Kate Hudson on Launching a Music Career, Two Decades Into Acting Stardom: ‘It Would Have Felt Too Vulnerable in My 20s — I Don’t Have That Fear of Rejection Anymore’

You could say that Kate Hudson is extremely famous as an actor and almost famous as a singer. That last part is changing as the public gets a gander of the promotional appearances she’s been doing for her debut album, “Glorious,” everywhere from the “Voice” finale to Howard Stern’s show. There’s a nearly universal reaction: “Wow, you can sing… really sing” — which maybe shouldn’t come as such a great surprise after her vocal appearances in the musical films “Nine” and “Music” and a prominent guest spot on “Glee,” and yet, maybe there was a suspicion in those instances that some sort of studio trickery was helping out a slumming movie star.

Now that she’s been doing live TV appearances and making her public performance debut at a star-filled L.A. show, it’s clear that she’s the real deal, as a rocker, and could have credibly played a star and not just a groupie in “Almost Famous,” had an early ’70s female rock superstar been somewhat anachronistically written into that script. And she swears she won’t get tired of the sense of surprise that underlies some of those accolades that are coming her way.

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Hudson hasn’t given up her day job: When she spoke with Variety, she was in the final week of shooting “Running Point,” a Netflix comedy series that has Mindy Kaling among the creators, set in the basketball world in which she plays a Jeannie Buss-type figure. “I hope we do four seasons. You know, I’ve never felt that way before,” she says, looking forward to the possibility of what could pass for full-time employment. But she doesn’t want any season 2 to come along before she has a chance to do some shows behind “Glorious,” the culmination of a long desire to express herself musically that she didn’t feel confident to do at a younger age.

You just did your first public, ticketed show at the Bellwether in L.A. Do you have any indication to offer, for people who might want to see you in other cities, whether they’ll get the chance?

I’m finishing up the show right now [Netflix’s “Running Point”], and actually we’re shooting splits, so it’s just crazy hours right now. We get home at like 3 a.m. But once I finish the show, I’m going to take a little vacation, and then I’d like to put a real tour together and really tour the album. Because obviously this is all new, it’s sort of figuring out what that looks like, and what kind of venues and where, and how to organize that around having all my children. But it’s my dream. I want to be able to play in front of people and have that experience. It’s so much fun up there; it’s my happy place. That [the Bellwether] was really my first show with people that I don’t really know, with fans and it was a wild experience.

We might have expected you to be nervous, at this show or a previous private one you did for the industry at SIR, but you project the opposite of anxiety.

This is good news!I used to be so nervous when I would sing — this was back when I people asked me to sing for (private events) here and there — and I really worked on that, because it upset me. My fear made me angry. SoI had to unpack what that was. I was able to pinpoint some of what those fears were and work through that. Then during writing and making this album, something clicked in me and I was like, “This is the most fun,” and I’ve loved sharing it. Now, with these TV shows or doing Howard Stern, I’ve just started performing, so it is sort of like being thrown into the fire. This is still new to me. But once I start singing, within the first 10 seconds, I just feel totally calm. I think it’s just being completely present.You know, nerves or anxiety means you’re thinking about something either before or after, but if you’re totally present, it kind of washes all of that away.

Do you have a means for becoming that present — a mantra or just a means of putting yourself in that frame of mind?

There’s a friend of mine who’s a really wonderful theater director, Michael Arden, and we actually worked together [as actors] in “Bride Wars”; he works with actors all the time on stage. Before SIR, I was like, “My God, I’m excited, nervous.And he goes, “No. Find your feet. Take a deep breath. And you got this, all day long.” I love that. And so I actually literally find my feet. That’s just something I’ve started to do, which is, I feel my feet on the ground and I’ll stomp ’em a little bit and take a deep breath.Feeling your feet is, for me, really important — that grounding element.

A commonality of a lot of the promotional appearances you’ve been doing for this album is people telling you what a great voice you have, as if they’re surprised. You’ve probably experienced that hundreds of times in recent months. Do you think you might get tired of people telling you you have a fantastic voice?

