JULIANNE HOUGH FEATURE -Arizona Daily Star
As a dancer, Julianne Hough studied five years in London before becoming the youngest ever — and the first American — to win Junior World Latin Champion and International Latin Youth Champion at the 2002 Blackpool Dance Festival in England.
She went on to stardom in the American version of the popular "Dancing With the Stars" TV competition, winning it twice.
As a country singer, Hough snagged both the 2009 Top New Artist and Top New Female Vocalist awards from the Academy of Country Music. She has spent most of the past year on the road, opening for Brad Paisley and George Strait in addition to festival and solo appearances, promoting her year-old eponymous debut album.
As an actress, she is set to star in the anticipated remake of "Footloose," which will co-star Chace Crawford of "Gossip Girl" fame and be directed by Kenny Ortega ("High School Musical"). Filming should begin next spring.
So what is she: Dancer? Country singer? Actress?
"I'm an entertainer," Hough — pronounced "huff" — says without hesitation. "I love to dance. I love to sing. I want to act. All around to entertain."
We caught up with Hough, 21, last week at a concert stop in Delaware to chat about her show Saturday at Desert Diamond Casino.
You're still on the road with George Strait. Have you spent any alone time with him, picking his brain?
"We see him going from his bus to the stage and from the stage to his bus. Actually Chuck (Wicks, her boyfriend) was out, and he was like, 'So do you see George often?' And I basically said no, I don't really see him. Right after I got finished saying that, we see George in catering and we ended up talking for 30 minutes."
What have you learned from being out with him?
"I think the biggest thing I've learned, even from the Brad Paisley tour (summer 2008), is just how they are both so great to every single person they work with. With George, it's a testament if you look at the people who have worked with him for 34 years, from the beginning. They are very, very loyal. Somebody's not going to be loyal if they aren't loyal in return."
The last young, blond singer to open for Strait was Taylor Swift. We all know what happened after that. Are you hoping for a similar fairy tale?
"Oh, absolutely. She's phenomenal. And George kind of took her under his wings — kind of the way he's been doing with me. And she's had so much success. Being on his tour and being in front of different audiences every night, . . . you kind of get to win over their audiences every night. It's great."
Have you figured out who your audience is?
"My audience is very strange, in a great way. Because of 'Dancing With the Stars,' they are so diverse. I have little girls from 3 years old that dance in front of the television when the show comes on all the way up to my grandparents' age. It's all the (TV) fans who have followed me over (to country music), and then people who only know my music and never watched the show. It's a wide demographic."
Would you chase the Disney 'tween crowd like Taylor?
"If it naturally happens, I think that's great. I think music is music. . . . If it does something for you and it can cross over to another genre, then I think that's great."
You've already begun working on your sophomore album, which is due out next year. What can we expect?
"I definitely want to have some songs that I can groove to up on stage and still feel like it's me. It's a little bit more edgy, a little bit more mature. The songs have a little more depth. I love my songs that I sing now, but . . . these songs are a little more personal."
When you take your final bow at Desert Diamond Casino, what do you hope the audience members say as they're driving home?
"I want them to walk away and say, 'Oh man, she's a better singer than she is a dancer.' "