Dear Twelve Year Old Self:
You don’t know me but I know you. See, I am you. The future you. Nice hot pink shorts by the way. They go smashingly with your hot pick socks, white keds, hot pink scrunchie and that hot pink glossy sports bra you wear as a shirt. (Sports bras are much less exciting when you spend all of your time wearing one while shouting at people from a stationary bike in a darkened room. Why would you do that? Good question.) Oh, and don’t worry, I don’t use the word ‘smashingly’ all the time. Just for special breaching the time/space continuum occasions.
You see this occasion is special indeed. I have brought you here to read my interview with one of your very favorite people. Dare I say, your idol. No, not Lily Tomlin. Younger self, I was lucky enough to interview Tiffany. Yes, she’s still got great hair. Not quite as high in the front though. Well, fewer jean jackets, no shopping mall concerts, but she is on tour with your other favorite. No, not Bette Midler. My God, why didn’t anyone know you were queer? Debbie Gibson. No, I don’t still have the Electric Youth perfume poster you climbed into the dumpster behind Walgreen’s to swipe. Yes, she’s still cute as a piano-playing bug, but she goes by Deborah now.
Anyway, Tiffany was lovely and gracious and gabbed about everything from her country-tinged album, “Rose Tattoo,” to whether she regrets posing for Playboy. Crap. No, forget I said that. I don’t care how much you like Gypsy. I don’t care how well things worked out for Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. Look, by the time you’re me, you’ll have a lucrative blogging career. Yes, I know what lucrative means. I was using it in its original sense, from the Latin lucrātīvus, meaning gainful. Fine, once you get here, if my/your lifestyle does not meet your standards, you can pose for Playboy. My God, you’re stubborn. No wonder our mom sent you to all those therapists.
Our Town How is the music industry different from an adult perspective?
Tiffany You know more of the pitfalls; you know the industry is a business. It’s a balance to not get jaded by that. As a young artist, you just go out and play music because you love it. When I got off the road at nineteen, I thought, I’ll give it a couple years and just jump back in, but it’s a very fast paced industry and you have to keep up and continue to put product out and I think I’ve learned all that as an adult. Maybe people told me all that when I was younger but you don’t really get it.
OT We’ve watched artists like Britney Spears publicly falter. How did you avoid that period?
T For myself and Debbie Gibson, that was a big no-no, a career breaker, to be out doing scandalous things—at the time that was not acceptable. Not that it’s okay now, but bad behavior is a little more celebrated. Artists have always gotten into trouble, especially as young teens because you’re living in an adult world. Nobody’s telling you no, you’re making lots of money. But we didn’t have reality TV; paparazzi weren’t what they are now. Every second these kids are bombarded, so you’re gonna see some unflattering things. As a public, we gasp when we see that sort of thing yet we’re hooked to the TV.
OT How has social media changed life for an artist?
T It’s a great time to be an independent artist. Everyday I wake up to some new tool available to me to get the word out about my new record or to network within the industry or get in contact with my fans. I’m not always instantly in the know, but I have lots of friends with their fingers on the pulse and I look to them to educate me. Being an artist used to mean making a record, doing a video, doing some touring-- those were the tools of the trade. Now you can go on Twitter, be accessible through so many different avenues. That’s very exciting, but also kind of demanding. You really have to stay on top of things.
OT Was there ever any truth to the supposed rivalry between you and Debbie Gibson?
T We get a kick out of that. I can definitely say for myself, I never had harsh words with her, I didn’t even know her. We would walk red carpets together, take a few pictures and go our separate ways. We never became friends (and definitely weren’t enemies) until the movie “Mega python vs Gatoroid” brought us together and we developed a friendship for the first time. You’d think we would have collaborated through music, but that’s actually really a challenge. We are two completely different people and I think that’s what this tour is about: celebrating the 80’s through each of our perspectives. I’m much more of a rocker and country at heart, so I’m going to be into Stevie Nicks and Bon Jovi and Guns and Roses and Deborah is your pop girl through and through (with some Broadway thrown in) and she does it beautifully. We never understood the rivalry but it’s probably to be expected, it’s good gossip.
OT Ever regret posing for Playboy?
T Never. I knew it wasn’t for everyone. Some family members were a little put off, but it was my decision and I stand by it. They treated me amazingly. There was a whole personal aspect as well, I was going through a divorce, starting over and dating in my personal life and Playboy came to me at the right time. Professionally, I had “Behind the Music” going on then and I’d just put out an album. I was shocked by the great reviews my new record was getting yet prior success was actually holding me back. I felt held back by my image. I was this mall girl, always fifteen years old. That’s the frustrating part of the industry sometimes. Your true audience doesn’t have a problem with moving on and seeing you in a new light, but sometimes the industry can’t wrap their brain around artistic growth.
OT Your current record is a little bit country. That was a longtime goal, yes?
T It’s been a long journey. I’m thankful for all my success. I loved traveling the world and singing “I think we’re alone now.” But I always saw myself as a country artist. I grew up in a household that played mostly country music. I wanted to blend pop and country, be country with an edge, even at twelve. I was never sure about the longevity of going in a pop dance direction and I think my fear sort of came true; will people know I can really sing? After all these years, it’s great to be in the world of country music amongst my peers and to have to really bring it. In today’s world of pop music, I’m not sure I’d even have a place. The dance/club image gets a little harder as you get older. I also think as a songwriter, I have more to draw from in terms of writing country songs. I write a lot about life, heartbreak, I’m a people watcher. Country music definitely celebrates real life.
OT How long have you written?
T I started writing poetry when I was about twelve but I was afraid to show anybody. I open up my mouth and my voice comes, I don’t have to think about it. But as a songwriter, I was very shy. I knew I wanted to branch out but it took time. Maybe because, being around such great songwriters and having such well written songs like “Could’ve Been” written for me, I thought if it can’t be amazing then I don’t want to show anybody. The first time I came to Nashville to really pursue my career in songwriting was in the early 90s and I definitely struggled. But I kept writing and listening to what other people had to say, was very humble about it, would do a lot of songwriting showcases and just kind of broke down the walls and started to write.
OT Which young pop stars interest you?
T I like Miley Cyrus. Let’s see, there are a lot of really interesting people out there right now. Really over the top performers, at a young age. As an artist I’m intrigued, and having been in the industry a long time, I’m kind of like, where are you going to go next? How is this going to pan out in ten years? I think for country music, Taylor Swift has really opened the doors to a while different demographic. She made country music fun for young people and people who probably wouldn’t have bought a country music record. The thing I love most about her is she is just having fun onstage. You can see it. It hasn’t gotten old for her. She has that personal relationship with her fans. She goes the extra mile. I really admire that.
OT You’ve developed an ardent gay following. How do you feel about that?
T There’s gonna be a lot of boys coming out for this tour. For me as an artist as long as I’m doing the music I love and as long as I’m at my best, I’m happy. I think the gay audience can be, I don’t want to use the word critical, but they really want to see you at your best. I’m grateful for my gay fans because they keep me on my toes.
Tiffany plays The House of Blues August 13th at 7:30 p.m.
A writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum freelances for a number of web sites and print publications. Her debut novel, “Herself When She’s Missing," is forthcoming from Counter Point Press. She is also a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago’s StoryStudio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She's kind of looking forward to it actually.
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