This time around Jennifer Love Hewitt really is entering the music business with a bang.
When she released her debut album, Let's Go Bang, in 1995, that was hardly the case. The album tanked, as did the television star's self-titled follow-up the following year.
Six years later, however, Hewitt is quick to point out that "everything is different" — and she's not just talking about the huge amount of buzz (a Rolling Stone cover, "TRL" exposure) surrounding the October 8 release of Bare Naked.
"When I did my other records I was never really asked to write," the brunette bombshell explained. "The songs were kind of handed to me the day I would walk into the studio. The record companies ... decided what kind of imaging they thought would be best for me and things like that."
Although her new label initiated Hewitt's second run at a music career, she is clearly in charge.
"Jive came to me and said, 'You know, we'd really, really like to make music with you. What is it that you want to do?,' '" Hewitt recalled. "And I said, 'Well, I don't know exactly. I have this vision of what I've always wanted to do, but I'm not sure how to execute it yet.' And they said, 'Well then fine, when you figure it out let us know and we're going to give you all the time you need to do it. And, you know, if you want to write on it, write on it.' And I thought I would probably write two or three songs and now I've ended up writing all but two or three [that appear on the album]."
For her second run, Hewitt wanted to step away from pop music and record an album better tagged with a "singer/songwriter" or "rock and roll" label. To accomplish it, she knew she needed to align herself with the right person. So one day Hewitt literally knocked on "Bitch" singer Meredith Brooks' door.
"This strange girl that she had never met was like, 'I have this dream and this is what I want to do and I need you to help me make it happen if you possibly can or are interested,' " Hewitt said. "And from that day on, she was 100 percent dedicated to making sure that I got to have my vision of what I wanted my record to be. And that has always meant so much to me and will always mean the world."
Together, Hewitt and Brooks penned an album from the "not a girl, not yet a woman" viewpoint. Their lyrics, while not bubblegum obvious, explore the emotions of a singer who is still chasing her knight in shining armor, but at the same time is forced to face the realities of relationships and adult life in general.
"Meredith and I never knew what we were going to sit down and write about on any given day," Hewitt said. "It would just kind of come out of us, you know, eating a salad and drinking way too much coffee and being silly in the studio and kind of hanging out. Or I would come in that day upset about something, or having had a bad dream, and a song would come out of that."
"Bare Naked," the first single and the album's most revealing track, expresses the anxiety of feeling unsure of yourself (see "In Jennifer Love Hewitt's Latest Role She's 'Bare Naked' ").
"It's [about] the fact that I'm 23 and still trying to figure out who I'm going to be as a grown-up," Hewitt said. "And, you know, releasing this record was a big insecurity for me, because I wasn't sure how people were going to accept it."
"Can I Go Now" will be the album's second single, Hewitt revealed.
"Most people picture women as being the ones to cry and be sad at the end of a relationship, and this song is great because it's very empowering in the way that the woman is really kind of taking the main role in this relationship," she explained. "She's saying, 'I'm unhappy and there's no way I can make you happy, so can I go?' "
Hewitt expands on the same topic in "Rock the Roll," a tune built around the lyric, "You've got to know when to rock and when to roll."
"You've got to know when to rock the boat in a relationship or when to kind of roll with it in order to continue to be with the person that you care about," Hewitt said.
The song includes a line about being pushed to date a rock star, ironic now that Hewitt has been linked to singer/songwriter John Mayer.
"When people found out I was doing a rock record," she said, "I had all these funny people coming up to me and they were like, 'OK this is what you've got to do. You've got to get streaks in your hair that are a weird color. And you've got to wear this and you've got to do this and you've got to do that.' And they were all kind of kidding, but you know, half-serious at the same time. And one of the things that everyone said is that, 'You've got to date a really cool rock star.' "
Hewitt initially questioned the suggestion. "And they were like, 'You've got to date a bad boy. That'll be so good for the rock image.' And I was like, 'But then I'll be worried all the time about what he's doing and what's going on and all that stuff.' I thought that was a funny thing, so I wrote that in the song."
Before Bare Naked hits stores October 8, Hewitt will appear in theaters in "The Tuxedo" with Jackie Chan, opening September 27.
Although Hewitt has had more success as an actress, she described music as her first love.
"Music for me has always been something that has been directly connected to my heart," she said. "And when I get to sing a song I get to sort of release a big part of who I am. Acting is very much an important thing for me and I love doing it, but when I'm acting, I spend 14 hours a day and months at a time being someone else. And when I'm singing I just get to be me. And I think it's really important."