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ANTHONY JENKINS/The Globe and Mail

The former Disney star is all grown up, back in the studio and ready to re-enter the music biz for the first time in seven years. Here, Hilary Duff shares some of the secrets to her success and why she decided to step away rather than end up another celebrity train wreck

To be original, be yourself

I'm working with producer Billy Mann and he has so much great advice and wisdom. One of the things he'll say to me is, "You've gotta do you. Everyone else is taken." The music has changed a lot since I was last recording. There are a lot of artists out there being really provocative, wearing certain clothes and performing in certain ways, but right now that's just not me. I've always tried to stay true to who I am and present that to the public because I think when you're not authentic, people can smell it on you. Besides, if everyone's doing the same thing then even being provocative isn't really provocative.

Don't be scared to say enough

I'm lucky that I have managed to stay out of a lot of the drama that comes with being young and famous. There's really no right or wrong. I think I was lucky that when a lot of my peers were reaching the heights of their careers, I decide to take a step back. I had been touring for four years, I was 19 and I just said, "Enough." There is so much pressure. I was employing so many people with my tours and paparazzi culture was getting out of control and I just didn't have any freedom to have a life. I stayed away for 3.5 years – I met my husband, I got married. Taking the time to learn who I am and who I want to be really helped. Now I'm ready to jump back in.

With a name comes responsibility

Giving back has always been a part of life. We grew up in Texas and my mom instilled in us how important it is to give back. She would always do things such as adopt an underprivileged family over the holidays and collect diapers and formula. I particularly enjoy working with children's charities, I guess because I started working with charities when I was young and my fan base is young. Right now I'm working with Duracell on their Powering Holiday Smiles campaign. I got to visit the hospital and hang out and sing with the kids. If I can use my name and my position to spread the word about meaningful causes, I am so happy to do it.

This interview has been condensed and edited.