Two-time “Dancing With the Stars” champion Julianne Hough endeared herself to ABC viewers by leading speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno, open-wheel driver Helio Castroneves and comedian Adam Carolla on the floor.
But it turns out she's got a voice to go with those fancy feet: In May, she released her self-titled debut CD, which soared to the top of the country album charts.
Hough, who opens for Brad Paisley on Friday and turns 20 on Sunday, spoke to the Observer recently from Michigan about her multiple talents.
Q. Did your time on the road with the “Dancing With the Stars” tour prepare you for this?
I think so. I'm used to the tour bus and venues. … I love to dance, but the music is where my heart is. I can express that more through words and being on stage and being able to interact with the audience.
Q. Should we expect dancing during your set?
I move around. I can't stand still when music comes on.
Q. What was your vision for this album?
I told my producer and the label that I didn't want to sing anything I personally can't relate to. I want people to know this is who I am, but to see a different side of me. Also, I have a lot of younger fans. I want to be a good role model for them. Like (the song) “Jimmy Ray McGee” talks about peer pressure, and (that) it's OK to say no. … Everything (on the album) is about strengthening who you are.
Q. Did the country stars who appeared on “DWTS” offer you advice?
Billy Ray Cyrus. Dolly Parton was a guest performer. Both of them said, “Be as real as you can. Stay who you are. Keep progressing.” It's great advice, because it's tempting to change while you're out here with all these amazing things that happen, and all the perks. It's important to be just normal and real.
Q. Do you have roots in Nashville?
I have a sister that lives there. She's been there for nine years. She's also a songwriter. She wrote “Dreaming Under the Same Moon” on the album, which my brother (Derek) sings on with me.
Q. Is he pursuing music, too?
Him and Mark Ballas from the show have been in a band (Almost Amy) for seven years. They're meeting with record labels.
Q. What are your thoughts on hitting No. 1?
I had no idea what to expect being a new artist. It comes down to how amazing my fans are from “Dancing With the Stars” that followed my career. I didn't expect that.
Q. What is your status with “DWTS”?
I'll go back next season. I'm on contract for a couple more years. (After that) I kind of want to move on and really progress in music. That's really where my heart is. I want to be known as a singer that can dance, not a dancer that can sing.