be With U Tonight.” In this extremely in-depth interview, Tiffany answers all of the above allegations, questions, all of the rumors and sets the record straight on her love and deep devotion to her fans, most notably, her supportive gay fans. Let it be noted that Tiffany was still recovering from the flu when she granted this interview, so on a personal note, I appreciate all of the apologies for the coughing and sneezing although none were needed. My awe and admiration for her talent had always been there. It’s nice that I can now admire the woman she is today, and the beauty she possesses inside as well as outside.
What was it like to be 16 years old and have a #1 album and two consecutive #1 singles?
Well, it really wasn’t overwhelming I kind of just rolled with the punches. It was really more the fact that people liked me, I was realizing my dreams and I was getting to go all over the world. The first year of my career was a lot of upkeep on the road, but it was always an adventure exciting and fun. I think by the time I turned 18 or 19 is when it started to catch up with me and I started to realize that I had lost a lot of childhood friends, I didn’t date very much, music was changing and I had a lot of problems with my management. Also, I don’t think I had all the answers that were expected of me at that time.
Weren’t you on Star Search when you were a pre-teen?
Yes. I lost Star Search but I started singing country music when I was nine and touring with people like Hoyt Axton and Mickey Gilley. I opened for most of the people, but actually toured with Hoyt Axton and he was amazing. Hoyt saw me at the Palamino Club in Glendale, California, and basically took me under his wing. I was in all of these clubs at such a young age, I wasn’t even allowed to hang out. I was ushered in and out of the back doors of these clubs for talent contests. I’d do my one song and have to wait in the car to see if I had won or not (laughing). I just loved to sing and I was really lucky that my family supported me. That’s how I met my manager, George Tobin. Once I recorded “I Think We’re Alone Now” that was my success, that was my selling point, that was the hit. The articles that I would read always said “She’s young and fresh and the songs are good but it has to be the producer behind the scenes making her sound great.” I never really got a chance to enjoy it because I was so stressed out about singing properly and proving that I really could sing! I catered too much to the critics and started putting too much thought into trying to please everybody.
After your first two hugely successful albums, you disappeared. What happened?
I think it was more of the industry, the day-to-day, the record company, the executives, the pressures that are put on you as a pop star, or as a product, difficulties with my management. All of a sudden, I was 18 years old and I had to allow people to control me and it didn’t seem like there was any middle ground. And at that time I didn’t feel like there was anybody that was really looking out for me to say ‘Okay, you don’t know it all, so we’re going to help to educate you.’ Music labels don’t really want to take the time to do that, and they don’t have the time to do that I think that comes with having a good manager. George Tobin was very successful in making me successful, but as far as the maintenance, I don’t know… He’s a businessman, so he really just thought ‘You don’t know what you’re doing and it’s better if I just do it.’ I wanted to feel included and I wanted to learn and no one really wanted to take the time to do that with me.
You were everywhere, including the tabloids. How (at such a young age) did you cope with that?
It was hard. The one thing that bothered me the most was the singing, when people would say “It has to be a producer behind her that’s making her sound that way” that would really fuel my fire to go out there and do better vocals and make sure the people knew that I could really sing. That definitely stressed me out. I knew that I wasn’t going to be perfect every time sometimes you’re tired, sometimes you’re out of breath. But I think as far as my personal life or even the problems with my mom, it bothered me, but I had more of a way of shaking that off. I think the whole emancipation thing was really over my head. I was just seeking to get out of the family situation that had been there since I was a kid. I didn’t want to be around the drama anymore, and that’s really what my plea was. Then, of course, you get into things with attorneys and they want to make it more vicious and more chaotic, going for the throat, and then you put the media on top of that… So a lot of things were said that I felt were very private that I never had any intentions of getting into, but that seemed to come with the territory of being a celebrity. Nothing is off limits.
Were you finally able to resolve things with your mother?
Oh yeah, everything’s fine now. It really took some years of reassessing it all. I think when I became a mom myself, we really had common ground together and it did a lot of healing. We don’t really talk about the whole episode. We agree that our family wasn’t the healthiest at the time the career came to me, and it was a clash of two really crazy worlds I mean the music business is not the healthiest of worlds to begin with.
The world didn’t know about your years as an opening act. They viewed you as an “overnight sensation.”
That’s pretty much the way that it was even though I had been working behind the scenes, had recorded the album, performed live. No one knew my name, and overnight the public adopted the single and just made it bigger than life. It was really the public that loved the song, and then they became curious about me. And then the mall tour obviously pushed it over to immediate success, the single went to #1 it’s a ball that starts to roll, you don’t want to stop it and at the same time it has its force and life of its own. So it was a combination of all those things that made me the “overnight sensation.”
