By Kayleigh Hughes, special to the American-Statesman
At the Austin stop of her intimate “Sorry Not Sorry” house party tour, pop superstar Demi Lovato showed she’s ready to embrace happiness. The singer brought smiles and jams on Saturday for a breezy, would-have-been-a-boat party along the shores of Lake Travis at Ernie’s on the Lake.
The event’s premise — celebrating the release of Lovato’s new single with a private boat party for her biggest fans — was complicated by weather. (There must be some exasperation for artists who book weather-reliant events in the notoriously often-drought-ridden Austin, only to be faced with wicked horizontal rain on the day of their event.) But Lovato and her team handled the complication with grace, relocating the party to the lower-level of Ernie’s and decking the space out with giant balloon letters spelling out “Sorry Not Sorry.”
Speaking to the Austin American-Statesman, Lovato explained that the house party tour is “a play off the music video” for “Sorry Not Sorry,” which is centered on a big bash. Lovato entered the venue with the poise of a seasoned professional and took to the stage to perform two songs in a jovial, high-energy mini-set. The first tune was, of course, the fierce “Sorry Not Sorry,” a ferociously confident pop banger. Lovato followed the new song with her smash hit, the sultry “Cool for the Summer,” before hopping offstage for a meet-and-greet with eager fans.
Lovato’s many fans, all grins and big hugs during their few shining moments with the star, are dedicated to her — and the relationship goes both ways. “I’m always connected with them,” the singer told the Statesman of her dedicated legions of “Lovatics.” “They’re just continuing to inspire me, and I’m just continuing to open up my heart and help them in whatever way I can.”
For Lovato, that help comes in many forms: speaking out about women’s rights; sharing photos on Instagram with inspiring body positive messages, such as an April 13 post that says “I don’t have a thigh gap and I’m still beautiful the way I am”; and writing anthems that are unafraid and unapologetic — and perfect for pumping loud when you need to build yourself up. When asked if that brazenness was natural or learned, she said, “I think it’s just a part of who I am.” Lovato added, “Growing up, I’ve always been unapologetic. I’ve been outspoken about the things that I believe in… I’ve never quieted myself for anybody.”
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Lovato has fought bipolar disorder, addiction, and eating disorders in her past, and the former Disney Channel star has bravely put much of her private life on display in service of starting real conversations about these issues. In 2015, she launched a mental health campaign, and in 2016, she performed at the Democratic National Convention, openly stating that while she was lucky to have been able to receive outstanding mental health care, not everyone is so fortunate. Of being an activist and a musician, Lovato said Saturday, “I feel like everyone can make a difference, and it’s important to use your platform for more than just your talents.”
But Saturday’s event indicated that the star is in a new place, both for her career and her personal life. For one thing, she’s not taking questions about mental health right now. Given how valuable Lovato’s frank, honest voice has been for reducing stigmas, you can hardly blame her for wanting a break. At 24, the lifelong performer has been through more than many 40-year-olds. And as any activist can tell you, it’s a draining business talking about such serious topics — made exponentially moreso when there’s a personal connection.
“I’ve shared about my struggles,” Lovato said. “But what people haven’t seen is the lighter side of me, the happier side of me.” With the house party tour and upcoming documentary “I Am: Demi Lovato,” she’s aiming to reveal — and revel in — that happier side. And what makes her happy? Lovato is quick to answer, zeroing right in on her biggest support systems: friends, family and fans. “The three Fs,” she calls them.
“I Am: Demi Lovato” also documents the artist’s experience recording a new album, which she confirmed to the Statesman would be released “by the end of the year.” Lovato says the project will have an R&B and pop focus. If “Sorry Not Sorry” is any indication, the singer is at the top of her songwriting game and will be dominating arenas on her next big tour. For now, though, she’s taking a moment to enjoy performing in small venues for her fans. “It’s been so much fun,” Lovato said. “I feel like I know my fans.”