It’s rare for a pop star with 13 years’ worth of success to truly hit her stride in her career’s second decade. But then again, most pop stars aren’t
You’ve been in the business for more than a decade, through a period of dramatic change for the music industry. What lessons have you learned from that time?
I’ll have 18-, 19-year-old artists who just got signed who’ll come to me asking for advice and I don’t know what to tell people anymore-it’s just so different now. There’s no record company budgets or big pop tours or million-dollar videos. People have to just get creative and figure it out.
The music business has changed so much and I credit [weathering] that transition to my manager [Roger Davies] and to hard work. The joke was my first tour opening for ‘N Sync and my 10th tour was opening for Justin [Timberlake]. You have to be humble. I would go and do sold-out arena shows back to back all over Germany, then come and do 800-capacity clubs in Washington, D.C. You don’t ever get done paying your dues.
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You mentioned Roger Davies. How has he helped you?
He is — I can say this factually and not opinion — the best manager in the business. He’s the most respected person I’ve ever met. He has also been in the game for so many years and he still is the guy carrying your bags through the airport. He’s my biggest cheerleader. After every night he’s at the soundboards with me and he’s checking my sound and making sure my outfit fits correctly. He’s just helping me through all of this because he manages people like Sade, Cher, Tina Turner and Joe Cocker-legends who’ve been touring forever. He’s believed in me and he’s kept me going when I didn’t have it in me for myself. He’s a wealth of experience. I find myself wanting to impress him even more.
For “The Truth About Love,” was it a struggle to get back into writing after you had your daughter, or did it come naturally?
I was calling it an experiment until it wasn’t an experiment. I had 40 songs and it worked out. I’m like a faucet — there’s nothing going on in my head when I’m off. I write in a journal and that’s it. But that first day in the studio just opened up the faucet.
The songs talk about all phases of a relationship, but you must be aware that people are going to hear songs like “How Come You’re Not Here” and “The Truth About Love” and assume that you’re having marital problems again.
It’s funny. I wrote “Family Portrait” when I was 21 and my parents divorced when I was 9, so I tend to hold onto things. I’m still exorcising some of those demons. And look, I’m in a relationship that I’ve been in for 10 years and it’s never going to be perfect. Carey always jokes, “You’re always just mad enough at me to write a song.” “Yep. Thanks, baby, you’re my muse.”
In addition to CoverGirl, you’ve got a campaign coming up with Target that includes a deluxe edition of your album and your own commercials. As you were talking with Target, did you discuss its previous donations to anti-gay marriage campaigns? That was something that canceled a deal with Lady Gaga last year given her devotion to her lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender fans.
I actually didn’t know about it. What happened?
Target made campaign donations to several politicians, primarily in Minnesota, that oppose same-sex marriage. Lady Gaga brought attention to it, and the company started putting gay couples in its add and started selling gay-marriage-themed products like wedding cards.
Well, that’s great, then, and shows the power of Lady Gaga. That’s great that she did that. And that’s what forgiveness is about. I’m trying to do that with my family right now. [laughs]
You’ve gone out of your way to ignore most of your first album, “Can’t Take Me Home,” on your greatest-hits set and recent tours — but it had three big singles. How do you see that record’s role in where you are today?
It’s a huge part of where I am now. It’s funny — my best friend, he’s always like, “When are you going to do ‘Hiccup’? Can we get some ‘Most Girls’?” I try so hard to fit them into my shows and they just don’t end up making any sense to me somehow. For this last tour I had this whole salsa number to “There You Go” and it was going to be so beautiful but it just didn’t fit in.
So, you’ve faced your fear of heights…
But I haven’t yet faced my fear of my first record. [laughs]