Your “rival” at the time was Debbie Gibson. Was there really a rivalry or was that just tabloid fodder?
There really wasn’t anything, Deborah and I really hadn’t spent any time together. That was all the media possibly labels and management. I understand it now. We were about the same age and we shared the same audience, the same type of music, so it’s competition. As for Deborah and I, we just got tired of having to answer not only for our own lives, but for the other person as well.
I caught you on the hit NBC TV show, Hit Me Baby One More Time, last summer. How did that come about?
I actually did the UK version of that show and it was great! I had the best time of my life doing that show and I think it was perceived differently. I knew doing that show here in America, that we have more of a jaded perspective of those type of things, whereas in England they really do look at people as “Wow, there you are up on stage and I remember that song.” They don’t look at it as “Where are they now?” or that you’ve fallen off your pedestal. They celebrate your success no matter what timeframe it was. In America, the show is really overly corporate, where it wasn’t as free-flowing as it was in the UK, and I think the way it was perceived was looking like we’re trying to get back into “the good graces.” I totally knew that going into it, but I really wanted to do the show because Granada, (the company that put it on in the UK) was involved with the company here, so I had made great friends with them and I really believed in the show. And my fans wanted me to do it, and it’s been awhile since I’d been on TV. Also, the host, Vernon Kay, who is a good friend of mine, was doing the show so I was kind of like “Okay, if Vernon’s doing it then I’ll do it.” It was a really good thing to get me back out in the public. For me, I don’t think the show was as successful here as it was in the UK. I chose to come back to the United States, I married an English guy and we were living over there, so I go where a lot of the work is and I ended up having a lot of club dates here because of the success of the show. After “Hit Me Baby” over there, I was offered my own TV show, I was offered hosting work, it was a totally different thing, but I had already committed myself here and I have a 13 year-old son and I didn’t want to uproot him from his school.
You were a fan favorite on the show. How did it feel to be back in the spotlight again?
I wasn’t so freaked out (laughs) and I’m very critical of myself. Looking back, I was trying to keep up with everybody’s expectations, and now as an adult I realize you’ve got to have a balance. I sometimes have to shut off my phone, I sometimes have to say, “Okay, enough,” and not bring my work to the dinner table. If you’re really pursuing the top-of-the-line career, you have to be as tenacious as you can be. For me, I’ve already done that, so now I’m really seeking to have fun with it, enjoying my career, enjoying my talent, being thankful that I can work and just being thankful for every opportunity that comes along. I’m learning new things. I’m putting out my own albums now and I’m co-producing and songwriting, and I feel that even though it’s on the lower road, the longer road, I’m getting more out of it as a person. Early in my career, everything was taken care of for me and it was very nice, but I didn’t necessarily learn anything from it.
Your 2000 album, The Color of Silence, was critically acclaimed by many news and music publications. Did the title have something to do with your absence?
Not really, but that’s a nice one thank you! I didn’t even think about that. I was thinking more about my life. That whole album was about my growing as a married woman, having problems in my marriage, losing a best friend to cancer, growing through the music industry. I thought of colors as emotions, and I know I definitely went through a few in the last four years leading up to that album. I had never allowed myself to deal with all of that and hadn’t really allowed myself to speak about it much until I got down and started writing songs. I was so afraid to write songs before, and afraid that they weren’t good, that I would write them and throw them away. And I didn’t play an instrument, so I thought, ‘Well nobody’s going to take me seriously.’ I’d go and sit with all of these great songwriters and just be totally in awe of them, and found myself walking away thinking I could never do that. I just doubted myself so much. I decided to get with a team of writers and just go for it. I just wrote from my heart and I had a lot to say. That’s kind of where we took it, and I started writing songs and I just found it so easy to pour out my heart. Now I look at my songwriting as therapy for myself.
The press was making comparisons of your work on The Color of Silence to Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill. What did you think of that?
That was an honor. I’m a big Alanis Morissette fan. Alanis was one of the few female songwriters that could write about angry emotions or write about tongue-in-cheek, just being a little bit more aggressive, but yet not so angry that you’re turned off by it. She writes about things that people can really relate to. I thought my music was strong, but again, I’m a lyricist, so to have the lyrics critiqued and feel that stand on their own and that they apply to normal everyday life was important. A lot of my fans have come up to me and people who weren’t fans who became fans because of that album. They would say things like “Oh My God, that song, I could totally relate,” and that’s my validation as a writer.
