11 Questions With Julianne Hough: The 9513′s Exclusive Interview

Jim Malec | May 19th, 2008

Julianne Hough

Already a household name to the millions of Americans who have watched her compete on one of Television’s most popular shows, ABC’s Dancing With The Stars, Mercury Nashville’s Julianne Hough is one of the most well-known new artists in Nashville.

The two-time Dancing champion, who won with speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno in season four, and then again with race car driver Hélio Castroneves in season five, and who will release her self-titled debut album on Tuesday, recently took some time to answer questions for The 9513 in this exclusive interview, the latest in our series of Q&A’s with the genre’s rising stars.

Jim Malec: One of the things your artist bio makes clear is that becoming a country singer is something that you, “always wanted to do.” But just a few years ago you were studying dance in London. When did you make the decision to focus on country music as your number one priority?

Julianne Hough: I moved back from England because I knew if I stayed in London my whole life would be dancing, and I knew I wanted to be a country singer. So when I was 15 I moved back to the states so I could really pursue that. And the first opportunity that I had to really, you know, actually have a connection to start pursuing it, was at a venue in the states on the Dancing With The Stars: Live tour, when I met my music manager.

Julianne HoughJM: Your path to Nashville–beginning in Utah, then moving along through London and L.A.–isn’t the usual road taken to country music stardom. How has your unique background influenced you and your music?

JH: Being 19, a lot of people don’t think I could’ve experienced too much. But an actual fact, I feel like an old soul. I’ve experienced things that most thirty year-olds haven’t experienced. And I feel like things I’ve gone through in my life will help me with songs, as far as writing, and really being able to tap into songs emotionally and really being able to relate to people.

JM: Tell me about your debut album, which was recently described by the Norfolk Daily News as having a, “Strong organic feel.” Was there a particular sound that you and producer David Malloy were looking for in the studio?

JH: Absolutely. It’s funny that the Norfolk Daily News said the word ‘organic,’ because that’s the word we’ve used this entire time. You know, when you think back at some of the most organic music and great sounding icons, names like Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, you could hear the little imperfections in their voice that gave it character and personality. This whole time I chose songs, I related to them personally, and I didn’t want it to be a machine making this music, I wanted people to connect to that. Some of the best music is Reba McEntire, where she can connect to anybody with one word. That’s what we were kinda hoping for–connecting with the personality and the emotion and the character.

JM: What’s your favorite song on the record, and why?

JH: Oh my gosh, I could not pick one song that I love. Let’s see…”My Hallelujah Song,” really hits home because it talks about, “I can’t believe I finally made it here,” and, “I feel like I’m right where I belong.” And it’s the actual truth, because everybody’s helped me along the way, and I can’t thank them enough. This is really my dream. And everybody has their hallelujah song, whether it be in work or just in life having a family or anything, it’s about you being in the right place right now in your life, and feeling like you’ve worked so hard for it, and finally you’re getting there.

Julianne HoughJM: There’s no doubt that your time on Dancing With The Stars has helped to get the wheels rolling under your music career, but does it ever become a distraction? Is it difficult to convince people to think of you as Julianne The Singer rather than Julianne The Dancer?

JH: When I first decided to do Dancing With The Stars, I was very nervous because I didn’t want to get pigeonholed as just being a dancer. But I knew that the way the music industry is these days, it’s hard to get exposure. And American Idol is so great for that…not even just for the winners, but for the contestants, too. Because of the exposure, they get to have careers as well. And so I thought, you know what, I love to dance, what a great opportunity to get this amazing exposure and hopefully further my singing career along. And regardless of if I had the show or not I would obviously still be pursuing county music because it is my first passion.

JM: You’ve been called, “…one of the very best dancers on the planet” (20/20), and Maxim recently named you one of the ’100 Most Beautiful Women in the World.’ Your first single just broke into the Top 40, and you’re about to embark on a national tour with Braid Paisley and Jewel. All at the age of 19. Is any of this overwhelming?

JH: It’s all overwhelming, are you kidding me? But I have a great family, and a support system where I feel like I can keep my head. It’s funny, with being “sexy”…I don’t think that at all. It’s kinda flattering, but funny at the same time. And then–I just can’t believe I really am here doing this and pursuing everything that I love. And I’m just having a blast with it.