Oh my God, how could you ever get tired of hearing that? It’s so kind. You know, I think the thing that feels really good is that I can feel a lot of kindness around this. On social media, people have a tendency to want to be very mean to people, and some people really like to be able to jump on that opportunity. So I’ve felt very emotional about the kindness that I’ve felt. I don’t know what that is about. But it brings up the reality that when you’re doing something from a really honest place, I think most people feel it and root for it. I’ve felt that in certain moments in my career, but this feels different because this is so personal to me. As you know, as a writer, you’re sort of jumping off of a cliff a little bit, and you just kind of put it out there and it doesn’t really belong to you anymore. It’s like having a baby, you know? I remember what my mom said when I had my first son. I was like, “Why am I so sad?” And she goes, “Because when he comes out, he doesn’t belong to you anymore.” And I feel that way about this album and music: It belongs to everybody else. And so I think that’s why it really hits the heartstrings when I feel people being supportive and kind.

Thinking about some of the most basic ways this is different from acting… You did a Talkshop appearance recently to hawk the album, and you were mentioning that you hadn’t had your face on a T-shirt before.

I was making a joke that I’m gonna make everyone who works for me wear my T-shirt. This is so funny to me. You know, I remember when “Almost Famous” came out and Cameron (Crowe) showed me the poster and I was like, “Oh my God.” And then I remember being in Times Square and being like, “Oh my God. There’s my face.” I don’t think I’ll ever get used to what that feeling feels like. It always feels removed. But there is something different about the T-shirt, I’m not gonna lie, that has my face and my name. I’m the kind of person where I’m like: Shouldn’t the name be smaller? Like, maybe put “Kate Hudson” on the sleeve? I’m gonna try to lean into it, but I’m not so sure it’s my personality. But it sort of hit me halfway through the show, when I saw people holding up the T-shirt; I was like, oh my gosh, I have merch.

Acting can be personal in its own way, but it feels like people who move into acting are taking a bold step sometimes, in that there is an expectation with recording artists that it is the real person that people are seeing now. That could be intimidating, to suddenly feel like you’re being judged not for how you inhabit someone else’s vision but for who you really are.

Yeah. I think that’s why it took me so long to be open with music, in this capacity. I mean, there are multiple reasons, but some of it has to do with my love for music being number one for me. It always has been, and so if I felt rejected in it maybe at an earlier time in my life, I think that it would’ve wounded me in a way that I probably knew deep down I wasn’t prepared for.

Rejection, generally, I can handle. I think when you’re growing up and you want to follow in your family’s footsteps, and they’re big footsteps to follow in, I’m not sure people realize how tough-skinned you have to be to get there. You feel like you’re under a microscope, just internally, in the business. I felt a lot throughout my process in my career that there’s a lot of people who’ve rooted for me, but there are equally people who would like to see failure. And I don’t know if it’s the way my parents raised us or what a tight family unit we have, and how happy we are in our real lives, that we don’t value the noise… that we really value the work. That’s how we were raised, and I’ve created a very tough skin for the acting world.

When it comes to this, though, it felt so vulnerable that if I would’ve done this in my late twenties, I think it would’ve been very hard for me to not sort of get carried into what people were saying. And at this age and where I’m at in my life, I don’t have that same fear of rejection anymore. I really just want to share it. I recognize that you’re not gonna win everybody over. But I can’t be led by that fear, or else I just would never put art into the world. And then, as a parent, I’d be modeling horribly. As a parent who knows I have three artists on my hands, they would know that I never did it because I was afraid to do it. I can’t do that for them either, you know?

You know, I’ve always been very open. I’ve never felt like I have anything to hide. Clearly, I keep certain things private for the sake of other people in my life and my family, and I don’t share everything. But I’m such an open book. Even in doing interviews where people ask me about my life, I love to talk, and I like to connect, so I’m always very open. But I think that music brings up something else for me — it’s my connection to my father (Bill Hudson, known for the ‘70s group the Hudson Brothers), the connection to the Hudson side of my life. It’s a very different side of me that is very connected to a very personal story, which is that relationship or lack of relationship that I’ve had with my father. So that’s also very interesting when it comes to music, because I’ve always felt very alone in my life, musically, because I wasn’t connected to the Hudsons. And now that I’m more connected to the Hudson side of my family, it really makes sense where it comes from. It’s actually pretty wild, you know? So not only has the music been cathartic for me, but it’s also really reconnected me to my siblings and my father. It’s been pretty amazing.

