JOPLIN, Mo. —
Tiffany is finally used to the dark around her Tennessee home. Far from the bright lights of Los Angeles, the first few nights at her country home close to the Kentucky border were kind of scary.
"The first few nights, it was so 'I Am Legend.' It felt like the end of the world," she said.
She feels quite at home now, these days. Living only a few miles from Nashville, the '80s teen icon known for her mall tours and her remake of a song by Tommy James and the Shondells has settled in with a new life dedicated to singing and songwriting -- and performing the country music that attracted her to singing as a child.
But she hasn't stopped touring. Tiffany will perform two nights of concerts at Landreth Park during Dogs in Downtown.
Each night will be a different show: Tonight's concert will features her music from the '80s, including the multi-platinum "I Think We're Alone Now," "Could've Been," "All This Time" and more. Saturday's concert will feature her performing her later work with a live band, including songs from her first country release, "Rose Tattoo."
Tiffany is used to performing multiple styles in her show, she said. Friday's and Saturday's shows are an extension of that.
"It's awesome to have a career that stretches over 25 years," Tiffany said. "I'm known for the '80s, and as I've kept going, I've done dance, country and a lot of ballads ... It's about a musical journey and where I've come from."
Country was Tiffany's first musical love as a child, because it was the only music played in her family's house.
"I grew up listening to country," Tiffany said. "Tammy Wynette, Crystal Gale, Loretta Lynne, Tanya Tucker, Emmylou Harris. Especially Emmylou, she spoke to me."
After being discovered by Hoyt and Mae Axton, her family moved from Norwalk, Calif., to Nashvile, before she was a teen. She sang songs by those legendary artists with her own band and eventually landed a performance on the Ralph Emery show.
But the venture did end like she thought. Eventually, her family moved back to California.
That's when pop music found her. Producer George Tobin found her in 1984 from a demo tape; in 1985 she finished in second place on "Star Search," and released her first, self-titled album in 1987.
The rest is history: She embarked on "The Beautiful You: Celebrating the Good Life Shopping Mall Tour" in 1987 and saw "I Think We're Alone Now" earn multi-platinum sales.
From that high came a low: She got stuck in a conflict between Tobin and her mother and stepfather that led to her to try and emancipate herself as a minor. The follow-up albums never charted as high, and the music machine declared her career officially "stalled." Future albums were labeled as "comebacks."
"I kinda hated that thing, where it got called a 'comeback,'" Tiffany siad. "It's like they were asking, 'Where have I been?' But I never stopped."
With the exception of a few years where she raised a newborn son, Tiffany has stayed busy with music and acting. "Rose Tattoo," released in 2011, is her eighth album. Though sales never reached the numbers from her first album, Tiffany said she's proud of the critical acclaim the albums have received:
- "The Color of Silence," released in 2000 after her seven-year family hiatus, received several favorable reviews, including a particulary glowing one from Billboard.
- "Dust Off and Dance," released in 2005, featured three songs that made Billboard's Hot Dance Club chart.
"The other albums didn't sell like the first," Tiffany said. "But to be able to sell like that one time, to have one name in the music industry and to be an icon, that's a gift, and I'm very thankful for that."
She said she can't even take credit for that gift: She wanted to sing, she said -- great people around her helped make that dream come true, and she is grateful for the fans who kept following.
On her own
Since 2000, Tiffany has done what she's loved to do: write her own songs. And Nashville is the perfect place for that, she said.
"Being in L.A. is about being here, being seen," she said. "In Nashville, it's about hanging out to watch someone else. I'm an old soul. The late '60s and early '70s would have been perfect for me, because the artists were supportive of each other back then. I love that about Nashville. There's a lot of great things coming out of this town, and not all of them are country."
Returning to Nashville in 2008, she went to "rounds," where several singers share the stage and take turns performing songs. She started working with local songwriters, and eventually got invited to perform in those rounds.
Those sessions eventually became the base of "Rose Tattoo." Tiffany said she's thrilled to be writing in the country genre now, because it lets songwriting shine and provides a great home for clever lyrics.
"Country has a lot of great songs that are just real, and I've always been that type of writer," she said. "When I wrote the dance album, I had to put in some happy stuff, and I thought, 'Happy stuff? Let me think about that.'"
She said her strongest songs are about more emotional moments, such as being awkward, unrequited love, enduring a broken heart and more.
Tiffany is currently at work on another country album with more pop sensibilities -- "It's kind of like an Edie Brickell with a little country mixed in," she said. She also has plans to open a vintage clothing boutique in East Nashville and online.
Whether it pans out or not, Tiffany said she's thankful for the chances and opportunities she's enjoyed. As she watches the child stars of today, she remembers fondly her own similar experiences, she said.
"My advice to them is, obviously they are having fun, and that's the biggest thing," she said. "Careers are long-term, and they have ups and downs. For a successful long-term career, you need to be present and happy with what you're doing."