Having it all
For Barenaked, Hewitt joins
Britney Spears on Jive records.
With an album and a film out this month, Jennifer Love Hewitt wants it all.
But if forced to choose, she could, she tells Metropolis.
I pad down the hall at Mejiro's posh Four Seasons
Hotel, almost ramming into a 300-pound man-mountain of a bodyguard,
the first sign that this is not to be an interview with your
garden-variety recording artist. The next signal is the swirl
of record company people and unidentified handlers milling
in the two rooms the young starlet is switching between in
her mad, early September day of publicity.
But happily, in person, the television, film, and newly returned
recording artist Jennifer Love Hewitt proves to be-if
not ordinary-at least an accessible, grounded young
woman. "I know that this is not my real life,"
she muses. "My real life is being a 23-year-old who
has no idea who she's going to be when she grows up
yet, and who's still trying to figure it out."
At the same time, the limpid-eyed Texas brunette is enjoying
her ride in the Hollywood fast lane. "The person whose
life that I lead, whose life I adore," she admits,
"is the person who pretends to get to be a rock star
and a movie star 24 hours a day."
Perhaps just as well for the sake of avoiding a terminal case
of star-struck mouth-in-foot syndrome, I am almost ignorant
of the extent of Hewitt's fame. Having spent the last
decade in Japan, I have missed her ascent to stardom via Fox
network's "Party of Five" and movies
like last year's Heartbreakers, for which she was reportedly
paid a cool $4, 000, 000.
Recently, having established herself on both small and large
screens, Hewitt decided it was high time to return to her
original love. "I never left the singing behind,"
she notes. "It just was waiting for its moment, and
I felt like this year was its moment, and I felt like this
record was its time, and I felt physically and emotionally
ready to promote it the way I would have to, to have it do
anything at all."
On first listen, Barenaked reveals a surprisingly husky singer-Hewitt
is petite-prepared not only to bare herself emotionally
and (on the cover) physically, but also to put it on the line
in an a cappella version of Janis Joplin's epic "Me
And Bobby McGee." The album straddles country and "chick
rock" ("I hope that it's actually an
everyone's album," Hewitt insists), somewhere
comfortably in between elder stateswoman Bonnie Raitt and
teen phenom Michelle Branch-but this is not to dismiss
it as unoriginal.
Repeated listening uncovers a depth of songwriting that Hewitt
modestly credits partly to cowriter and producer Meredith
Brooks, a major musical force in her own right. "It's
been one of the most important relationships I've had
in my life," Hewitt gushes. "I've found
my kindred spirit musically, which is a gift for any young
"She [Brooks] was also the first person in the music
industry to ever ask me what I wanted to do, and how I wanted
to do it, and that's so empowering
it takes other people to make us feel that way, and she did
that for me."
Hewitt-despite her name of Italian ancestry-and
Brooks split the songwriting down the middle, with Hewitt
writing most of the lyrics and Brooks contributing the music.
"It was very much us cowriting songs for almost a year,
with the exception of four months to do a film," she
"I was at her house every day, in sweats or pajamas,
drinking way too much coffee, eating way to much food, and
sitting and talking about life, or how I felt that day, or
how she felt that day, and things we had in common, and writing
down words, and listening to tracks, and creating music. Musically
she did all the work, but lyric-wise it was definitely us
hashing it out."
The songs range from the country rock of the title track,
which swells from an acoustic guitar intro toward a massive,
horn-assisted chorus that runs around your head forever, to
the romantic introspection of "You," which Hewitt
says was the hardest song on the album to write. Those averse
to a tearjerker are advised to stay away.
"Meredith and I couldn't stop crying,"
she remembers. "We were in a very emotional place about
that song-the melody and the words and the idea we
were trying to get across got us so caught up in emotion that
we were like-literally, we would write a word and then
have to be two women breaking down: 'Oh God, this is
going to be so beautiful when it is done.' And then
she would be like, 'Can you concentrate?' and
I would be like 'No,' and she would say 'Let's
go get ice cream.'"
With her latest film, The Tuxedo in which she costars with
Jackie Chan, opening today, vying with a full schedule of
talk shows-David Letterman et. al.-to promote
Barenaked awaiting her return to the States, the obvious question
is, if she had to choose between touring for the album and
a blockbuster role, which would it be?
"It's hard. I would probably do the tour, because
I have waited my entire life to fulfill my musical dream,
and I feel like there are always going to be great movies.
I always felt that it was my destiny to get whatever it is
that is in me that drives me nuts 24 hours a day-sing,
sing, sing, sing, sing-out. Singing is completely attached
to my insides."
But should the album flop, Hewitt is philosophical, just as
she was at age ten when she first left Waco for Los Angeles.
"I asked my Mom if I could go to LA for a month and
try to get a record deal," she recounts. "My
Mom was very nervous. She didn't want me to go there
and end up a failure needing 40 years of therapy over my dream
never coming true. I told her that I thought I would be fine
if it didn't happen, and I was, because it originally
All young singers and (especially) actresses eventually have
to navigate the difficult transformation from bright young
thing to seasoned, wrinkled pro. With someone as likable as
Hewitt, one only hopes that when she has to, she doesn't
end up needing that therapy. One suspects that, somehow, she