As someone who gets to club-hop in various exotic locales, what are you hearing that's lighting up your ears?
The electro scene is all over the clubs now: groups like Duck Sauce, Empire of the Sun, even MGMT. But I get inspiration from everywhere. I'll go to the gym and put on old albums-Guns 'N Roses or old Jay-Z.
When you're listening to old rock records, are you paying particularly close attention to the way those guys sang?
Definitely. There are so many different people that I've emulated vocally. In the rock world-Sebastian Bach, Vince Neil, Freddie Mercury, Robert Plant. They all had amazing vocal talent. And as far as female vocalists, I love Heart, Joan Jett, Courtney Love, Laura Branigan, Linda Ronstadt, Barbra Streisand-or going back to when I was a child-Aileen Quinn, the original Annie. I have so many different influences, and if you listen, you can hear all of them throughout my songs. I like to use different parts of my voice, and I don't limit myself.
I thought I caught a strong Debbie Harry vibe on the new song "Fashion Beats."
Definitely, that was intentional. She's one of my idols. She was at the cusp of hip-hop, singing with Fab 5 Freddy, but you know she has her rocker roots. I love to pay homage to people in songs because these are the people that helped me become who I am.
How has your voice evolved during the last five to 10 years?
I stopped trying to make it perfect. I went though a phase when I was in the group Wild Orchid where it was all about having the perfect rips, and I let go of that because it was restricting. It's interesting for me now to hear things that aren't perfect, that add character. Some of those Mary J. Blige albums aren't perfect technically, but she's feeling it, and because she's feeling it, you're feeling it.
Has Auto-Tune changed the way you approach your vocals?
Auto-Tune is fun, don't get me wrong. It adds different elements to a song. But I don't like it to be used on my voice all the time, and Will knows this, because it takes me out of the equation. Of course, we've used it a lot. It's of the time. It's fun to play with. But it's important for me to be able to hear me on the record as well.
Looking way back, when was the first point you thought you wanted to be a performer?
As long as I can remember. It sounds cliché, but it's true. I knew what I wanted to do at age 5.
Were you the kid who was always putting on shows at home for your family and friends?
Definitely. Always hyperactive, always dancing and singing. My mom would have to quiet me down in church. My parents are teachers, but they're big music lovers, and they exposed me to things at a very young age. My mom would take me to musicals on our mother-daughter dates. She also took me to the Madonna Like a Virgin tour.
Really? How old were you?
I think I was 10. My dad took me to Tina Turner. And now I'm crawling around the floor onstage.
When you started pursuing showbiz parts, leading up to your stint on the children's show "Kids Incorporated," were your parents supportive?
Communication was very open in my family, and they were very good at asking me questions and explaining things to me: "Are you sure you want to do this?" or, "You're not going to be able to go on sleepovers because you're working."
It was very clear to me what I would be giving up and what I would be gaining. My sister was in showbiz when she was a young girl. She did commercials and voice-overs. She's got a great voice, too; she just didn't have the same hunger that I had. The necessity. For me it was necessity.
You were with "Kids Incorporated" for six years, from age 8 to 14. How has being a child actor affected your career?
Well, I've been working for a long time. I was a hardworking child and I'm a hardworking adult. I'm due for a little holiday, damn it.