Hilary Duff is no stranger to fame.
With a career spanning nearly two decades, the 27-year-old singer and actress who came to prominence with the title role in TV's Lizzie McGuire has pretty much seen and done it all. While she admits that she’s a bit intimidated by the changing face of the music industry she's been a part of since her debut album came out in 2003, she remains excited that she can still make songs that people want to listen to.
Breathe In, Breathe Out, a fiery mix of club-ready hits (kicking off with the thumping lead single, “Sparks”), is Duff's first album in seven years. The Houston native picks up right where she left off: giving her fans tunes that aren’t just fun, but should have relevance to their own lives.
“The record is half written by me and half by other people, and I feel just as connected to almost every song on the record because when I heard the ones that I didn’t write, I connected with them,” Duff says. “A lot of the songs I wrote obviously have to do with experiences I’ve had over the past three to five years. That doesn’t go to say that they’re super heavy, emotional tracks; it’s pop music. But the messaging is there, and I think that people, whether the subject matter is exactly the same, [can] relate it to [their] life.”
Despite her break from the music business, Duff has been anything but dormant — in both her career and personal life. Although her 3-year-old son, Luca, is a major priority in the single mother’s life, that doesn’t mean she hasn’t been working. Duff’s most recent acting gig, playing the 20-something publishing socialite Kelsey in TV Land’s hit show Younger (which was just renewed for a second season) has whetted her appetite for more acting.
Taking a break wasn't necessarily about getting away from acting, she says, "It was just taking time for myself to do some personal growth, and obviously I had a family.”
Returning to the public's living rooms and iPods feels a little scary for Duff.
“It’s kind of like starting over for me, to be honest," she says. "It’s exciting for me to be here. After seven years, you’re like, OK, do people still care? I don’t know! So I feel really grateful and really happy with the way that my record has gone and received, and hopefully the main goal is just that fans that have been following for a really long time can connect with this record how they connected to the old ones.”
And fans have been connecting to Breathe In, Breathe Out. The album charted at number 5 on the Billboard 200 the week of its release last month, making it her fifth album to reach top 5 status — an impressive feat, especially considering Duff’s discography consists of just five albums.
“Making this record was like starting over, getting into the studio and learning who I wanted to be as an artist, but I think when you listen to the record, it doesn’t sound so far away from who I was before,” she says. “I’m not trying to be anyone that I’m not. I’m just trying to be myself and come at it honestly.”
At the time of her interview with The Advocate, the Supreme Court had just ruled in favor of nationwide marriage equality, and among other things, Duff was excited at the prospect of her gay fans finally being able to get married everywhere in the country.
“It seems like it’s been such a struggle for acceptance and equality, and it’s crazy, but it’s a very exciting day in history,” she says. “I think the world is changing. Some areas quicker than others, but I do think it’s easier to be a gay kid going through school now than it was 10 years ago.”
“I’ve always had big supporters in the gay community, and it really makes me feel so good. I’ve always had gay friends, they've always been loving and understanding towards me,” Duff adds. “You guys really know how to have a good time.”
Watch the video for Duff's latest single, "Sparks," below.