You’re working with your fiance, Danny, on this, in writing, recording and live performance. Did you jump at that chance, or were you hesitant at all? Because the fathers of your first two children were musicians, as well (the Black Crowes’ Chris Robinson and Muse’s Matt Bellamy), but there was no sign of you wanting to run out and do duets or anything else musical with them.

Well, yeah. But my master plan was to create the greatest band of all time, so, you know, there was some calculation going into those… [Laughs.] No, I’m kidding. You know, taking aside that all of the men that I’ve had children with are incredible musicians, they’re all very different people with very different sort of processes. Danny is a great songwriter and he’s a great producer, the kind of person who, like Matt — Bellamy;Bingham’s dad — they could sit in a room for hours in front of their computers and their ProTools and create, and it’s just amazing to watch. And I don’t have the ability to do that. It’s not my strong suit. I watched Danny get lost in his productions. And so when I was gonna do it, it was really clear to me [that he needed to be part of it].

Danny hadn’t touched music for 10 years. He’s been editing — he’s a great editor — and I was like, “I don’t know why you haven’t reconnected to music.” Because he’s so talented, but he just wasn’t inspired. And that’s a Danny story to tell, but it’s a really interesting story. Then when I went to go write with Linda (Perry), I didn’t ask — I just told him, “You’re coming, and I want you in the room and we’re gonna write together. I need another instrument. I want your ears in the room.” Danny’s very quiet and he hears everything. Then once we finished writing with Linda, we had some other songs that we or I had written before, and then Danny started working on some of those. It unlocked something, and that was it. Now he can’t stop writing. I feel like I’m married to Brian Wilson. He doesn’t come out of his studio and he just writes all day, and it’s wild to watch. But he was able to really unlock the sound of the album, really.

We’re actually quite different in our tastes, but he’s been able to really connect with a sound I love. And then Johan Carlsson, who’s a wonderful, dear friend of ours, sort of brought a little bit of that pop sparkle. He and Danny were a great mix, because Danny is a very organic producer, and Johan is coming from the Max Martin team and brought this sort of booming element to some of the songs, and they’re just besties. It really was a great working process because it was so intimate, and for me, this had to be very personal. It had to be really me doing it, you know?

Danny and I just write really well together. We’ll sit on a Sunday and I’ll have my guitar and then he’ll grab a guitar and he’ll be like, “That was interesting. What are you doing?” And then we’ll write a song. It’s such a wonderful thing to have in a partner, you know? But he is super laid back and cool. And I’m the bossy one. … It’s been really wonderful for our relationship. Talent is very attractive. And when people can share music like we do, you’re really sharing the most vulnerable parts of yourself. I feel very, very, very lucky to have him in my life.

Can you talk about the style you arrived at? Because it feels like what you are doing is ultra-mainstream in one sense, and yet, there’s not a lot of it around.

It’s so funny that you just said it like that, because I feel that way about it.

It recalls for people Fleetwood Mac or Sheryl Crow, and you’ve mentioned the Rolling Stones as an influence, too, not just to make it about female front-people. But it’s funny that when that “Daisy Jones and the Six” series came around, it made people wish this fictional band was real, because it reflects a thing people want and don’t get that much of.

I did what I love. And I’ve written all kinds of music, , but when I was making the album, I was like, what I love is band-led, and guitar-led… I like music that makes you feel like you’re surrounded by the band. You mentioned Sheryl Crow. I was a 14-year-old girl when “Tuesday Night Music Club” came out. That album and (the Stones’) “Tattoo You” were it for me when I was 14 and discovering music. Sheryl was my foundation of loving female rock music. And from “Run Baby Run” to “I Shall Believe,” I was like, this is it. Just in my stomach, just thinking about it now, it’s like, ugh — it’s just the fucking best. She’s such a rock star, and she was a real hero of mine when I was younger. And then, from there, obviously really discovering Fleetwood Mac and all of the women, like Pat Benatar and fucking Joan Jett, and the women in Heart. Ann Wilson is like that voice, and Nancy’s songs, and getting to know Nancy during “Almost Famous”… That kind of band-led music for me was it.

