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Almost 30 Years In, Paula Abdul Is Still All About The Music: Interview

Jun 21st, 2017

Hugh McIntyre, Forbes Contributor

LAS VEGAS, NV - MAY 28: Recording artist and dancer Paula Abdul (C) performs with dancers during a stop of The Total Package Tour at T-Mobile Arena on May 28, 2017, in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Paula Abdul has enjoyed one of the strangest careers in music, as she has gone from the biggest pop star on the planet to all but retired to a television personality, and now she's back to music. Few people reach the heights Abdul has in any industry, let alone in several different verticals. After scoring six No. 1 hits in a row between 1988 and 1991, her time on the charts stalled for a moment, as she was injured and the musical tides changed (as they always do). Abdul went quiet for a long period of time, only to return not as a chart-topping pop princess, but as one of the original hosts of American Idol, which revitalized her career and thrust her back into the spotlight in a very meaningful way. Ever since then, the singer has been busy casually releasing new music, accepting additional TV gigs and making sure that the public doesn't lose sight of her again.

I spoke with Abdul at the recent Music Biz Conference in Nashville, where she accepted the prestigious Harry Chapin Memorial Humanitarian Award for her work over the decades to make the world a better place. The Grammy and Emmy winner was open about returning to music, her current struggles with touring and what it's like gaining an entirely new set of fans at this stage of her life.

Hugh McIntyre: How does it feel after so many years in the music industry to be coming and accepting an award like this?

Paula Abdul: Humbling, and I feel honored. It was really nice to receive an email asking for me to be honored. I was over the moon. Especially returning back to music and being able to tour the country and get back to what I love doing.

McIntyre: Can you talk a bit about getting back to the music?

Abdul: Absolutely. I had to the leave the music business. I was in a really bad plane wreck. I crash landed in a plane when I was on tour 26 years ago. I went through a lot of reconstructive spinal cord surgery. I reappeared six and a half years after that on American Idol, and still continued to go through spinal cord surgeries and worked on getting my body to be able to do what I love to do.

When I was in a place where I could take some time off and commit to going on the road, I decided to make that a priority and work towards going on tour again. I was very fortunate to be able to be a part of the Total Package Tour and actually get out and see my fans again. It's been a long time.

McIntyre: How has that reception been coming back?

Abdul: It's been incredible. I never take anything for granted. Getting back out there to connect with my fans, it's been insane. It's been really great.

McIntyre: Have you seen a whole new group of fans find out who you are because of things like Idol and what you've been doing over the past few years?

Abdul: Absolutely. I think that the best part of my career is the wide range of fans that I have and the many demographics. For me, when I got on American Idol, I still was building new fans again that were learning about me through television, but their older brothers and sisters and their parents and grandparents were all saying, "Listen to her music!"

I've been able to maintain a really wide demographic. Now it's great seeing kids who grew up on American Idol out there watching the show, so it's been great.

McIntyre: After that hiatus, were you nervous at all to come back on the road?

Abdul: Of course, always nervous. Because like I said, I don't take anything for granted, to hope and pray that there is an audience that still wants to hang in there with me, and it's been incredible. I'm overwhelmed with gratitude and it's been a labor of love.  And it's not as easy as it used to be. It gets harder every year as you get older. I have these long talks with my body saying, "Do not let me down, okay? We gotta go out there again. I know it's not easy, but we're gonna go out there and do it!"

McIntyre: So, for the rest of the year, what's coming up for you musically?

Abdul: Well, I've got more dates to do outside of the U.S. when this tour is over, and I've got a couple of shows that I'm producing for television and for stage. I'm a busy girl.

McIntyre: That's a lot.

Abdul: I never slow down.

McIntyre: No, you shouldn't.

Abdul: I will when I die.

 

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