What type of expectations do you have about performing at the White Party?
I try not to put those type of expectations on myself. I just want to sound great, and if there’s anything to expect, I know the fans will be there and I know that everybody there will be in a great mood to have a good time. I think that they’ll receive the new music well. I’m taking dancers with me and we’re just going to put on a really great show. It’s going to be hi-energy and lots of fun.
You’re performing the night before at a benefit for Gay & Lesbian Elder Housing. Will that be a completely different set?
That will be a totally different set. At the White Party I’m doing an all hi-energy dance set, and the night before I’m going to do more “old school,” a lot of the ballads, more of an intimate evening set.
Speaking of new material, your new CD Dust Off and Dance is great. What prompted you to record an all dance-oriented album?
I’ve been asked to do this for many years and I just wasn’t ready for it. I really didn’t feel like doing a dance album for a long time. I thought, again, that would put me into a corner where I wouldn’t really be able to grow. I was in England doing shows with “I Think We’re Alone Now” and I’d been asked to come there, and I think that song has its own life again! I love England but I wasn’t sure if I believed all of the hype about it. And it was true, I had thirty-five hundred screaming University kids knowing who I am and knowing the song, and I had Radio 1 playing it I was just feeling really good about it. After the shows, I’d be with my girlfriend, who also does my make-up, and we would just hang out at these clubs and parties, and to my amazement they would play so much old 80’s stuff, and it kind of rekindled the feelings of when I was 18 and 19. And at that time, I was going through a divorce, so when I came back to America, I thought, ‘I would really like to do an album that represented that, just fun, the way I felt back on the dancefloor in England at seven in the morning, not caring about my make-up, not caring about being Tiffany, just a girl having fun. At that time, I had also met my husband Benn, and then I had that whirlwind of having that new spark of new love in my life, and yet still, I was going through a divorce, I wasn’t ready to surrender. Dating is cool, I like the way I felt with him but I also liked my independence and I’m not so sure about all of this, and that’s a lot of the lyrics on Dust Off the Dance. It’s very tongue-in-cheek and I like the thought of love, but I’m cool where I’m at, too. I think this new CD represents a lot of that.
“Be With U Tonight” is a great dance single. What other songs will you be releasing from the album?
I probably won’t be releasing anything as “official” singles. Me being my own label, I’m funding this whole project myself, so it would be easier to take the album to the UK, where there is still independent radio, and people can go, ‘Oh, I love this single.’ Here in America, it’s all corporate and you really have to have the big bucks to be able to pull that off. I just don’t want to lose the security of my house (laughing) for a roll of the dice in the music industry. As long as the music can get into the hands of the fans, through itunes and through my website, it’s okay. The people who follow my career are great. They allow me to take these little musical journeys and they support me and I’m so thankful for that. They come out to the shows, I sell the product there and we just have that kind of one-on-one relationship again. I love the place that I’m at now as an entertainer, it is almost again like the mall tour it’s that intimate. I get to see people again and spend time with them. I hear their stories, I’m not in a rush, there’s no jet waiting for me and I’m really enjoying it.
Were you aware that you’ve had a large gay fanbase ever since you first hit it big? If so, how does that make you feel?
I know that I do now, but I didn’t know from the beginning. I knew that I had little girls that wanted to know where I got my hoop earrings and the things I wore in my hair.
It’s definitely a compliment, and to be honest, I’m very thankful for my gay fans because I also have a lot of gay friends and they have amazing taste. To be in good company with people like Madonna and Barbra Streisand, who are the so-called “divas” that is great company to be a part of and to be associated with. I’m also thankful that a gay audience is very honest, brutally honest (laughing), and most of the time they’re right. They’re also very supportive, and again as a songwriter, I write from a woman’s perspective of being in a relationship, and I think that it’s great that kids, gay guys, people can look at the lyrics and just see the heart in it. They don’t really pigeon-hole it. It’s real, it’s sincere and it’s raw emotion, and I think that’s what people are. I’m just so grateful that gay audiences embrace my music.
Do you have any touring plans following the White Party events? If so, where are you headed?
I do! I start out on tour the first part of May and you can go to TiffanyMusicSite.com and find all the links there. But I’m also going to New Mexico, Ohio, Tennessee, Rhode Island, I’m going all over. I’m going to enjoy myself. I think it will also allow me some time to start writing again. I won’t release a new album this year, but I’m feeling the urge to write some new material. There’s a lot of downtime on a bus and I’ll be able to get my creative juices flowing again.
© 2006 Steven M. Housman. All Rights Reserved.