JM: You also recently partnered with MasterCard and Priceless.com to help promote a new online travel service–what’s that program all about?

JH: For me, I’m a big traveler, and anything I can do, or anytime that I can set aside to go on vacation, I’m always thinking about. And me being a MasterCard cardholder, I can go to Priceless.com and receive all the great offers and benefits that they give. And you can go anywhere in the country–hotsopts like Las Vegas and Hawaii and New York, and not only do you get great airfare, but they’ve got things you can do there with going to see shows, and adventures, and stuff like that. So it just seemed like a great fit.

Julianne HoughJM: In an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune, you are quoted as saying that “Everyone knows [you] as a goody-two-shoes.” Would you say that you have a mischievous side?

JH: As far as the goody-two-shoes thing, everybody knows me as the Mormon girl that hasn’t done anything wrong. But, you know, everybody goes through things, and of course, I obviously did. I grew up really fast in London. And I feel like my twenties were actually when I was in my teens. And so I went through things that made me become who I am today, and I’ve made choices that decided in the fact that I do want to be a goody-two-shoes.

JM: What’s the most important thing the world needs to know about Julianne Hough?

JH: Probably just that I’m real, and that what you see is what you get with me. There’s nothing in the way of me meeting a fan and letting them know that I’m grateful for them. I want people to know that I’m just Julianne. I’m not somebody that needs to be put up on a pedestal. I’m just down to earth and real, and I want people to think that they can come and hang out with me and be normal. As much as I want my successful career, it’s not about the fame for the success–it’s all about the passion and the love for the talents I’ve been given.

JM: Is there a song in your head right now?

JH: That song in my head of course! There’s a lot of songs in my head right now–mostly my stuff! And “Wake Up Call,” by Maroon 5.

JM: What is country music?

JH: You can sing about anything in country music. You can be fun. You can have controversial songs. You can have patriotic songs. You can have badonkadonk songs and honky tonk songs. I mean, you can sing about anything–and it’s all about the music. It’s not about the image. It’s not about anything. It’s all about the quality and the pure sound of the music, and how it relates to people and can touch people.

Visit Julianne Hough’s MySpace Page

  1. Matt C.
    May 19, 2008 at 1:49 pm

    I’ve only heard her debut single, but I have concerns about an artist who considers Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin “organic.” Haven’t seen the Norfolk Daily News piece, but organic is one of those words that cross-genre critics like to use when confronted with country music that they don’t really know what to make of.

    I do hope, however, that Julianne’s album is good. She’s a nice girl and I’d like to see her succeed.

  2. Kelly
    May 19, 2008 at 2:01 pm

    I had the same concern myself. She seemed to explain herself a bit as far as her view of “organic”, but i disagree with that view. When i think of an “organic” song or arrangement, I think of something that doesnt have gloss (which her debut single most definitely has a great deal of). Let’s put it this way, I dont think of anyone who was on the awards show last night. I will say however, it was a well-done interview Jim.

  3. Brady Vercher
    May 19, 2008 at 2:02 pm

    Yeah, it’s kind of hard to know what to make of her having only heard the one single that I didn’t particularly care for. A lot of the publicity doesn’t really focus on her music, either.

    Good job on the interview, Jim.

  4. Kelly
    May 19, 2008 at 2:11 pm

    Speaking of Hough’s career, Paisley sure has put together quite the tour hasnt he? Jewel, Hough and Chuck Wicks (you have to REALLY want to see Brad to sit through all that). I guess his people just find some good-lookin’ folks from Country Music related-reality shows and get them on-board. He had Pickler last year, didnt he? She is practically a respected veteran compared to the gals on this years bill (dont say anything about jewel’s pop past, it doesnt count here).

  5. Lucas
    May 19, 2008 at 2:43 pm

    1. She has built-in publicity.
    2. She’s pretty.
    3. Seems nice enough.

    1. She’s pretty. (It can be a con too! There are plenty of good-looking women in country music, Carrie Underwood, Taylor Swift, Jennifer Nettles, Kellie Pickler, need I go on?)
    2. She’s from reality TV.
    3. Haven’t been swept away by a single yet.
    4. If they want her to get publicity, probably isn’t the best idea to mention she lived outside the US when she’s a country singer, unless she had double residency with Canada.

