OK, she's not whining about it. Demi Lovato is just being, like, matter of fact. The latest tween princess in the Disney empire seldom gets to, um, act her age.
"I'm doing the job of an adult; I work with adults," Lovato, 16, said last week when she had the nation's No. 1 album, "Here We Go Again." That job means: getting up in the morning to sing on "The View," calling music writers old enough to be her father and signing autographs at the mall (she'd rather be shopping, starting at Bath & Body Works, thank you).
The only time Lovato feels 16 is when she's home: "My mom goes, like, 'Go clean your room.'"
Lovato is coming to the Twin Cities for a concert Saturday at Target Center. Of course, she'll spend time meeting fans at the Mall of America (from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday) and autographing her second album, which sold 109,000 copies in its first week, topping releases by Daughtry, Maxwell and tween queen Miley Cyrus.
"I was surprised, for sure," she said of her debut at the top of the charts. "I was, like, freaking out."
Lovato is actually arriving here a day early to make some public service announcements about bullying for Pacer Center, a Minneapolis agency that specializes in children's issues and is launching a new website, TeensAgainstBullying.org, this weekend.
"Giving children and teachers the outlet of finding out what to do if you're bullied is really important to me," she said.
Lovato felt so verbally bullied in seventh grade in a Dallas school that she insisted that her mother home-school her instead. Girls at her school "were really vicious. They would say things and they had, like, a hate petition. It was just ridiculous. I'd rather not talk about it."
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Have you ever tried talking to a 16-year-old? Getting an answer sometimes feels like pulling teeth. At best, they'll give you the verbal equivalent of a text message.
Lovato answers questions in brief bursts as if it's a drill she'd practiced with her Disney groomers. She doesn't need a nanosecond to think about her response. Unless she's thrown a curveball.
If you could be any female singer ever, I asked, who would you want to be?
"I don't know. I've never got asked that question before. I'd have to think about that one," she responded instantly during a recent phone interview from St. Petersburg, Fla.
She dodged another question, on a song about her estranged dad ("For the Love of a Daughter") that she co-wrote with emo-rocker William Beckett of the band Academy Is.
"I'm not allowed to talk about that," she said without elaborating. Lovato did address the song in a New York Times interview, saying it didn't fit the tone of her album.
The Times praised Lovato for having the "alt-Disney aesthetic, simultaneously building the brand and proving its elasticity." In short, the newspaper called her "the most exciting of the company's musical stars."
Even though she has more of a rock edge than most Disney female artists, Lovato is in no hurry to graduate from the tween audience to the mainstream. "It's a matter of the choices that I make," she said. "I want my fans to grow with me and I don't want to scare [them] away with a typical subject in my music that parents are going to have to explain to their children when they don't want to. I'm enjoying my time with the Disney Channel, and I'm not even thinking about mainstream right now."
Like 19-year-old country-pop superstar Taylor Swift, Lovato is adept at voicing what teens are going through. In "Solo," "U Got Nothin' on Me" and "Every Time You Lie" -- all of which she co-wrote -- she tells off her guy. The songs, she says, are based on her own and her friends' experiences.
Lovato makes these songs work by delivering them with a world-weary passion that sounds more mature than your typical teen bubblegum.
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Demetria Lovato describes herself as wise, outgoing, caring, funny and loving.
In 1998, the Dallas native, then 6, began her acting career on "Barney and Friends." In 2007, she joined the Disney family, appearing in the series "As the Bell Rings" (which also featured some of her original songs) and the 2008 movie "Camp Rock" with the Jonas Brothers (three of her songs appeared on the soundtrack CD).
She toured with the Jonases last summer before releasing her first album, "Don't Forget," which sold 89,000 copies in its first week to land at No. 2 on the charts. Then it was back to the Disney Channel for her own series, "Sonny With a Chance," playing a girl from Wisconsin who moves to California to be on a comedy show. ("I know as much as my fellow Texans would know about Wisconsin, which is not much," she said.) In June, she starred in the movie "Princess Protection Program" with Selena Gomez, her best friend since their days on "Barney."
Last month, she released "Here We Go Again," produced mostly by Minneapolis-trained John Fields, who did the last three Jonas Brothers albums. She co-wrote songs with Jon McLaughlin ("he's very talented") and John Mayer ("he was really cool and down-to-earth"), among others.
Lovato started her current tour with 17-year-old "American Idol" runner-up David Archuleta ("he's a really funny dude and he's really polite") in June. After the trek ends, she will begin shooting "Camp Rock 2" with the Jonas Brothers in September.
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Lovato said the toughest part of her job is singing on early-morning talk shows. Otherwise, she rolls with all her responsibilities -- even singing a heavy-metal version of the "Barney" theme ("I love you, you love me") with Jimmy Fallon on his new "Late Night" show.
"It was awesome," she said of the raucous duet.
Would she consider doing the song metal-style in concert?
"No," she said with a chuckle. "Me screaming a Barney song isn't real music."
On tour, Lovato is singing selections from both of her albums as well as "Camp Rock." She also covers "(You Make Me Feel Like) a Natural Woman," the Carole King tune made famous by Aretha Franklin.
"I look up to Aretha Franklin, Christina Aguilera and Kelly Clarkson," Lovato said. "I grew up singing R&B before I even touched rock 'n' roll."
What goes through Lovato's mind onstage?
"I try to give each kid an equal amount of attention," she said of her audience. "I want to thank them with my eyes and with my body movement. It's a matter of making the audience feel loved."
Before Lovato hit the road as a headliner, she studied a DVD of Bruce Springsteen in concert. "He leaves it all on the stage and I figure I've got an hour and a half to do the same thing," she said.
My allotted 15 minutes with Lovato were up, and we managed to never mention Miley Cyrus or the Jonas Brothers by name. But she still hadn't answered that question about which female singer she'd like to change places with. So I asked again.
"You got to give me time. You kept asking me other questions. That's not fair," she pleaded. "I want to be myself. I'd rather take different aspects from different people and, like, combine them [to be] the ultimate icon. That's a dream."
Jon Bream • 612-673-1719