After a nearly 10-year wait, Ashley Tisdale is back with a new studio album, Symptoms, and a refreshed outlook on life and renewed energy in making music.
But why did it take so long for the singer-actress to return to the music scene in a major way? Her last album, Guilty Pleasure, was released way back in the summer of 2009.
“Honestly when I went into the studio I really wasn’t even thinking about doing a record,” Tisdale tells the Pop Shop Podcast (listen below). “I was like, ‘Let me see if I’m happy with the sound and what we come up with and if I’m inspired.’ I think for the longest time I just haven’t really been inspired in music… I just felt like if I were to do another record it would have to be something that was important to me.”
The nine-song Symptoms album, released on May 3 via Big Noise Music Group, was entirely co-written by Tisdale (a first for her) and chronicles an emotional journey for the artist — through struggles with anxiety, depression and more.
Tisdale recalls when she first started writing the album with her co-writer, Rachel West, and how she plopped down on a couch in the studio in her workout clothes, and West asked her, “What have you been up to?”
“I was like, ‘Oh girl! I have had the craziest journey! I’ve had this thing happen, and that turned into crazy anxiety, and I had a little bit of depression,’ and I was going through everything. She was just like, ‘Whoah!’
“We actually ended up writing ‘Symptoms,’ the song, that first day. The song is really about commitment issues in a relationship and how for me, when I first met my husband I had just been through so much with boyfriends… It was scary because he was so nice to me and so great and it was so natural that I was so scared of it.” (Tisdale married Christopher French in 2014.)
“I had never communicated the things that I personally have been through with anxiety and so for the first time… my fans who know me are getting to really know me for who I am and what I’ve been through. And then people who don’t know me will know where I’m coming from. But I just felt like it’s important for me to speak my truth, I guess.”
“To be honest, out of anything in my career, it is the most authentic thing I’ve ever done.
The sonics of the album have an upbeat vibe, even when Tisdale is singing about something serious like anxiety, lost love or “Voices In My Head.” Was it intentional to keep the music positive and dreamy, while the lyrics may have been more serious?
“Yeah, definitely. (My producer told me) ‘There needs to be a slow song.’ I’m like, ‘No there doesn’t. There doesn’t have to be a slow song. There’s no rules.’
“That was the stuff I used to do back in the day where it’d be like ‘(The album) has to have a ballad.’ (Laughs). To be honest, a lot of artists do speak of these things I’m speaking about, so it’s not like it’s crazy unique. But what’s unique to Symptoms and to me is that … this is the overall subject and every single song is literally a symptom I had experienced.” (Except for “True Romance,” which was inspired by the Quentin Tarantino movie, which is her husband’s favorite film.)
Tisdale continues, “These are the symptoms, but let’s kind of flip it. Let’s not make it about those symptoms. Let’s make it relatable and upbeat and not dwell in those feelings. I feel like the biggest thing for me was just taking the power away from the words anxiety and depression. Just kind of like having fun with it and being like, ‘yeah, so I suffer from this sometimes, and other people suffer from this, but you know what? let’s just celebrate and it, and be like, this is what we have, and it’s ok, and we’re gonna get through it.”
In addition to the interview with Tisdale, the Pop Shoppers discuss big chart news from P!nk, Taylor Swift and AJR, and chat about Shawn Mendes’ new single “If I Can’t Have You.” Plus, in other “If I Can’t Have You” news, Keith and Katie revisit Yvonne Elliman’s 1978 No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 hit “If I Can’t Have You” in the weekly Chart Stat of the Week segment. And if that wasn’t enough, Keith reflects on his backstage video interview with Madonna at the Billboard Music Awards.
The Billboard Pop Shop Podcast is your one-stop shop for all things pop on Billboard‘s weekly charts. You can always count on a lively discussion about the latest pop news, fun chart stats and stories, new music, and guest interviews with music stars and folks from the world of pop. Casual pop fans and chart junkies can hear Billboard‘s senior director of charts Keith Caulfield and deputy editor, digital Katie Atkinson every week on the podcast, which can be streamed on Billboard.com or downloaded in Apple Podcasts or your favorite podcast provider. (Click here to listen to the previous edition of the show on Billboard.com.)