Hilary Duff's Intimacy Issue: Stage Fright In Reverse

Singer can perform easily in front of huge crowds, but shies away from one-on-one situations.

Hilary Duff claims to suffer from a kind of reverse stage fright: She has no problem performing in front of thousands of people, yet she can't deal with one-on-one situations, especially those that involve songwriting.

"It's so funny. I have friends, and even a sister, who can write a song and then go, 'Mom, I wrote a song,' or 'Hilary, listen to this,' " she said. "I don't know how they can do that. I could never write a full song and let people hear it."

Duff's intimacy issue extends to her stage shows. She prefers large, anonymous crowds — the bigger, the better. "It's easier to play a big show than something more intimate," she said. "There's something more comforting about seeing a whole sea of people with glow sticks going crazy than being able to identify people I know out of a crowd of 200" (see "Hilary Duff Launches Tour Amid Sea Of Glow Sticks, In (Gasp!) Only One Outfit").

Duff said she has no problem talking to people she knows, and she's become accustomed to dealing with fans. "But put me in a situation with people my age who I don't know ..." She stopped, as though the prospect were too horrifying to contemplate. She insists she's fine around friends, however. "I am friendly," she said. "I love to talk and tell stories and be loud and goof off." She just doesn't let everyone see that side of her immediately, which makes it hard for her to open up as a songwriter.

"People criticize you so much, and writing about your feelings, what's going on with you, is such a personal thing," she said. "But it's much easier to write it down than to sit and talk about it."

Strangely, Duff's less shy when it comes to writing a song with someone she doesn't know. Even though she just recorded three new songs with boyfriend Joel Madden from Good Charlotte for Most Wanted, her best-of album due out August 16, she worries that "just going into the studio and recording with people you're close to and who care about you" could "mess up" the process. "For the first single, I would only let [Joel's twin brother] Benji be in the room," she said. "He's a really funny guy. He's so nice and makes you feel comfortable. He makes me laugh," she said, describing how he would mock her fear of criticism by shouting, "That sucked. Do it again!" (see "Cheaper By The Duo? Hilary Duff Teams Up With Madden Brothers For New LP").

While she's a long way away from conquering her shyness, Duff considers herself a more confident performer today than when she started, and she gives her fans credit for boosting her self-esteem. "To play to 12,000 people every single night — and all these people came for you?" she asked rhetorically. "They wait in the freezing cold just to wave goodbye to the tour bus. So why not go out there and give them the best of you?"