Demi Lovato was in the midst of a pre-concert prayer last month when her stepfather’s cell phone rang.
It was good news; the 16-year-old Disney singer/actress’ second album, “Here We Go Again,” would debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart. “He looks up and hands me the phone,” Lovato recalls, “and ... what can I say? I was very happy.
“I felt like it was doing real well, just seeing the audience at every show. I’d ask ‘Who’s gonna check out the album?’ and I’d see a sea of hands, so I knew that it was doing well. But I had no idea it would do that well.”
The new album’s start is just another thing that’s going well for Lovato in a career that’s on a rapid ascent — and keeping her abundantly busy as she hops from one project to the next.
Even as she enjoys the success of “Here We Go Again” and her first headlining concert tour, Lovato is gearing up to film “Camp Rock 2,” the sequel to her 2008 Disney Channel movie with the Jonas Brothers. In February, she launched her own Disney Channel series, “Sonny With a Chance,” and she joined close friend Selena Gomez in “Princess Protection Program,” another Disney Channel movie.
It’s a full plate, but Lovato’s not complaining.
“I feel like I’d get so bored if I didn’t have something to do,” says Lovato, who’s generally accompanied by her stepfather or mother on tour and on sets. “Even if I have down time, I’m wanting to do something that’s going to benefit me in some way — like, I had a day off in South America and I was like, ‘OK, let’s go work out! Let’s do something!’
“I hate being lazy. It’s nice, of course; everybody needs time to be lazy. But at the same time, what is being lazy going to accomplish? Nothing.”
And, she adds, a side benefit to all the work is it keeps her out of trouble and, largely, out of the tabloids. Indeed, Lovato has only had minor skirmishes with celebrity notoriety — when she and Gomez were photographed posing provocatively in bikinis and when she acknowledged breaking up this summer with fellow Disney star Miley Cyrus’ older brother Trace, a member of the rock band Metro Station.
“You don’t have to get in trouble to be in Hollywood,” Lovato contends. “It’s sad because so many people nowadays get in trouble because they get caught up in the whirlwind of this whole thing, but it can be done. People can stay out of trouble. I want to be one of them.
“Y’know, I’m a teenager and I am not going to sit here and say that I’m perfect. I’m late on curfew sometimes. I make mistakes, and sometimes I talk back to my parents. But for the most part, when you’re working every single day you don’t have time to get into trouble, nor does it appeal to you.
“When I get off work after 11 hours, the first thing that’s on my mind is, ‘OK, I want to have dinner with my family,’ because I miss them. It’s not like, ‘Let’s go party!’ I’m tired ...”
Family played a significant role in Lovato’s interest in entertainment. Born Demetria Devonne Lovato, the middle of three daughters, in Dallas, her mother, Diana, sang country music and was a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader. Not surprisingly, Lovato — whose parents split up in 1992 with her father moving to New Mexico — is a Cowboys fan, even though she says she hates football.
Her own path into showbiz started with beauty pageants, where she also discovered her love of singing. At age 6, she joined the cast of the children’s show “Barney & Friends” for a two-season run — and, she says, was never traumatized by the big purple dinosaur.
“I loved Barney,” says Lovato, who met Gomez during the auditions, “although no matter how old I get, anybody in a giant animal suit still creeps me out.”
“Barney” proved an effective launch pad for Lovato’s acting career. Opting to be home educated after being bullied by other students at school, she landed roles in “Prison Break” and “Just Jordan.” She wove music into the mix on the Disney mini-series “As the Bell Rings,” which included some of Lovato’s own songs, and “Camp Rock” — in which she played Mitchie Torres, an aspiring singer and romantic interest of Joe Jonas’ character — gave her a high profile on the screen and the film’s soundtrack, including a Top 10 duet with Jonas called “This is Me.”
The Jonas hook-up continued on her 2008 debut album, “Don’t Forget,” which the sibling trio co-produced and co-wrote six songs for, performing on the title track.
“Demi’s an amazing vocalist, and her songs are great,” says Kevin Jonas. She definitely wants to be an artist — she wants to play, she wants to sing, she wants to write. Working with her, we could see that in her. We could see the same kind of passion we have, so it was really cool to work with her.”
“Don’t Forget” debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and has sold nearly 500,000 copies to date. It was a good start, but Lovato — who also contributed songs to a variety of Disney compilations — had other ambitions when she began to work on “Here We Go Again.”
“I think ‘Don’t Forget’ was a lot more Jonas-sounding,” she says. “It had a little more of their feel on it, which was fine for my first album. Those were great songs, and I was very proud of them.
“But this album is more me; it’s more personal, a lot more soulful. Some of the songs aren’t as catchy, maybe, but I put a lot of passion into my music, especially (on) this album.”
The most provocative of her new songs, “For the Love of a Daughter,” wound up not making the final cut, however. Co-written with William Beckett of the modern rock group The Academy Is ... , the song, Lovato says, “is about my relationship with my biological father, which I’ve never really spoken about.” But she and her handlers ultimately decided that it wasn’t something her audience was ready to hear.
“It’s not really a song that parents are going to want to have to explain to their 7-year-old daughters,” Lovato says. “I feel like I’d rather my fans grow up and be a little older before I release that song. Right now, it’s too early.”
Lovato, who acknowledges a taste for heavy metal music, still has plenty to talk about on “Here We Go Again.” She wrote “Stop the World” with Nick Jonas — “He’s a great songwriter. We’ll always write songs together.” — and also worked with John McLaughlin, a personal favorite. And Lovato wrote a couple of songs with John Mayer, although only one, “World of Chances,” made the final album.
“He’s the coolest dude ever,” Lovato gushes. “He’s so awesome. He gave me a lot of really, really great advice, and it felt really nice to be able to talk to somebody that’s going through all the crap that fame brings. It was nice to have a mentoring session like that, and also being able to work with somebody that’s that talented was, like, mind-blowing.”
Lovato has tried to keep the growth curve going on tour as well, covering Aretha Franklin’s “(You Make Me Feel Like a) Natural Woman” amidst the poppier fare from her two albums. She’ll be returning to her acting jobs — “Camp Rock 2” and a second season of “Sonny With a Chance” — but Lovato says she’ll be counting the days until she can concentrate on her music again.
“I prefer music over (acting),” she explains. “When I’m having a bad day, I’m gonna go turn to music. There’s a song constantly running through my head, whereas I don’t have a script running through my head, or a monologue stuck in my head.
“I feel like music is something that’s constant, whereas acting, I can turn it on and turn it off. But music is what’s running through my blood at all times.”
Demi Lovato, David Archuleta and Jordan Pruitt perform at 7 p.m. Tuesday (Aug. 18) at the DTE Energy Music Theatre, Sashabaw Road east of I-75, Independence Township. Tickets are $39.50 and $49.50 pavilion only. Call (248) 377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.
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