    Points That Really Have No Value to Them…
    1. I hate the term “old soul” with a passion, I don’t know why, I just do! Actually, I do know why…
    2. Pitching Mastercard, but in all fairness she was asked about it – I’m not sure why that question was relevant.
    3. Bob Marley is organic, Julianne Hough is not.
    4. Don’t compare yourself to the greats no matter how popular you are. Don’t compare yourself to Reba! Garth won’t even let people compare him to Strait unless he’s saying he copied him.
    5. I can always find more negatives about a new artist because I protect country music like it’s the holy grail.

  6. Jarheaddad
    May 19, 2008 at 2:48 pm

    Nice interview Malec. Well done. I like that you gave her an open door to walk through with your “What is country music?” question. Classy question right there. How’d you like the answer?

    I’m willing to give her a chance. I caught a bit of that good ol’ twang in her single and I’ll not pass judgement until I’ve heard her CD. Seems like a good kid and that says a lot. If she re-mixes to try and crossover then she’s toast with me but I have a sneaking suspicion she won’t based on what she says about always wanting to sing country. We’ll see!

    Goody two shoes? Heh! Regardless of what folks might think of the music we sure are getting some really nice young ladies showing up in country music lately. The opposite of pop role models. But then they have a tough row to hoe ’cause the traditionalists won’t like them if they didn’t grow up in bars, swear, chew, spit, scratch, and fight! You know, the whole “paying your dues” thing. :-o

  7. Chris N.
    May 19, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    She’s pretty? Hadn’t noticed.

  8. Funk
    May 19, 2008 at 2:58 pm

    She’s not pretty, “She’s a hottie!”

  9. jacob
    May 19, 2008 at 3:10 pm

    matt, after all your comments from the acm awards, do you think she’s nice just because she’s pretty?

  10. Lucas
    May 19, 2008 at 3:10 pm

    She’s not pretty, “She’s a hottie!”
    Oh boy, I’m not even goign to touch that one. Clever beyond words!

    Seems like a good kid and that says a lot. If she re-mixes to try and crossover then she’s toast with me but I have a sneaking suspicion she won’t based on what she says about always wanting to sing country. We’ll see!

    Regardless of what folks might think of the music we sure are getting some really nice young ladies showing up in country music lately.
    Very true.

    She’s pretty? Hadn’t noticed.
    Sarcasm is the spice of life my friend, the spice of life. Ha.

  11. Rick
    May 19, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    Julianne is darn near a “perfect” new artist for todays’ mainstream country scene, kind of like if the guys in “Weird Science” had fed country radio demographic and preference data into their computer. The sizzling hot carers of Carrie and Taylor have laid down the red carpet for a beautiful blonde TV celebrity with a nice voice to move quickly to the top. The quality of her music is almost secondary what with the fan base she has developed on “Dancing”, many of who will buy her debut CD just because she is “their Julianne”.

    The goody two shoes, squeaky clean Mormon image will also play well with Soccer Mom’s who love Taylor Swift as a morally responsible role model for their young daughters, an area where Miley Cyrus has completely fallen from grace recently.

    The first time I heard Julianne’s single I just knew it was her because it was just so peppy and happy and slick (and shallow and mediocre and boring) like so much other successful mainstream country these days. It would be nice if Julianne tried songwriting so we could catch a glimpse into that “old soul” of hers. I think this debut single will be a hit and Julianne will become an instant country star, for at least as long as she keeps appearing on “Dancing With The Stars” anyway…

  12. Lucas
    May 19, 2008 at 4:57 pm

    Don’t realease that “Jimmy Ray McGee” song, way too sterotypical of a name for a country song.

  13. Matt B.
    May 19, 2008 at 5:35 pm

    The records not bad and she often recalls a young Faith Hill. Make of that what you will.

  14. ALIAS
    May 19, 2008 at 8:01 pm

    She is an amazing multi-talented young lady. I wish her all the best in her new career.

