Selena Gomez: Disney star makes it ‘Rain’

Youth Impact Report 2010: Young at Chart

In retrospect, Selena Gomez’s transformation from “Wizards of Waverly Place” starlet to pop star seems an obvious one. The daughter of a DJ and named after the late Tejano icon Selena, the 18-year-old Texas native has been singing since she was a child, plays piano and even sang during her first audition for the Disney Channel. But the jump into music was no casual venture for the star.

Upon deciding to attempt a singing career (forming group Selena Gomez and the Scene with Disney’s Hollywood Records label), Gomez says she spent a solid year sorting through “thousands of songs” and auditioning band members. Her gold-certified 2009 debut “Kiss and Tell” was stylistically diverse, but the runaway success of dance-pop second single “Naturally” helped to point the way.

“I remember Hollywood Records called me and said ‘Naturally’ was No. 1 on the Billboard club charts,” she recalls. “And I said, ‘Well, I can’t even get into a club, but that’s awesome.’ As soon as we started working on the second record, I wanted everything to be like ‘Naturally.’ I think techno-dance is really my style.”

Recent record “A Year Without Rain” makes good on that claim, with dance-oriented leadoff single “Round and Round” breaking immediately into the Hot 100.

Maintaining her lead role in “Wizards,” the young singer keeps a punishing schedule: Weekdays are devoted to shooting the series, while nearly every weekend sees Gomez flying out to perform concerts. Somehow, she still finds time to flex her songwriting chops, spending transit hours learning to play guitar and working with bandmates on songs for her next album.

“Of course my label thinks I’m crazy,” she says. “They keep telling me I need to live with the second record a little bit, which of course I’m going to do. But I’m always thinking one step ahead.”

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