NASHVILLE, Tenn. - When "Dancing With the Stars" champ Julianne Hough came to town to make her debut album, songwriters went to work churning out a bunch of songs about - what else? - dancing.
"Each one that said 'dancing' [in the title], I said 'Nope, sorry,' " Hough, 19, recalled recently. For now at least, Hough, whose self-titled CD came out yesterday, wants people to forget she's a dancer and think of her as a singer.
She's been doing both since she was a little girl and had begun pursuing a career in music before "Dancing with the Stars." She had reservations about doing the show in the first place.
"I didn't want to get pigeonholed as being a dancer, and then when I start in music people think 'Oh, just because she got this exposure, now she thinks she can sing,' " said Hough.
The youngest of five children, Hough comes from a family of dancers and singers (her sister Marabeth Poole co-wrote one of tunes on her CD, and her brother Derek, who was also on "Dancing with the Stars," sings on it). She was playing bongos and singing in the family's country band by the time she was 4.
"We're all blond and we were kind of known as the blond Osmonds," she giggled. "We were known as 'White Lightning' because of our hair. It's kind of embarrassing now. But we were in these bold Spandex and black cowboy boots and black fringe vests and black cowboy hats."
She studied dance in Utah and then in London for five years. But by 14 she yearned for a more conventional life back home with her family, and she realized that it was singing, rather than dancing, that was her greatest passion.
She returned to the U.S. and began pursuing music seriously - until "Dancing with the Stars" came along and was too good to pass up.
Hough joined for the show's fourth season and won with her partner, Olympic speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno. She repeated the next year with Indianapolis 500 champion Helio Castroneves. For her third season, she teamed with comedian Adam Carolla but was eliminated in April.
"I wouldn't take it back, even though it might have slowed my singing down a little," she said. "I feel that now that I've mastered dancing I can pursue singing." *