Fast track: Hoffman's third time out

After graduating from high school, some teenagers go to college. Others go into the workforce. Lauren Hoffman went out on tour.

"As soon as I graduated from high school, I had a band, and then I was in the studio, and then I had a career," she says. "It was pretty intense."

For those who aren't following, several years ago, Hoffman was a particularly promising young songwriter. After leaving Murray High School in 1994, she was quickly snapped up by David Lowery, frontman for Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven, and by the age of 18, she found herself signed with the behemoth that is Virgin Records.

"The music business can be very gross and disheartening," says an understandably weathered Hoffman. "They were kind of a big let-down as far as support in the United States."

The fact that the albums were big in France and Japan wasn't good enough. "I ended up going to my lawyer and getting out of my contract," she says.

That's when she took the first of two self-imposed breaks from music. The time off gave her a chance to recuperate from the frenzied pace of striving for mainstream success.

"I had some fairly self destructive ways of dealing with feeling overwhelmed," she says. "Everybody has their own self destructive behaviors, and none of mine are particularly original."

Two musical vacations later, she's back with Choreography, her third album and her first in six years. Although it has a decidedly harder rock edge, some elements evoke memories of Fiona Apple. That comparison elicits a bit of a sigh.

"Virgin signed me when it was hot to sign female artists because of Alanis Morissette, but I wasn't really connected with anybody at the label. There wasn't anybody there who got me and believed in what I was doing," says Hoffman. "Their whole spin was that I was going to be the precocious 19-year-old, but then Fiona Apple came out, and she filled that niche. So they didn't know what to do with me."

Choreography is tentatively scheduled for release sometime next year, so, for the time being, the only way to hear the new material is at a performance. That alone would be reason enough to consider checking out Hoffman's solo show at Gravity Lounge on September 15, even if she hadn't moved to New York last year.

"New York, in many ways, is very inspiring," she says. "There's this energy, there are so many things going on. It can be romantic and dreamy, but it can also be very hard. It's easy to get overwhelmed by all the people around you who want to make it."

Overwhelmed? Uh-oh.

But if Hoffman is as driven as she claims, she probably intimidates more than her share of Yankee weenies. She's currently tending to her new release, looking for management, and easing herself back into touring.

"It's all I'm focused on," she says.

Even if that gradually expanding performance circuit will likely include more shows up north than locally, Hoffman is loath to call herself a New Yorker.

"My relationship with Charlottesville is that I belong to Charlottesville, whether I'm living in New York or anywhere else," she says.

Maybe she has a niche after all.

Age: 28

Why here? Here is home.

What's worst about living here? Why so negative? Here is pretty great.

Favorite hangout? My house

Most overrated virtue? Virginity

People would be surprised to know about you? Which is why I'll never tell

What would you change about yourself? My inability to fly

Proudest accomplishment? I can stand on my head.

People find most annoying about you? I can stand on my head.

Whom do you admire? My parents

Favorite book? Ishmael

 Subject that causes you to rant? War

Biggest 21st century thrill? The Britney-Madonna kiss

Biggest 21st century creep-out? Three-way tie. Bush. The Britney-Madonna kiss. Michael Jackson.

What do you drive? A car

In your car CD player right now? Bella Morte

Next journey? Back to New York

Most trouble you've ever gotten in? I didn't do it.

Regret? I should have done it.

Favorite comfort food? Buttered bread

Always in your refrigerator? Organic milk for my organic shade-grown coffee. (Does that make me a yuppie?)

Must-see TV? No such thing

Favorite cartoon? Shrek

Describe a perfect day: 72 degrees, light wind, scattered clouds

Walter Mitty fantasy? French university professor, in Paris

Who'd play you in the movie? Zach Braff in drag

Most embarrassing moment? August 13, 2005, 10:45pm

Best advice you ever got? Go for it

Favorite bumper sticker? Assume nothing

Lauren Hoffman