  15. Rick
    May 19, 2008 at 8:17 pm

    “ALIAS: May 19, 2008 at 8:01 pm
    She is an amazing multi-talented young lady. I wish her all the best in her new career.”

    Now what are the odds ALIAS is a huge fan of Julianne’s from watching her on “Dancing With The Stars”? The real question is how many of those fans will pay for Julianne’s music? Hmmm……..

  16. ALIAS
    May 19, 2008 at 8:29 pm

    Now what are the odds ALIAS is a huge fan of Julianne’s from watching her on “Dancing With The Stars”? The real question is how many of those fans will pay for Julianne’s music? Hmmm

  17. Lynn
    May 19, 2008 at 8:35 pm

    Rick – To answer your question, I’m a fan of Julianne from Dancing with the Stars, but based on her first single, I won’t be touching her album. I hope she continues dancing though…

  18. Leeann
    May 19, 2008 at 8:54 pm

    I, too, was somewhat put off by her definition of “organic.” Like has already been covered, I would not call her first single organic in any way. Likewise, Sanatra is great, but he’s not who I think of when I’m thinking of organic music. Furthermore, I don’t know that I’d be impressed if her country music was too heavily influenced by her definition of organic. She seems like a nice girl, but her song seems very genaric is and is not a song that stays in my head.

  19. freewayradio guy
    May 19, 2008 at 9:23 pm

    Yes, her single seems pretty much like highly produced Nashville more than “organic” if you ask me. It’s a nice song though. And she certainly has a big head start. People already know who she is and exactly what she looks like. And she does look great! None of that hurts for a new music career. She may not be the greatest singer ever or all that unique, but she can sing. Not much of a gamble for her label, is it?!

  20. Paul W Dennis
    May 19, 2008 at 9:26 pm

    Too soon to judge but she is naive

    Organic = Robert Johnson, Howling Wolf, Bill Monroe, Earl Scruggs, Bradley Kincaid, Karl & Harty, Bessie Smith, Louis Armstrong. I love Sinatra and Dean Martin but organic ??? Never !!

  21. Thomas
    May 20, 2008 at 10:01 am

    if cmt/music row ever intended to come up with a competition to “desperate housewives” julianne hough would fill the last opening in the cast:

    hough – the dancer
    underwood – the diva to be
    swift – the lolita
    lambert – the crazy ex-girlfriend
    nettles – the affair
    pickler – the red-heeled bombshell
    shepherd – the down-to-earth housewife

    rarely, has female country music sounded more promising, especially when you add the established, excellent non-blondes to that group, too.

  22. Funk
    May 20, 2008 at 10:50 am

    I really don’t get all this cattiness about Jennifer Nettles. Yes, she’s pretty and fashionable but she’s also friendly to fans (and everyone else it seems) and approachable. Why can’t a talented pretty woman be just that? “The Affair?” She’s a homewrecker?

    I think she shows a lot of personality in Sugarland’s new video. Yes, she’s in a bikini the whole time but she’s on the beach, it’s appropriate. It would be strange if she didn’t wear something else. What I find coolest about her is that she allowed herself to be filmed that way even though she doesn’t have rock hard abs (although good), a tiny butt (again, plenty nice) and Dolly-sized enhancements (I like a more athletic look.) She’s sexy that way. Like Martina, Nettles is a gorgeous woman but mostly because she’s nice, She takes care of herself, she’s fashionable and she’s hella-talented. She’s not a magazine cover, she’s real. I think women should respect that and men love it for what it is.

  23. Kelly
    May 20, 2008 at 10:58 am

    Calm down Funk, I think its safe to assume that the commenter was referring to the song “stay”. He also called miranda the “crazy ex-girlfriend”, and hough the “dancer”. Its not like these are overly abstract “roles” he is suggesting….

  24. Funk
    May 20, 2008 at 11:10 am

    That post just provided a launching pad. I’m not attacking the poster. I see it all over the place. It seems today in country music, every woman has to be a certain type.

