Disney star Selena Gomez pays respect to Canadian teen-pop forebears

Disney teen star and UNICEF Ambassador Selena Gomez distributes UNICEF trick-or-treat donation boxes to the audience at the NBC "Today" television program in New York Friday, Oct. 2, 2009. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Richard Drew)

TORONTO - At 17 years old, Disney star Selena Gomez is still young enough that she says it feels "crazy and weird" to see her debut record sitting on the shelf next to albums by Mariah Carey and Paramore.

But Gomez is savvy enough to pay respect to the teen-pop forebears, including Canadians Avril Lavigne and Fefe Dobson, who influenced her debut CD, "Kiss & Tell."

She says she's loved Lavigne "since she came out, since I remember - since I was 12." And she calls herself a "huge, huge fan" of Dobson, to the extent that she included a cover of the Toronto native's "As a Blonde" on the disc.

"I remember (fellow Disney star) Demi (Lovato) and I used to listen to her when we were younger," Gomez told The Canadian Press in a telephone interview from New York.

"We totally and completely jammed out to her."

Gina Schock of the Go-Gos was another major influence on the record, serving as a producer and co-writer on several tracks on the disc.

The Go-Gos scored their biggest hit with their 1981 debut, "Beauty and the Beat." Gomez was born in 1992.

So is the "Wizards of Waverly Place" star a fan of Schock's band?

"I don't know who I'd be if I wasn't," she replied.

In fact, the Go-Gos do seem an obvious reference-point for Gomez's album of shiny, semi-sassy bubblegum pop.

While Gomez aspires to "evolve into more acoustic stuff," she says she's content with doing the teen-pop thing for now.

"I wanted to make sure that my first (CD) was fun and light," she said.

"I didn't want anything that was too serious and too severe. I wanted to make sure that kids and parents could jump around to it and have a good time."

Meanwhile, Gomez is also looking forward to the March release of "Ramona and Beezus," based on the series of Beverly Cleary's "Ramona" novels.

"It was one of the first projects I stepped out of Disney for, just to do that for a little bit," said Gomez, who will play Ramona's put-upon older sister, Beezus. "It was a nice change of pace for me and it was wonderful."

She says she read the series when she was growing up and that she would love it if the film inspired her fans to give the novels a chance. She said she didn't need to read the script to know she was interested, but she did have to audition.

"Well, I obviously know my fanbase and I know the age range which my fanbase is, so I feel like that was kind of a perfect match," she said.

"It was a different character I'd never played before, and I thought it was something my kid fans and parents could go see."