Selena Gomez does not want to be defined by the men in her life. That includes her large, purple former co-star (the erstwhile child actor got her start on Barney and Friends); Mickey, the big-eared rodent face of a certain kids TV empire (as a teen, Gomez starred in 106 episodes of the Disney Channel show Wizards of Waverly Place); and certainly not her Canadian ex-boyfriend (hint: rhymes with Leaber, gives tween girls the Fever, looks a bit like a Lemur). Pinned down in a Toronto hotel suite, flashing leather pants and a million-watt smile, Gomez was happy to discuss her recent, non-Disney acting roles, her just-released debut solo album – the grown-up yet poptastic Stars Dance, whose bhangra-laced lead single Come and Get It has shimmied all the way to gold status in the United States – and nothing else. We didn’t even say his name, we swear.
What was your lifestyle like when you were making the record? It’s pretty party-oriented. Were you out with friends a lot?
Well, before the record, I took a year off from music and I got to be a part of three movies, one of which was Spring Breakers. Which was a big enough party; I’m out of partying now [laughs].
So you weren’t acting when making Stars Dance.
No. Once I started recording, I recorded. I’m not really a late-night girl and so I get there at noon and I’m usually there until around 10 o’clock at night. I recorded basically every single day and just focused on that. It was good, but, you know, I locked down.
How was working with Harmony Korine on Spring Breakers?
Incredible. He is the absolute best, and I can’t thank him enough. It was the first movie I did after my show. I auditioned for him, I flew to Nashville, I dressed the part.
I auditioned with him for two hours and I felt like he really believed in me. A lot of directors wouldn’t, considering I’m a quote-unquote Disney kid. Not everyone would want to take that chance, and he did; he pushed me, and he really, truly made me a better actress.
Has your taste in music changed since you were making emo-pop-punk records with your band the Scene?
Sure. That’s what’s been fun for me, and I think that’s exactly what this record reflects. You hear one song and it’s got a kind of Gwen Stefani-ish, weird, funky feel, and then you’ve got a pop one, then a softer kind of Ellie Goulding type of sound. I was switching it up every day, depending on how I was feeling. I wanted this album to be about that – like, no features from other artists; just really focusing on this time in my life.
What would you say to your fan base about how you’ve evolved over the last few years as a person?
I don’t know, I just think that I’m growing up. I’m becoming an adult and sometimes that may be a little awkward to certain people.
I feel like they have to remember that at the end of the day I am 20, I’ll be 21 [she turned 21 last Monday], and I’m going to experience life.
Honestly, I just want to do the best I can. I just want to stand up for myself and be who I am, the best way I can. I was definitely a little more shy before, and I’m just finding my confidence. If anything, that’s it, I’m just figuring myself out.
Was there anything brought to you in the album-making process that you didn’t want to do?
No, absolutely not. That was the best part of making this album, I felt like I did have a say. You know, if there were a couple of songs suggested and I didn’t like them, it was, like, “No,” and then we moved on. There wasn’t any sort of pressuring. [In the past] I’ve had some of my little record-label issues, where they kind of say, “Maybe you should record this one.” And I’m like, maybe I shouldn’t.
How many records do you have left on your contract?
This is the last one.
So is there any of you playing instruments on Stars Dance? You’ve mentioned wanting to learn guitar.
I haven’t. I started doing film and that was my life.
I also should have been doing vocal warm-ups while I was filming, but every time I get into a role I’m all about that. So, no. But my lead guitarist said that when we’re on the bus he’s going to make me learn these songs on guitar.
Plus we have 10-hour bus rides when we travel.
It’s either guitar lessons or a lot of Yahtzee.
Exactly. And I am not good at Yahtzee.
This interview has been condensed and edited. Selena Gomez begins an eight-show Canadian tour on Aug. 14 at the Rogers Arena in Vancouver.