We talk to singer-songwriter and all-round badass LP on making music for two decades.
Smashing boundaries to smithereens since 1998, Laura Pergolizzi best known as LP has been making a place for herself in the world of music for over two decades. You could call her a singer songwriter, but that doesn’t quite do LP justice as an artist who creates pure poetry, which just happens to be sung along with some killer melodies. Paving the way for the LGBTQ+ community, LP’s words have been vital to many, but her vibrant creations are universal, just as her lyrics written for others prove. Over the years, LP’s songwriting credit list includes the likes of Cher, Rihanna, Christina Aguilera and Celine Dion just to name a few, and whilst they’re all absolute bangers, it is her own solo work that shines so bright.
Returning now with her latest single ‘Goodbye’, LP is teasing a brand new album due out in October. “I’m so happy with this record…I feel more excited about the entire record as a body of work than I feel about individual songs,” LP confides when we talk about the upcoming release of Churches, “and I think there is some serious stuff coming.” That’s not to say that the singles aren’t absolutely innovative tracks – ‘Goodbye’ has literally been stuck in our head since it dropped last month – but rather that they’re just whetting our appetite for what’s yet to come.
We caught up with the trailblazing LP to talk about the ins and outs of making music in 2021, from idea to reality, and where she’s been travelling along the way…
First up, I loved ‘Goodbye’. It was so beautiful, but such a playful and fun song.
Thank you! It was fun while we were making it. It’s just like the first song [Mike Del Rio and I] wrote when we were on a writing trip. This is like a get-the-party-started kind of song. It belies the title but ‘a goodbye doesn’t have to be a bad goodbye’. It’s like don’t go away mad. Just go away.
Can you tell me a bit of the process of making it?
[Sings melody] That part is actually my voice. High-pitched. I did some wild shit with it. It sounds like an instrument but I remember trying to sound like an instrument… It sounded like such a party when [Mike] started doing it. When we start writing something, he just starts that right off from the beginning. It makes me explode with melodies, ideas, lyrics and all that stuff so it’s cool. It’s stuff like that, it’s tangible but it’s kind of intangible as far as what motivates the creation. I don’t know, that’s how I would explain it. Every single action creates another reaction in songwriting. Even if someone like someone, you know, if someone so much as smiles at something I do or something someone does, it kind of inspires me. It just builds on itself and that’s basically songwriting to me.
Has the way that you seek inspiration and influence changed whilst you were making music over lockdown?
No, I’ll be honest with you, I feel like lockdown was much different because there weren’t shows but it’s almost like tour sometimes, because you’re just in your own world. As much as you experience fans and all the places, you’re still in this little world. So when in my pod of Mike [Del Rio] and Nate [Campany] that was my world I lived in daily. I went through a lot of personal things last year as well, I broke up with my fiancé. All those things that you constantly are kind of grabbing information that I use later. It’s like, I’m not an actor obviously, but I think maybe actors do that too. They have these stored up feelings and emotions that they release for certain characters or whatever and I feel like songs for me are kind of like characters.
So, would you say then it’s therapeutic for you, making music?
Oh yeah, for sure. It’s cathartic. It’s a part of my therapy, I guess. The song are always for me first. It has to get past me as a fan of my own shit. If I get a song back and I can’t listen to it over and over again, I mean, who the fuck else is going to listen to it? But if I can’t stop listening to it, I’m like ‘okay well it passes the first wave’. That’s always interesting to me. I think I’ve gotten more and more brutal with myself over the years. It’s not just like ‘wow, I’m amazing’. It even works as I’m writing it, I can feel something that I’m not going to want to listen to over again almost immediately. I don’t know what happens to other people. Songwriting is kind of a private endeavour in a way, like only you know how much better you getting at it in a way or you feel like you are.
Is it a good or a bad thing that you are tougher on yourself now?
I don’t know. Sometimes I don’t really know if a song is going to break it or make it. I really don’t. Especially in this time where there’s so much music, but I feel like the more I go on with this process the more I am in my own world… I feel like I live in a little bit of a dream state. It helps me create but sometimes it’s hard to get dinner on time, you know.
Rewinding a bit, you used to songwrite for other big name talents, looking back how does that creatively differ from writing for yourself?
It doesn’t really. I used to try to separate it but now I don’t because I think even with precise detail I think those kinds of things, I think almost everybody goes through the same shit. I mean, yeah you could say specific places you were, times you had, or whatever but I think that I just kind of always go for the deepest meaning for myself now, instead of like trying to think about like ‘oh well someone just went through a breakup or someone had a child or whatever. I just go for it as far as being universal but not being obtuse.
What do you hope people take from your music?
Some measure of solace. Something that comforts them or elates them or drives them. It’s that need to kind of touch somewhere that you hurt, you know, like ‘oh yeah that fucking hurts’ and you just keep touching. That’s what that’s what songs are in my opinion. That’s why I try to mine my own psyche for the things that really hurt.
Moving on from that, you are and always have been a huge icon for many LGBTQ+ people. What does it mean for you to represent the queer community in that way?
I mean it’s incredible. I try to move forward because I’m kind of into paving a path of where it doesn’t matter. That’s where I’m at with it. Not because I don’t care of course but because I just want it to be like… We stand individually without any kind of introduction. But of course I understand that we must have that because that makes people understand. I mean, obviously, there has to be some kind of paradigm that moves it forward. I’m honoured and I want somebody to understand that they can do anything. I mean because we’re all a creation: how we walk through this life is as our own creation. You’re your fucking house moving through the world. This person didn’t just clearly drop out of a rain cloud. In all of it, like the fierceness, the whatever, the confidence, it doesn’t come out of nowhere and it’s possible for anybody. That’s like really my ultimate quiet, not so quiet, message.
