At 19, Lila McCann already is an established country artist with three albums and a handful of hits to her credit. Her debut, Lila, came out in 1997, when she was only 15, and Something in the Air followed in 1999. Combined, she sold close to 2 million copies of her first two releases while juggling a music career and high school. Following graduation, the singer moved from her hometown, Tacoma, Wash., to Southern California to live on her own. McCann released her third album, Complete, on June 26, 2001. “Come a Little Closer,” the first single, reached the top spot on CMT Most Wanted Live’s daily countdown. McCann has programmed a Celebrity DJ station for country.com. Her picks range from Nat “King” Cole to Nirvana, and, of course, her playlist includes a lot of country music. We’ve selected 20 questions for Lila, submitted by you. She talks about acting, her fear of motorcycles, her grades, fellow teen star LeAnn Rimes and much more.
1. What was it like in school while starting your singing career? Were you treated normally by fellow peers?
Luckily for me, I have had the same group of friends my whole life. So, they stuck by me when new things started happening, and they’re still my friends now. I’ve always had really supportive people around me.
2. Do you still have time for the friends you had before you started singing?
Definitely! I always make time for my friends. I called a couple of them last night because I wanted to say ’Hi.’ We all stay in touch.
3. How did you manage to juggle school work and your career at the same time? Were you an honor student or an average student?
I had an A- average, a 3.5 or 3.6 GPA. I did pretty well, especially for missing several months of school every year. It was always something that was kind of difficult for me, but I had been doing it for so long that it was normal, so I just did it.
4. What is it like being so young and starting in the business? Do you feel like it is a pro or con to get recognized so early?
I think it just depends on when you want to be recognized. I’ve been a singer my whole life and, for me, right now is the best time for me to be working, on the road, being recognized. For me, it’s good, but for somebody else maybe it wouldn’t be, if that’s not how they wanted it.
5. I never felt you got the recognition you deserved when you first hit the scene. Did it ever discourage you that LeAnn Rimes was the talk at the time? Or did it just make you work harder?
I think one thing that’s taken people several years to understand is that LeAnn and I are very different. She immediately chose to get a tutor and go out on the road and work very hard, and in turn sold millions and millions of records and made oodles of money. I decided the exact opposite. I decided being a child was more important and stayed in school. I still sold a million records and I’m still working a lot. For me, my childhood was more important.
6. Do you think you’ll always be a singer or will you ever pursue a different career?
Even if I did have the opportunity to choose another career, I would always want to be singing over anything else. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and it’s where my heart is.
7. Do you plan to go to college? Or are you in college now to further and better your education and knowledge of the music business?
No, I’m not in college right now and don’t plan to go anytime soon. Usually you go to college to learn more about the career path you want to take. Hopefully this will be my career for the rest of my life, and I know quite a bit about it.
8. You’ve definitely grown up in the public eye ever since your debut with “Down Came a Blackbird.” You also can tell how you’ve matured in your music. When you record new music do you look for certain messages that represent where you are in your life?
Definitely. I think it’s important. Every time you make a new record, you’ve experienced so many more things in your life that you’re able to understand more and sing about. That’s something I always look forward to. Stuff I didn’t know about the last time around I sing about now because I understand.
9. How would you describe your overall growth as an artist on the new CD?
This album really states where I’m at in my life more than any of the other albums have. I handpicked every one of the songs with two other people, and I got to spend a lot more time in the studio because I wasn’t in school. I think that made a real big difference.
10. Do you plan on dressing differently? I sure hope not. You still dress decent.
I don’t know. I’ve never really thought about the way I dress. I think you should dress comfortably. Whatever you feel comfortable in is what you should wear. I’m not gonna strut out on stage with something that’s barely there, but I think showing off your body a little bit isn’t a bad thing.
11. What is your best advice to girls growing up today? I have three daughters trying to be the best that they can be.
I would just say to be themselves and not fall into the hands of peer pressure. Find goals and dreams that you want to do and try to accomplish them. Start young!
12. How long did you wear braces? My 15-year-old has had his on for five years. Yours seemed to on one month and off the next.
I had my braces on for a year and a half. I got lucky. Usually they tell you a year and a half and you end up with them on for four. I told my doctor he couldn’t lie!
13. Are you interested in acting? If so, what kind of movie would you be in?
I think acting is something I would like to try further down the road. I would love to do a comedy movie, but it would also be fun to do something dramatic.
14. I am a former cheerleader and I had a camp leader who told us you were a cheerleader, too! What is your favorite memory of cheerleading? What school did you cheer for?
My favorite memory of cheerleading would probably be going to UCA nationals in Orlando, even though we did a really bad job ’cause we’d never gone before! It was really fun. My school was Steilacoom High School.
15. Did you really buy a Harley Davidson instead of a car when you were 16?
No, I did not buy the Harley. It was supposed to be a gift from a Los Angeles area Harley dealer. They were going to give me 10 lessons to try to learn how to ride the bike, then if I wanted to keep it I had the option. But I never ended up doing so, because I’m scared of motorcycles!
16. What is currently in your CD player and who are some of your favorite artists in country music or any other genre of music?
I think Nickel Creek is in my CD player at home. I listen to everybody. I’m a big fan of Martina McBride. I’m getting into Keith Urban’s music, it’s pretty cool. I like everybody.
17. What was the first record, country or pop, that you ever bought?
The first record I ever bought was actually a [vinyl] record. Yes, I’m old enough! CDs weren’t around yet. I think it was a Chipmunks Christmas album.
18. How old were you when you started singing with your family in a band?
I was 4 years old.
19. What is your opinion about the “Pop vs. Country” issue?
I think it’s an issue that’s dwelled upon too much. If people make wonderful music, you’re always going to be able to tell the difference between what’s country music and what is the other. For me, if I turn on the radio and hear great music on the country station or hear great music on the pop station, and I can hear the same person on the other one, I’m gonna listen to it. As long as people keep putting out great music, I don’t really see the problem.
20. Are you a fan of Napster?
No, I’m not!