But it was also the brightness… I like that kind of golden sound that comes from David Crosby’s album with “Laughing” (1971’s “If I Could Only Remember My Name”), or discovering Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon,” which to me also has that kind of golden feeling. Sheryl has it; I think Lucius, now, have that sound. I just love it and so I’m sure it comes out in the album. I hope it does. When I’m singing the Patty Griffin song (“When It Don’t Come Easy”) on stage… there’s something about organic music. That being said, then I get into Brian Eno and I’m like, ooh, I could get weird too. I don’t know where it’s gonna go. Fuck, there’s so much great music out there, you know?

What covers do you most enjoy doing on stage?

The one we all love playing the most is “Voices Carry” (by Aimee Mann, from ‘Til Tuesday). You know it so well, but you don’t hear it all the time. People love that cover… I love taking a song like “Vaseline” (by Stone Temple Pilots) that wouldn’t be necessarily a song that I would write, but it’s a song that moves me, and is from a time in my life,and then you can build a fucking jazz sound around it… I’m such a huge TP fan. I had the honor of being on the road with Tom Petty one summer when the Black Crowes opened for them, and so I got to really meet their whole crew and to live with that music. He was the best… a very quiet, shy man. I’ll always want to do his songs, and we worked up a bluegrass version of (“You Don’t Know What It’s Like”), which is one of my favorites.

You’re nearing the end of production on “Running Point.” How has it been, having that overlap with your album launch?

We are having an absolute blast. It’s been such an interesting time, working so hard on the show while this album has been coming out. Having it kind of just happen all at the same time wasn’t the plan. My kids are probably like, what is happening? These four months have been wild for my family. But for me personally, it’s been really interesting to have two very separate things going at once. It’s been nice to have to disappear a little bit into the show; I’ve been forced to be present in everything I’m doing, because I have to go to work and have pages and pages of dialogue that I have to focus on. I’m not focusing on the fact that I’m gonna be singing the next day, so it doesn’t really give me too much time to overthink anything. Which has been really great.

And then on top of it, with this cast and this crew on this show, we are having the time of our lives, and I laugh so hard every day I was just looking around last night at this big arena we were shooting in, with all these people and the (basketball) players, and I was like, this has been such a dream job. I hope it works. I hope we do four seasons. You know, I’ve never felt that way before.

It also makes me realize how undervalued comedic actors are, in terms of their ability and how hard it is to be funny. I’m working with some of the great, great comedic actors, and it is a real difference when you’re working with someone who’s really fucking funny and really smart and then you’re working with someone who really isn’t and doesn’t know how to get there. Some great comedians came in and did some scenes that I worked with, where I’m just looking at them going, wow, I’m so in awe of their talent. It’s a very rare gift. When you’re inside of it, you realize that it’s much harder to land funny than it is to land drama. But on the outside it just doesn’t seem that way, because the good ones make it feel effortless.

I’m working with this guy, Drew Tarver — fucking amazing, this actor. He’s so funny and so subtle. He’s up there doing improv all the time, every weekend, always on stage doing something, and I feel very honored to be working with people like him… Ike Berinholtz is one of the showrunners and creators; he’s fantastic. And Dave Stassen, our showrunner, is also just so funny, and the whole writing team is just top-notch. Scott MacArthur who plays one of my brothers, he’s just hilarious; he was on “The Mighty Gemstones.” And then Brenda Song has been wonderful. Justin Theroux plays another brother; Justin’s one of the funniest people I’ve ever known…  It’s been pretty fabulous.

Look, you know, it all ends up really coming together in post, so I hope people have as much fun watching it as we’re having doing it. The goal is just to make people feel good and laugh, and there’s so much funny stuff in there, so hopefully, it translates.

I feel super grateful right now. It’s a lot. I’m not gonna lie. I am happy-tired. Sundays for me right now are when I just want to be at home and I’m so tired, but I’m so grateful. It’s that cozy, tired feeling. I look forward to the end of the show so that I can really focus on the album cycle, and that’ll be really fun too. Once I have my little vacation with my whole family, I’m gonna be focusing on music.

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