  25. Kelly
    May 20, 2008 at 12:06 pm

    but dont you think that has more to do with the parties responsible for marketing the star and maybe the press? Fans are left to read and assume a lot when it comes to the personal lives of the stars. How many times have we read about Miranda’s gun, or P.I. parents? We dont hear a lot about the “girly” things she did as a teenager. Any fan acting as though they “know” a star (good or bad) are only responding to what the labels and the media want us to know about them. Also, roles are assigned to the male acts that people actually give a crap about too, it isnt exclusive to women. Chesney is the “Jimmy Buffett-type guy”, Urban is the “hunky, but sensitive guitar guy”, Paisley is the “funny video guy”, etc.. Alan Jackson and George Strait are well-respected veterans without much cliched labeling involved. So are Trisha Yearwood and Martina McBride. There arent people out there adressing them by gender based “roles”. I think you are painting a very broad stroke in claiming that “todays country music” is assigning types, when “todays country music” covers a lot of ground that has nothing to do with labeling.

  26. mikeky
    May 21, 2008 at 8:38 am

    her answers sounded like something you’d say in a job interview. blech.

  27. Aaron
    May 26, 2008 at 1:03 pm

    She’s another kellie pickler

  28. Jeremy Potts
    May 29, 2008 at 12:12 am

    Is that a good or a bad thing Aaron?

  29. Abby
    May 29, 2008 at 6:18 pm

    “it’s all about the music. It’s not about the image. It’s not about anything. It’s all about the quality and the pure sound of the music”


    Country music these days is ALL about the image. The music is, in many cases, secondary to a marketable personality. You know – Christian, patriotic, possessing seemingly “wholesome” conservative values…and of course, being good-looking (or at least hidden under enough hair extensions, makeup and trendy clothing to be convincingly “hot.”)

    I hate when artists make comments about how country is “all about the music.” That is such a blatant load of crap.

  30. Kimberly
    May 31, 2008 at 12:17 pm

    Even though Julianne Hough is my 2nd cousin once removed on her mothers side, I’m still amazed how talented this young lady is; I know this is a biased response, but hey, she’s family.

    Not only can she dance, she also has an amazing voice. I know that music and dance run in the family, so it’s not at all suprising that she is multi-talented in both these genre’s.

  31. Brooke
    June 2, 2008 at 1:22 pm

    Julianne Hough is an amazing person. She can sing and dance! She has also said she wants to act, and from what I’ve seen on Dancing With the Stars, she will have no problem with that dream either!! I love this girl! You can tell she is REAL, and she is a great role model. If I were a little kid, I would definitely look up to her! I even look up to her as a 16 year old. I truly believe she can do anything she wants. I just hate written interviews because when you read an interview you could possibly take something that is said as something that wasn’t meant at all. With actual video interviews you can see the person’s emotions, and it’s easier to interpret what they really mean. When she was talking about Reba, I don’t think she was actually comparing herself to Reba but was actually just using Reba as an example because of how well known she is.

  32. Courtney Elise
    June 11, 2008 at 2:33 pm

    i have wake up call by maroon 5 stuck in my head too! :) well, as much as i loved her on dancing with the stars, the girl just can’t sing. she seems nice and all, but her songs are just not good! she’s sweet, she’s pretty, she’s a great dancer, but she’s NOT an artist.

  33. Funk
    June 12, 2008 at 2:18 pm

    I’m pretty sure Rick isn’t going to approve of Julianne’s “Shape” cover, http://bittenandbound.com/2008/05/21/julianne-hough-hot-shape-magazine-cover-girl-july-2008/ , and certainly not ‘Cosmo/girl.’ (Sorry, no link for that one.)

  34. Lois
    June 27, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    I saw her a couple of time in concert with Brad over the past few weeks and I thought she was great! She was very sincere and her voice was powerful and clear. If you weren’t crazy about “Song in My Head”, give her another chance and listen to “My Hallelujah Song”. It’s a beautiful one and she sings it with a lot of heart. I definitely enjoyed it :-)

  35. ARTHUR
    December 5, 2008 at 11:09 am


  36. Chris N.
    December 5, 2008 at 11:32 am

    I often suffer the web myself.

  37. TAYERS
    December 5, 2008 at 11:43 am

    i just snortled.

  38. Kelly
    December 5, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    I wonder if Arthur’s restraining order that JH has gainst him is in the albums with all the pics?


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