Despite being labeled as an "actress/pop singer," Jessica Lowndes is not a pre-packaged starlet nor a kid with a contract to act, sing and develop her own department store clothing line. The 23-year-old Vancouver native's foray into the music industry has come about much more organically. At her core, Lowndes is a singer who just happens to have a talent for acting.
Her big break ended up being on The CW's hit reboot of the classic '90s teen show, 90210. In the series, Lowndes plays Adrianna Tate-Duncan, a singer-songwriter seeking redemption after a whirlwind of crippling drama including, but not limited to, drug addiction, pregnancy, a lesbian tryst, and theft of a deceased pop singer's music that left her character's singing career in the trenches.
We caught up with her on one of her few days off, just a few hours before a Skype date with her mom, to talk about the new single, what tomorrow's season finale of 90210 holds for Adrianna, and her struggle to be taken seriously as an artist.
Premiere: Jessica Lowndes "The Other Girl"
Interview by Tara Aquino (@t_akino)
You just came back from London where you've been recording. Is your album done and ready to go?
Well it's been done for a while but I just keep going back and recording because I love it so much and I can't stop. [Laughs.] It's great. I'm going to be doing more writing when I go New York. I keep finding new inspiration and I can't stop. We're coming back for season five and I write a lot of music for the show, whether it's another EP for my character. So it's all been fun.
When you originally auditioned for Adrianna, did you have to come prepared to sing?
Yeah! That's literally I had to do. Last second, the showrunner of season decided he wanted to add a high school musical to the pilot. As the music, we bought the rights to Spring Awakening, so my audition was "Mama Who Bore Me."
At the time I knew they wanted a blonde or a whole different look so I just left my demo CD on the desk and I left and was told that I didn't get the part. But then a month later, I got the call saying "Would you want to come down to the studio, chop off all your hair and be Adrianna tomorrow?" I had no time to think about it. I didn't even have a call back. It was just kind of out of nowhere. I didn't even really have time to let it sink in and I just chopped off all my hair for what was supposed to be two weeks of work on the set.
The writer's had seen a few other projects I'd done and they started writing for me. They gave my character a drug addiction. Every week, I was still so excited to be a part of the show.
I was explaining your character's back-story to someone the other day and Adrianna literally has been through everything.
[Laughs.] That's so funny because I have a lot of friends of mine who haven't seen the series and they ask me to catch them up on what's been happening this season. I don't even know where to start because it's been 92 episodes of just dramatic craziness!
I guess she's kind of touched on it all. It's really fun because, like I said, I really went into it not knowing what to expect. Ever since then, I've been so grateful to have a job and also be able to do something that's so much fun. For nine months of the year, we're shooting the show and I'm constantly doing something different. The drug addiction stuff was really fun, pregnancy, the lesbian love affair—it just kind of went on and on and on.
Now the music stuff has been really, really great for me as well. The show's been a great platform. I feel like in season four I identified with my character the most. It very much reflects a lot of who I am.
When you're presented with these different aspects of the character, what do you tap into in order to get to those really dark places?
I've always been somebody that's been very in touch with how I'm feeling and I look at acting and music as my outlet. I find it amazing therapy. For me, sometimes when I'm doing a crying scene, I'll tap into these situations I've gone through or, if the scene's really long, I'll tap into situations my friends have gone through or something in the news that had upset me. I go to different places and I'm the same way with music as well. After you put all of yourself and your focus into it, you feel such a relief after.
With acting, it's crazy 'cause people are able to identify with you as a character and that's really cool because I'm telling somebody else's story. I'm being somebody else. With music, I'm telling my story and I'm being myself but you're still kind of affecting people in all different ways and everyone has their own interpretation, too.
Looking back at your songs, it seems like a lot of your music deals with heartbreak. What inspired those singles?
