Aug. 29, 2012 - Issue #880: LP
LP - Long player, late bloomer
After years as a major label hitmaker, LP returns to performance
If you keep an ear trained on mainstream pop's regular offerings—which, given that you're presently reading a free alt-weekly paper, probably has about a 50/50 chance of being true—you've almost certainly heard LP's songwriting pour out of your speakers at some point. She just wasn't the one singing her songs.
Born Laura Pergolizzi (when I ask for Laura on the phone, she corrects that I'm talking to LP), the songwriter's been bouncing around the major label circuit since about 2006 on the strength of a few indie albums. There was a bidding war, that saw her first sign to Island Def Jam Records, where her approach and options shifted around from those indie records. LP spent a lot of that major label time a step away from the limelight, which, she explains, wasn't exactly the intent when she was first signed.
"I started writing in bulk," she explains, driving through the Rocky Mountains between tour stops. "I was an indie artist before that, and when you switch to the major label thing, I had to write a lot of songs. They were trying to find a direction for me, which, y'know, was or was not necessary—I don't know, we were just trying to experiment. And we just wrote a ton of songs, more than I ever thought I could even possibly write, and I kind of realized I could do it.
"I was on that label for a little over a year," she continues. "[Then] I was on an indie through Universal for a little over a year. I was in the major label system for like three years, and in that time I wrote maybe like 150 songs—I kind of shocked myself, that I could even do that because before, I thought I could write a maximum of 20-some songs in a year, maybe. And I thought they were all amazing."
With so much talk of working through the major label system, our conversation feels like it could be happening in the '90s during the heyday of the indie versus mainstream conversation. What does it mean to be on a major label in the 2000s, the era of their supposed humbling from the titanic days of the '90s? LP talks about it with confidence: it sounds like she simply went with the flow and found her way. But you also get the sense that, having gone from label to label, she had to ride out the turbulence-on-an-airplane feeling of being perpetually juggled around.
Listen to a song off of her Into the Wild EP, though, and you'll wonder how she could've ever been left for want of stagetime: LP's voice conjures sweeping, unchained melodies, big and bold and wild and free. The top of her range is a mountain peak higher than most of her peers, an unmistakable sound that cuts a fissure through her songs as their primary source of attention.
But for a few years her golden pipes kept themselves away from the mic, her focus channeled on writing for others. It wasn't a bad thing: her major label niche was in having a songwriter's pen that yielded hits—her credits include the reunited Backstreet Boys' "Love Will Keep You Up All Night", and a co-writing credit on Rihanna's "Cheer" (where LP belts out the backing hook) alongside about a dozen other successful singles. She had a publishing contract for herself. Writing was the gig, and it was a fine way to explore song ideas that she wouldn't have immediately pondered in her own writing.
"Sometimes a song is just a song, but I do feel different when I write for different people," she notes. "I wouldn't say certain things for myself, that I should then just say them for other people. I think it opens stuff up a bit to maybe [being] a little more universal. I mean, I'm universal in my stuff too, but I feel like I have more room, sometimes, to talk about stuff that I might not want to talk about with myself.
"Yeah," she reflects. "A nice vacation from myself."
During that time LP started getting back on the stage herself again, doing small gigs while her reputation as a performer started spreading across stages once more.
"I started hooking up with producers and writers all the time, and [writing songs] was like my everyday job, but I really liked it; I really like writing for other people," she says. "And then all of a sudden, I was playing out, just for fun, for myself, just a couple of covers. On Thursday night in a club in Hollywood. ... I started getting fans, and I started meeting people, and it was inspiring my writing. And then I got new management who were very encouraging. ... They were like, 'We would really like you to consider being an artist again.'"
LP signed to Warner Bros, a label that wanted to back her up in the early days, too, and finally she started hoarding some of those hitmaker tendencies for herself. It'd been eight years since LP's last album, Suburban Sprawl & Alcohol, but she didn't simply rush headlong into the studio: Into the Wild, her first solo release in eight years, is a live recording.
"There's a certain charm in the live thing—I'm such a live artist," she says of her live EP. "I don't wanna work with a producer or somebody that hasn't seen me live. I've had that happen so many times, that like, a person thinks they know what I do, and hasn't seen me live, and I just feel like I need to show that. Otherwise, they can't fully understand. So I think the EP was instrumental in bringing everybody to ground zero [of] what I'm about, and then I hope to, like, impress further with a lush sounding studio album.
As for a proper release—she's a month or two out of the studio, she notes, with just a few more tour dates (including Edmonton rock fest Sonic Boom) remaining before she settles into the recording process—LP has a few thoughts of how to shape her full-length reintroduction to the musical world.
"I want a beautiful, massive, epic classic record," she says, with a certain nonchalance that belies the statement's grandeur. Without prompting, she adds a followup thought. "I hope I can do that."
Sun, Sep 2, 2012
Part of Sonic Boom Modern Rock Festival
Northlands Park, $90 – $150
Full lineup at sonicboomfestival.com
More stories in front »vueweekly.com comments: powered by Disqus
Vue respects your privacy. We will not forward your personal information to any other organization except as required by law, and will use your e-mail address only to respond to your comments. We reserve the right to edit and remove comments for length, clarity and/or if they are illegal or inappropriate. Your email address is never shown to visitors to vueweekly.com. Read the whole policy at: http://vueweekly.com/privacy