Known for two victories on ABC's hugely popular "Dancing With the Stars," for landing the lead in the upcoming "Footloose" remake and for her May-December romance with Ryan Seacrest, 22-year-old Julianne Hough seems to treat her fledgling country music career as just an entertaining gig on the side.
The best part? Any possible controversy is just a cute anecdote to share, as she did during the "Acoustic Christmas Concert" presented by Baltimore's WPOC radio Friday night.
"This next song - funny story," she said by way of introducing her new single, "Is That So Wrong," in the middle of her 30-minute set at Cancun Cantina in Hanover. "I shot a music video for it . . . and [Country Music Television] kind of banned it."
Giggling, Hough shook her head and showed off her megawatt smile to the crowd of about 100 packed on the dance floor. "Apparently I was taking off too many clothes as I was dancing across my bedroom." She paused to let this sink in. "But I don't know - I kind of liked it."
Launching into the song, Hough's infectious, sugary voice (powerful as long as she doesn't try to hit any super-high notes) made a good case for her attempt to reboot her singing career. After some success with her debut self-titled album in 2008, which hit No. 1 on the Billboard country charts, and a holiday album soon after, there has been pretty much - literally - radio silence.
Except, of course, she's in movies now, and there's that tabloidtastic relationship with Seacrest.
"A lot of people have seen my relationships very publicly lately," Hough cooed to the crowd, letting the concept of "Ryan Seacrest" hang in the air. Then she turned serious. "But I don't think people know who I really am," she declared before belting out the slow song "Wildfire."
Still a dancer at heart, Hough shimmied her way through the set, which included "My Hallelujah Song," "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" and Sarah Buxton's "Love Is a Trip." She took breaks from the microphone to wriggle around and dance next to her lone backup guitar player. Although billed as the main event, Hough got roughly the same amount of stage time as the two opening acts, Ashley Gearing and Craig Campbell. But there may have been a reason for it - even Hough admitted that her music library isn't extensive.
"But I figured I should sing something you know," she said before performing her most popular tune (bouncy, ultra-catchy "That Song in My Head") for those in the audience, who were doing their best to listen attentively, despite extremely loud chatter from other bar patrons.
Feeling the need to plug something, Hough announced that an upcoming album is in the works but had no idea when it would arrive - she tossed out the guess of "maybe sometime next year."