Samantha Mumba

FEW ARTISTS WOULD BE GUTSY ENOUGH to disappear from the promo circuit right after releasing a debut album, but in the case of young Irish R&B/pop singer Samantha Mumba, the opportunity to act alongside Guy Pearce and Jeremy Irons in the remake of “The Time Machine” couldn’t be passed up.

So when the 18-year-old beauty started shooting the DreamWorks picture in Los Angeles at the start of this year, Interscope continued to work the gold-certified album, Gotta Tell You, and squeezed in the odd interview for her when time allowed. Now as she embarks on her very first U.S. tour, opening for *NSYNC, she already has a significant fanbase.

Co-RAs Christopher Dalston and Jenna Adler of Creative Artists Agency in Los Angeles speak with enthusiasm and pride of Mumba scoring the coveted part over an unnamed Academy Award winner.

“It’s truly one of the most remarkable stories considering who she beat out with no acting experience and her album had barely been out,” Dalston told POLLSTAR, adding that CAA’s Brian Loucks, who runs the soundtrack division, suggested her for the lead role.

“So, normally, we’d be talking about touring and what we’re going to be doing, but in her case, she’s multifaceted.”

“From a long-term perspective, it’s the best thing,” Adler added.

With filming wrapped and the *NSYNC dates ending in late July, Adler said CAA is “arguing with the European company on who gets her next. She’s been in the States for so long, which completely threw a wrench in the European plan. So the idea is to have Samantha come back at the end of the year, around the release of the film.”

Mumba considers her showbiz background “very normal.” She began taking tap and jazz dancing lessons at age 4 and started singing three years later. “My voice was always quite loud and big for my size,” she told POLLSTAR. From that point on, she did “a load” of Irish television programs.

At 15, she appeared in the theatre production “The Hot Mikado,” a jazzy, modern take on the Gilbert & Sullivan opera. One night, hanging out with her older mates from the cast, she put on an American accent and faked her way into a Dublin club, pretending to be of age. Once inside, artist manager Louis Walsh (Westlife, Boyzone) recognized her from local press coverage and approached her.

“He came over and introduced himself and I was just gobsmacked because he’s a household name,” she enthused. “He rang my mom and they talked for ages and then the three of us met (together). Then he took us to London to meet with some record labels. Louis didn’t really hear me sing, himself, for four months. That’s a secret. The record company did but he didn’t,” she said chuckling.

Without having a proper studio demo, she said, “[We] just brought in things that I had done, bits and pieces of Irish telly. I got offered deals by BMG and EMI, but Polydor was the most enthusiastic and offered to make me a priority act.”

Samantha Mumba

Mumba jumped at the chance, choosing to leave school a year early.

“I was offered a five-album deal. I was offered a publishing deal. It’s not something you turn away,” she explained. “The only reason you finish school is to go on to college so you have credentials for the career you want for the rest of your life, whereas I was being offered my career on a plate.”

Mumba said she was then packed off to Scandinavia for weeks at a time to write and record, resulting in seven out of 12 co-writes, including the title track. Her personal mandate: “Real cheesy pop I just wouldn’t do.”

The teen started to promote Gotta Tell You with interviews and live promo dates for which she sang three or four songs backed by four dancers. She insists she still lives a “normal” life and is aware that her star is rising but she can’t quite get her head around it.

“I’m not going to count my chickens before they’re hatched. I’ll wait and see what happens,” she said.

Asked if she wants the kind of success that prevents Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera from enjoying a drink or a cigarette or even an intimate moment because of the prying eyes of the press, she said, “I want to be as successful as Samantha Mumba can become. Britney’s Britney and Christina’s Christina. That’s completely irrelevant to my career.

“I definitely want success but I don’t know if I’d like that hype. That’s not a good thing to have people watching your every move. I mean, I still have my own personal life and I plan on keeping it that way.

“All of a sudden, you’re like a role model; especially in Ireland and England, people are much more clued on, kind of watching what I do. I’m still growing up, so I’m obviously gonna make mistakes. I’m not superhuman.”

What kind of “star” does she think she’ll be? “I think I freak the record labels out everywhere I go because I do speak before I think, so I prefer to be a bit of a controversial star than a goodie.”

Fame or fortune notwithstanding, Mumba said she’ll never be one of those stars moving through life protected by a wall of bodyguards.

“Regardless of how big things get, I will not go ’round with bodyguards all the time. I’m not into that at all,” she assured. “And if you do see me with bodyguards, I will not be happy” unless they’re really good looking guards.

“Yeah, I’ll make allowances,” she laughed.