After concluding her tour for her 2016 album, Lost On You, singer-songwriter LP was almost immediately pulled into a songwriting session. She’d just spent five full months on the road and had been living out of suitcases for a year-and-a-half, thanks to the worldwide success of the album’s title track as well as “Muddy Waters” and a rich collection of other tunes.
The 37-year-old artist, born Laura Pergolizzi, was feeling road-weary. But she had built a career out of always going the extra mile with songwriting—with hits written for or with the likes of Rihanna, Rita Ora and the Backstreet Boys (among many others). She accepted the invitation to drive from Los Angeles to Joshua Tree with producers Mike Del Rio and Nate Campany, whom she described as her home band.
“For me, the desert is such a huge experience,” LP said. “Coming from the extreme weather and wetness of New York to this climate has been a huge switch for me. It altered everything from my attitude to my creativity, to my outlook. The desert is a symbol for me. There’s something that speaks to me when I go out there. I always try to get out there for some kind of creative mission, every chance I get.”
Three or four songs came from the sessions, including “Girls Go Wild” and “The Power.” Suddenly, LP could see her next album taking shape as an exercise in determination and a trip into her art creation process.
Before the success of “Lost On You,” the biggest hit in her own catalog was “Into the Wild,” she explained. When she went to follow it up, she considered whether she should try to recreate a similar song for similar results.
Following her gut, she didn’t follow that path and ended up with “Lost On You.” Her success gave her the confidence to set her biggest hit aside when approaching her new songs.
“It’s always nice to know that you got have the ability to not try to rip yourself off,” LP said. “Being a writer for other people is very valuable to me in the respect that I put no expectations on songs, no expectations on myself in a room, and I … can tell if it’s for me. I just try to move on and feel uninhibited.”
Heart to Mouth, LP’s fifth full-length album since 2001, is a diverse offering both sonically and in terms of mood. It swings between extreme emotions, from infatuation to anger to guilt and sadness.
Lead single “Girls Go Wild,” which LP previously described to RIFF as having a “chill West Coast” vibe, is a breezy mid-tempo rocker featuring some of LP’s established whistling, as well as Chrissie-Hynde-like dreamlike delivery.
But to the artist, album’s centerpiece is the opener, “Dreamcatcher.”
“Not to compare, but to me, it’s like the ‘Muddy Waters’ of … this record,” she said. “I feel like it’s a bit of a palate cleanser—getting you ready to experience the record. I hope that it sets a nice tone.”
It’s followed by a collection of unique songs, most of which are pretty dark, like “One Night in the Sun” and “Recovery,” with a light shining through every so often. A few songs after “Dreamcatcher” comes “Dreamer.” LP said the song naming decision was coincidental, though both songs are about the same person. She didn’t clarify whether that’s her fiancé, singer-songwriter Lauren Ruth Ward, though “Die For Your Love” definitely is.
“I just go on a mood when I’m … plotting out a record,” she said.
LP said she embodies the extreme highs and lows in her albums—“that’s me in a nutshell, man”—even if she puts on a happy shell on the outside, and that she has always been like this. Those extremes often surface within the same day for her.
“I like showing that on a record—there’s songs on there where I’m pissed off in my current relationship, and you could tell. That’s just a normal thing,” she said. “You can still be happy with someone and be pissed off at the same time.”
Lauren Ruth Ward is a frequent muse for LP. On her current tour, the two are touring together. LP has previously talked about how life on the road is an isolating experience, and this tour will be less isolating. On the day of the interview, she was planning on joining her fiancé at a concert at the rustic Pappy and Harriet’s near Joshua Tree National Park.
The two try to play together when possible.
“If you were me, and your wife or your lover was an artist, wouldn’t you take them out at some point?” she said. “Plus, she’s worthy of it. It’s really nice for us because we get to spend time together. Usually, we don’t get to, much.”
One song definitely not about Lauren Ruth Ward is “Recovery,” which is more or less the antithesis to “Die for Your Love.” The crier—literally, LP delivers the song like she’s crying—is about one of her ex-lovers.
The song is written from the perspective of the other woman, and the gist is about how the person who caused the downfall of the relationship can’t get over feeling guilty about the experience.
“I was trying to write from her perspective of, like, ‘Don’t be a dick and try to always be checking in and assuaging your own fucking guilt,’” she said. “Have a heart and just let her chill.”
LP has since been on the flip side of the same coin, at which point she felt like she “deserved” to put “Recovery” on Heart to Mouth. She had actually written the song for another artist. It had almost gotten recorded numerous times by others, only to be set aside by all of them.
“Everybody was so into it when I wrote it,” she said. “However, many years later; fucking crickets—nothing. That’s the music business in a nutshell:
“‘You’re fucking amazing!’
“‘No one will buy it!’”
When all was said and done, LP said she was glad the song fell back to her. It was one of those rare personal creations that was at home with her.
She doesn’t want to come off like a “pompous ass” and understands there are many talented singers capable of singing her songs. Still, there are some songs that she feels no one else could sing the same way.
Yet another extreme on the record is the album closer, “Special,” which LP wrote about a close friend, who was murdered recently. Renato López was a Mexican actor, musician and TV personality who was killed by a cartel near Mexico City in 2016. LP and Ward were in Milan at the time, when Ward got the call notifying her about his passing.
“It’s always difficult to have a friend die,” LP said. “You think you’re going to spend the rest of your life with him. But to have it happen in such a violent way. … We’ve been rehearsing [the song] and … I’m excited to be able to think of him every night, and pay tribute.”
Just don’t expect for LP to get overly sentimental at her shows, for which she has been rehearsing nonstop. The diehard fans who look for the stories behind her songs will find the story on their own, she said.
“It’s kind of heavy, and I don’t really do, ‘I wrote this one about…’ It’s not a fucking folk show,” she said.
On tour, which kicks off this week, fans will get to indulge in the full range of LP emotions and sonic diversity, from rock with sticky melodic hooks to folky ukulele-playing and electronic flourishes.
LP said all her albums cover so many sounds as a result of her normal artistic process.
“I don’t want a record to just disappear into mush in your ears like background music,” she said. “I want a story. I want a landscape. I’m always shooting for that.”
Follow editor Roman Gokhman at Twitter.com/RomiTheWriter.