Growing up who did you look to for representation and inspiration in that way?
I didn’t think about it too much to be honest, I just grabbed on to people like Freddie Mercury. I feel like there’s gentle souls who were major or whatever, like Kurt Cobain and Jeff Buckley and people like that. They were the kind of men who were in between these macho times that kind of led people. They were straight men but like Kurt Cobain who wore dresses on stage. He wasn’t macho but he was very manly and all that but he still had this gentle, open spirit. He was talking about acceptance of gay people then and he even said: ‘if you don’t like gay or trans people don’t come to our shows. Just don’t come’. That was a bold statement for those days. I just always have been drawn toward people that are open-minded, don’t get me wrong, I followed a lot like male musicians that are problematic… I love their art but obviously not the other parts. I search for the same acceptance in others that I have in myself.
What about right now? Who do you think is doing cool things in the music world at the moment?
I mean so many people. I like the way Harry Styles is kind of rocking it. I think as far as acceptance and kind of just like ‘what’s happening there, we don’t know’. I love the open end of it all. It’s really beautiful and it’s very accepting and open and giving anybody licence to do anything. I think it’s very cool. Adam Lambert, I love how he’s just such a strong but kind, sweet character and just bringing like beauty and fierceness and humanity to the circle. St. Vincent is cool as fuck, bad-ass as fuck.
Looking back, did you have much of a creative upbringing? What were you surrounded by growing up?
There was more sports, I gotta say. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a pro soccer player. I didn’t really have the thought to be a musician because it was like, I don’t say out of the question, but it wasn’t like in the conversation that’s for damn sure. I remember being able to sing and people would always be remarking saying like ‘What? Where did that come from?’. I just didn’t really think about it too much but then when my mum passed away when I was a teenager I thought ‘life is short, maybe I should do something that’s really exciting and wild’. Out of everything that I’ve ever done, it feels like the thing that really stirs people up is when I sing so I love it. The biggest drive for me was to try and write songs because I didn’t understand, I was just absolutely like ‘what, how do you do that?’. I just really wanted to know how that happened because it was such a mystery. I think that’s been the ultimate, real, beautiful journey for me: learning how to do that and still not knowing shit and just like being amazed every time that a song gets created. It’s a really fun experience. I love collaborating. It’s just something that really speaks to me and it’s still so esoteric, it’s so mysterious to how it happens because I feel like even though I’ve worked with some people that have written some of the biggest songs of all time, they still don’t know how they nail it every time. It’s not a thing so there’s some kind of spiritual ‘it factor’. God is in the room kind of thing that happens that I love. I feel like it’s something I want to do forever.
Let’s talk about style. You’ve got this androgynous but sleek look, how did you form your personal style?
I mean, my first big love girlfriend was a fashion designer who I feel like got me into a whittling it down, the silhouette especially. We got into tailoring too, so we were tailoring our shit in the [New York] Lower East Side back in the day. I was just riding that line of androgyny. I remember like guys would get away with wearing girls’ jeans but if I wore them like I just looked like a girl. It was like this kind of like about pushing this line, this edge. It was fun. It was exciting to figure stuff out. I enjoyed playing with it. I remember she was always kind of pushing me toward the girl side, just for fun, and I was ‘ughh’ and stuff like that. I saw David Bowie once in a small show in the late 90s early 2000s. Someone I knew was opening up for him when I worked in this bar in New York so they invited me and I remember we saw that all he had on was like a silky shirt and some higher-waisted trousers. He flipped between being like him and Marlene Dietrich. Constantly going between feminine and masculine, so elegant and so sleek. It was just so inspiring. The elegance part of it was something I really wanted to try for sometimes and combine that rock ‘n’ roll thing with that. I feel like I’m the most androgynous when I’m on stage because I feel like a tornado of male and female going on. I can feel it. I can see it. I think people can see it too. That’s something that just happens. I like that feeling. It’s the most palpable when I’m on stage.
Going back to the music you’re working on at the moment, what can we kind of expect from it? What’s coming next?
The interesting thing is I feel like it remains to seen and judged, I guess, by people but I feel like the songs we put out were also because they were the songs that we’ve done and the ones that aren’t done, I think it’s like realising your best songs. I’m not saying that these weren’t some of the best but I feel like the best are coming or on the record. I’m so happy with this record and I feel like I’m always on this stage where I’m trying to avoid expectations to not to get too lofty about what I think. I feel more excited about the entire record as a body of work than I feel about individual songs and I think there is some serious stuff coming. Some very emotional stuff coming, especially one song particularly I kind of wrote about my ex but there’s a lot of interesting stuff. My friends that have listened to it that have been around. My best friend did hear it and she’s been through everything with me, work and friendship and everything she’s like ‘wow, I can really see your whole life in the last two years in this record’. So, something like that. I’m glad because I feel like that too. I hope I went to another level poetically.
Your lyrics stand out to me in your music. How much do you see yourself as a poet of sorts?
I do. That’s like a really major aspect to me. I don’t care how good the melody is but if that fucking lyric isn’t tight. I’m really a fan of duality and on-repeated listens and hacking words into the next sentence and make them two different things, whatever. It’s really important. There’s been a couple of songs a a few years ago that melodically I was like ‘oh shit I love this’ and then could not figure out a lyric so I would give it to someone, the lyrics would come back and I was like ‘I could’ve fucking done that. Just put some stupid shit in there.’ It must be something profound for me. I’m super picky about that kind of shit but I felt super inspired and felt like I had a lot to talk about. A lot to explain. I do consider myself a poet of sorts. I want to. I’ve been reading a lot of poetry lately and stuff. I don’t know when that poet things would start for me. It might be later, some kind of Bukowski shit. I’ll be very busy working in a post office.
Press play on LP’s ‘Goodbye’ below now…