Willa Ford has an interesting explanation for why her career struggled after her hit 2001 song, “I Wanna Be Bad.”
Fans may remember the now 36-year-old singer when she was grouped in the pop category among her contemporaries at the time — Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Jessica Simpson and Mandy Moore — though she failed to produce any more hits after her sultry debut. Ford opens up about her short-lived singing career in a new interview with Billboard and says that the release of her second single on 9/11 was the kiss of death for her.
“A lot of people don’t realize this, but my second single was released on September 11, 2001,” Ford says. “Everything that happened that day froze; the world stood still, as it should have. My second single didn’t do well because anything that launched that day kind of got canned.”
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“I know that sounds silly, but on radio they slate things, but it really fell to the wayside,” she continues.
Ford goes on to explain that she was also affected negatively by record company turnovers, and ended up in “no man’s land” when the president of her record company left. She says she then decided to take a step back from the music business after feeling that what she was doing wasn’t “authentic” anymore.
“I felt like this pop machine had taken me and put me in the wash cycle and I had been spinning out of control,” she recalls. “I wanted some time to refocus myself. I started re-evaluating what I was doing. I was a classical opera singer with musical theory — a real, legit musician. I loved what I was doing — I wrote the songs, but I felt like the authenticity wasn’t there.”
“I knew that it wasn’t going to have the staying power that I wanted it to have,” she continues. “I really took a step back because I felt like I wasn’t doing what I was supposed to be doing at the time. I know that sounds crazy, but it was the perfect storm, and I walked away. It’s really hard when you walk away to go back to it.”
Ford says she’s grateful that she still has fans, especially her “loving gays.”
“I’ve had so many guys be like, ‘Listen, I figured out I was gay because I realized from your music videos I didn’t want to screw you — I wanted to be you,'” she says.
Ford — who’s also dabbled in acting and is now a full-time interior designer — shares that she’s definitely thought about reviving her singing career, crediting Kylie Minogue as her inspiration.
“When I look at Kylie Minogue, she did [her comeback] really right,” she explains. “She did ‘Loco-Motion,’ she went away for 20 years — which is almost how long I’ve gone away — and then she comes back with this amazing dance-pop record. For me it was groundbreaking in the States. I really do miss music. It’s my first passion, my first love.”
And she’s definitely up for touring — with her husband, former NFL linebacker Ryan Nece, and their 10-month-old son, Elijah, in tow.
“If the [new] music did well, I’d love to hit the gay club circuit because it would be so empowering and fun every night,” she muses. “I used to say I didn’t want to have a family on the road, I think it’s about having the right family on the road. I think it would be a blast with my husband and child. I miss being on the road more than any of it.”
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Ford competed on Dancing With the Stars in 2006, and according to her pro partner at the time, Maksim Chmerkovskiy, the two dated.
Watch the video below to see Chmerkovskiy dish on more former partners, including Hope Solo and Misty May-Treanor.
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