Q&A: LP on her forthcoming record, songwriting and wedding bells

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Laura Pergolizzi, LP, Lost On You

LP photographed at Outside Lands Music Festival at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco on Aug. 12, 2018. Photo: Chloe Catajan.

It took LP only six record label deals to find to find a label that believed in her musical vision wholeheartedly. She had her breakout hits “Lost On You” and “Muddy Waters” in the can for her previous label. Executives listened to them and promptly dropped her.

LP, born Laura Pergolizzi, didn’t give up. While she kept on writing, something that she’d learned from more than a decade as a hit songwriter for the likes of Rihanna, Christina Aguilera and Rita Ora, she still believed in those tracks, which got her a label deal with Vagrant. In 2015, the independent label released the New Yorker’s songs in Europe, starting a snowball that would reach right back to the U.S.

The bluesy artist’s unique vocal timbre, equally able to muster a powerful vibrato and a Cinderella-esque whistle, pulling from pop and Bob Dylan’s nasally delivery, struck a particular chord with “Lost On You,” a song about the dissolution of a relationship with her girlfriend. The song went on to top the charts in more than a dozen countries, starting in Greece.

LP has stayed busy touring and songwriting, and last month released the first single off her forthcoming fifth record, which she said will be released in January. “Girls Go Wild” was produced by Mike Del Rio, who has worked with X Ambassadors and Kylie Minogue recently. The song has what LP described as a “chill” West Coast vibe, while the record will delve both into her personal life and tell others’ stories, she said.

“I’m [a] very full range of emotion kind of person. It’s going to be my normal pendulum swing of back and forth between happy, sad, celebratory, dismal,” she said. “I’m a very emotional person, so the record will be emotional.”

RIFF: How many record label deals did you have by the time of “Lost On You?”

LP: I think when I joined Vagrant, that was my third indie deal, and I’d already had three majors, so it’s my sixth record deal.

Did you feel like you came off fairly, or at least evenly, in terms of finances?

I love to tell the story because I hope it reaches other artists and makes them feel better and inspires them to keep going. I’d been on Warner Bros. for three years and it started out with a bang; everything was very good, and they really understood me. Then I got caught up in making a very overproduced record [2014’s Forever for Now], with someone who was then fired from the label. And then the new people; I played them “Lost on You,” I played them “Muddy Waters” … and “Strange,” and they dropped me. And I had like a $1.6-million bill that I never had to pay back! Then I got picked up by Vagrant, who believed in me, and then my shit blew up in Europe. I got to experience the fact that a song that might have sat on my computer for the rest of my fucking life, doing all this great shit for myself.

So the message to other artists is getting dropped from a major label isn’t necessarily bad.

It’s not bad, and also, it’s always, songs, songs, songs. I’m not telling you to fucking tote around a song that no one believes in for years and years, but don’t give up on a song you really feel that other people would feel. Just because some guy behind a desk doesn’t think that you’re a fucking star, just fucking keep writing songs; keep showing them wrong. … It’s a beautiful story. I’m so lucky, and I’m so grateful. I really hope I can give some people some hope.

I read when you were growing up, your mom loved opera music. Does that have anything to do with the vibrato that you kick in to from time to time in your songs?

Oh yeah, for sure. That music was such a visceral thing. … I’ve gone so far to so many countries where people don’t really speak English, and it just shows you that emotion can cut through music without you understanding the lyrics. And I don’t understand any of the lyrics in most opera. Then, when I heard Freddie Mercury, Queen, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” it was like, “holy fucking shit! This is like rock and roll opera!” I was like 6. My friend’s parents were classic rock heads. It’s just one of those things where you go, “Holy shit.” It’s really about … the emotion in the voice. Opera definitely influenced me a bunch.

Is writing for other artists something you’d consider in the future, for fun?

Absolutely. I think it’s a great way to adjust your sights, adjust how you see yourself, see how other people write, and what they think about it. It’s fascinating to be in on someone’s process. It’s invaluable to be allowed to see that. It inspires me. It adds to the snowball of my work.

I know that you did it for years because you had to support yourself. So perhaps you didn’t go into it with the most positive mindset.

Yeah. Well, you know, it’s very hard. I know my songwriter friends. It can be very difficult … because you get so pampered as an artist. You know, like, “Oh hey, I don’t feel right today.” “Hey, I’m not feeling it today.” All this shit, and as a writer, it’s like, “Come on, bring it! Bring it! Bring it! Bring it! Bring it! Bring it!” It’s not a soft impact kind of sport.

Last December, I spoke to one of the nicest musicians I’d talked to lately, who happens to be your fiancée, Lauren Ruth Ward. Are you comfortable talking about how you met?

She is so sweet. Oh yeah, she is a musician from Baltimore. She used to play at this big indie station in Baltimore, and I did a festival there back in 2014, and we met for the first time. I was with someone, and I think she was with someone. … She came to that show because she had played the radio station to get her free tickets. She knew my stuff, so she was like, “Oh, I’m going to go see her. I like that person, or whatever.” She did strike me as one of the nicest people. A year later, I was breaking up with my girlfriend at the time, and I saw her out, and things got going.

Am I going too far if I ask you what your dream wedding is?

[It will be] kind of a personal wedding, something that will mean something, smaller and kind of chill. I think we’re like also toying with not even the kind of union that’s recognized by the patriarchy kind of vibe. No offense to marriage. We’ll get bonded like a marriage.

A certificate is not necessary?

Yeah, we’ll have a different kind of certificate. We’ll probably do it in blood.

Wow.

I’m kidding. She’s gonna kill me. She’s like, “What the hell did you say this for!?”

Follow editor Roman Gokhman at Twitter.com/RomiTheWriter. Follow editor Chloe Catajan at Instagram.com/riannachloe and Twitter.com/riannachloe.

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