There has been an outpouring of pop star documentaries in 2017, but none has been as raw and honest as Demi Lovato’s Simply Complicated (stream at bottom of post). Nothing is off limits as the 25-year-old speaks openly about mental illness, substance abuse and anger issues. Demi even clarifies that much-publicized altercation with a backing dancer on a plane. Most importantly, she gives us a front row seat to the creation of Tell Me You Love Me, the “Sorry Not Sorry” singer’s critically-acclaimed 6th album.
I recently spoke with the pop powerhouse about her documentary, which has already racked up more than 6.8 million views, and she explained how empowering and liberating it was to tell her story on her own terms. She revealed how the project came together and expressed her pride at helping remove the stigma associated with mental illness. The hitmaker also talked the overwhelming positive reception to her album, possible next single and the importance of making the Grammy deadline. Find out more about Demi’s blockbuster era in our Q&A below.
I really enjoyed the documentary.
Oh great. Thank you so much.
The pop star documentary is experiencing something of a revival. Why are they so popular all of a sudden?
I don’t know why it’s become popular. You know, I think that it’s maybe because new channels are coming out, like YouTube with Red and Netflix and all of the other things that people are coming out with documentaries and the acceptability with them.
Is it also empowering to present your story without a middle man?
Yeah, it’s very empowering, and very liberating as well. I think that it’s important that an artist gets to share what they’re really thinking, and how they really feel and express themselves through their own ways. Whether it be music or documentaries, rather than interviews because people sometimes have the wrong intentions and they want to get headlines whereas with this you can bring it back to yourself and be in control of how it’s worded.
When did you first come up with the idea of filming the documentary?
The first time that I thought I would make a documentary… well, someone came to me and offered me the documentary idea and I wanted to take it because I felt like it would be a great experience and great opportunity to share my life and my new music with my fans.
Did you have any hesitations about being so honest?
No. There was no hesitation. I felt very comfortable in front of the cameras and I’m very open anyway. I feel like it wasn’t far departure from what I’ve already been doing.
Was anything off limits?
Well, if it was I wouldn’t say it. [Laughs].
Fair enough! Are you proud that the documentary has started a conversation about mental illness and substance abuse?
Yeah, definitely. I feel like it’s been something that has been not spoken about because I know there’s a lot of people out there that have mental illnesses or just need someone to talk about mental health the way that I would. I consider myself a role model and it’s not a burden by any means. It’s not an obligation. It’s something that I just am responsible, or I take responsibly, I have pride in doing so.
You revealed that you were high during your Stay Strong documentary. How was this experience different?
It feels great to do a documentary sober, first of all! It feels great to be completely transparent and honest with my fans in a way that I’ve never been before. Yeah, in this time of my life I’m able to share my music with my fans and I think it’s perfect timing with everything with the release of my album and single. The stars aligned with this project.
I loved seeing the album come together. Did you have a firm idea of what you wanted the album to sound like when you began recording?
Yes. I had a very good idea of what I wanted this album to sound like. I wanted it to be something that was soulful, that was raw, that was honest, and I wanted to have more R&B this time around.
The reception has been incredible. Did you know you were on to something special?
I did know I was on to something that was special because I put so much time and effort into it. I put about a year and a half into it, which is longer than I’ve ever done with an album. When you put that kind of time and effort into something, it’s just going to turn out great and so I was hoping that people would have the same reaction that I did to the songs that I made. I think that I’m really proud of the body of work I’ve created.
Can you talk about the next single?
That’s something that’s still kind of under wraps.
Everyone got a bit excited by the “Hitchhiker” lyric video. Is that just random content?
Actually, I don’t know if that’s an official video. If it is, I don’t know about it.
That’s funny. You recently tweeted about working with a dream collaborator. What’s it like to work with someone you have admired for a long time?
It’s unexplainable, something that I’ve been able to experience throughout the last couple years, being able to work or communicate with artists that I grew up listening to. I got to collaborate with one artist just a couple days ago and it was just like a dream come true to be able to work on a project with someone that I grew up singing to and continue to see as an idol today.
Are there nerves when you work with someone like that?
There are definitely nerves. You want to do your best and sometimes there are even nerves when you meet them. I didn’t get to meet this person, but hopefully, obviously, I’ll be able to meet them in the future.
I’m obsessed with “Ruin the Friendship.” Will it be released as a single at some stage?
I might perform it live. You know, it’s something that I have fun singing to, so I might perform it live. I don’t know if it’ll be a single. But thank you for saying that.
It’s so good.
Oh, thank you.
Why did you decide to release the album in such a busy week? It feels like you sacrificed a #1 debut.
I mean, obviously you want it to do well, but for the most part, I knew that this album wouldn’t go number one because of the competition that my album was up against. And my manger said, “You can either turn it in before the Grammys deadline and not debut at number one or possibly go a different week when there’s not so many competitors around and miss the Grammy deadline.” And so, I said, “Screw it. I don’t care about the charts. I want to make it in time for the Grammy deadline.”
What is the most vocally challenging song on the album?
I mean, “You Don’t Do It For Me Anymore” is a song that’s very vocally challenging and I don’t know how I’m going to perform it live after singing tons of songs during my show, but we’ll see how that goes.
I’m sure you’ll kill it. Speaking of live performances, are we going to get tour dates soon?
Oh. You know what? Look very closely, very soon.
Thank you so much. It was great to talk to you.
Thank you. You too.