Yeah, I was definitely going through a break up when I started writing the album. Literally, a week after my break-up, I just started writing and I've been writing ever since. For me, it was a great thing to write about because every time I wrote a song, it felt so much better about the situation. It's a real emotion, you know? Inspiration was just kind of flowing and poured out of me.
I've just always had this desire to perform ever since I was three. I always needed to be doing some kind of performance. For me, when I write, it gives me something to perform. That's also a great motivation. Even when I'm not in a set place, you can put yourself back in those situations and I feel like everyone can kind of identify with heartbreak in one way or another.
How is your new song "The Other Girl" different from the other ones on the album?
It's crazy because if you listen all of the other songs I've written, it's like a diary of my last year and a half. You go through so many different emotions. You go through like wishing you're gay and wanting to escape the drama to my next single "Nothing Like This," being heartbroken and wanting to get over it but no one really understanding it to reflecting on the situation and standing up for yourself, which is what this song is about. It's kind of putting your foot down and saying, "I don't want to be the other girl." The whole song is being about that other girl, being more of the mistress in the relationship.
Adrianna is a cautionary tale of how fame can consume you. Is there anything you've taken away from her?
Yeah, you can definitely learn from Adrianna's mistake. I'm so different from her because she's essentially addicted to drama and I steer clear from it in my everyday life. My job is dramatic enough. [Laughs.] I think when it comes to the idea of her being fame driven, it's like I've ever never been really driven by that. I know what I love to do and I know what I'm passionate about and I'd be really unhappy if I wasn't doing anything creative.
For me, I'm really serious about singing, but I feel like I have to prove myself to a lot of people. A lot of people think, 'Oh it's just an actress who's starting to sing.' But really, I've been trying to have this career that's just always been apart of me.
At the end of the day, I want to be happy and it doesn't really matter how famous I am or how successful I am because I think if you're happy doing what you love, that's a success on its own, right? I've already essentially made it. I'd never go down that crazy path but I can definitely relate to her this season, with her music coming from a real and genuine place, because that's what I'm all about. That's what I think people respond to best. If people can identify with your music and it's honest and it makes them stop and want to listen, that's when you're really affecting people.
What can we expect from Adrianna in the season finale without giving too much away?
[Laughs.] Well, she's definitely pursuing the country music aspect with Austin; she's putting her trust in him even though she's had some doubts. I think we've seen her go through heartbreak after heartbreak and now it's with Dixon and his betrayal. I mean, it has its challenges working with someone whom you're also dating. With Dixon, they were trying to work together and make music together. But even though she writes about not wanting him anymore, her heart is still attached to him and misses him and keeps wanting to hear from him. I think there's definitely going to be something there that you'll see in the season finale. And she ultimately has to make a decision whether or not to take the next step in her music career.
Do you ever struggle to get people to take you seriously as a singer who's gotten famous by being an actress?
Yeah, it's definitely a challenge! [Laughs.] For me, I'm really serious about singing, but I feel like I have to prove myself to a lot of people. A lot of people just think, "Oh it's just an actress who's starting to sing." But really, I've been trying to have this career that's just always been apart of me, you know?
But I think the work speaks for itself. If you put out good music and words that people can identify with, then that just speaks for itself and it's not as much of a struggle anymore. It's still crazy because people who don't tune into the show still don't know I'm a singer and people who do tune into the show still come up to me and ask like, "Is that really your voice?" [Laughs.] I'm just really excited though because I feel like I'm sitting on all this music and I've spent so much time just trying to find the right sound. I haven't signed a deal yet because it's hard to be on a show and be taken seriously as a singer. When I do sign a deal and do the music stuff I want to be in it 110 percent.
So that's why in the meantime, I just keep releasing music videos and EPs and singles and things which are all self-funded and that goes to show much of a passion it is of mine and how much I really care about. But I'm so excited! I have so much more stuff that I can't wait for people to hear.
When can we expect a full album?
I'm hoping by the end of this year, but until then, I'm working on my next EP and I'm really excited for people to hear "The Other Girl." It's a song that means a lot to me.