The idea of a show business interview is a peculiar thing – two strangers are made to sit down and talk to each other for the entertainment of others. Said strangers are both at work, but that fact should remain unnoticed. Watching an interview should be akin to voyeurism, a bit like overhearing someone else’s exciting highlights being discussed. For the two conversing parties though, it’s more like a courtship dance going on, one where they must constantly test the waters. To think that their conversation is expected to be smooth, natural, dynamic, fun and everything else, while the reality pulls them towards more the insecure… Not a piece of cake, that’s for sure. But what a brilliant dance LP took part in with Muzo FM’s hostess, Anna Nowaczyk, back in November of last year!
Still frame from the Muzo FM interview with LP
It’s mesmerizing, observing how American and European cultures interestingly clash: the English language, made for poetry and vagueness, meets, say, the Polish sensibility with its exacting and precise usage of words, perhaps even to the point of being rude or inappropriate to some outside ear. But, in the cozy Muzo FM studio, none of that mattered in the end, because halfway through the conversation LP seemed to be so comfortable and relaxed that, at times, she would forget that she was holding a mic at all. She not only opened up about what she, sometimes, thinks while singing on stage(!), but also discussed the magic and alchemy of the songwriting art.
The interview was held a couple of days before the Heart To Mouth premiere, during LP’s short trip to Poland. It may be hard to imagine but, over only a quick two days, LP gave over twenty interviews and promo shows in Warsaw. She got to Muzo quite late in the evening, after a very long day filled with media activities. But if we were to point out our two favorite 2018 interviews with LP, Muzo would definitely make the list. The way this conversation grows, from a bit rough through totally cool, up to – the journalists’ Holy Grail – a casual and engaged, almost organic exchange, is like watching a good thriller in reverse. The tension is growing and fading, in turns. The intense dynamics are complemented with unexpected questions (on both sides) and deep replies. No wonder that after the interview was done, LP looked at Anna Nowaczyk and called her “the best interviewer in the world.”
This is a conversation to witness.
Anna Nowaczyk: Your new album has got many flavors, from ballads to rock songs, and even old school songs. And it sounds like freedom.
LP: It does?! Oh, wow! What’s an old school song?
LP: Oh yeah, like an old-timey song. Yeah!
AN: It has got that 70s vibe. I don’t know why, but I can hear it.
LP: Seventies?! Oh, really? I felt like it was more 50s, but… I don’t know. Were the 50s here in the 70s?
AN: Yes, the time difference!
LP: Elvis was here in the 70s!
AN: It’s a great song by the way.
LP: Oh, cool, thank you!
AN: For me this album sounds like freedom, because I have got the impression that you had the freedom to do whatever you wanted. With no one telling you what to do.
LP: “This album sounds unchecked. It sounds like you just went awry. Amok!” I don’t… Yeah… Maybe. Yeah. Okay, cool. So you like it?
AN: Yes, I like it.
LP: Okay. Cool.
AN: I like it a lot.
AN: Do you like it?
LP: I love it, yeah. I wouldn’t put it out if I didn’t. I’m not really into writing the same song twice, if I don’t have to. People have their sound. I mean, when I sing a song, all those songs have a thing, because I’m singing them. I feel like it’s nice to just mix it up. And I’m just inspired by all different things. I never know what’s gonna come out of my mouth that day, when I’m writing. I just go with it.
AN: Okay. I think that in a place like yours, after the hit single, after that hit record, many people feel the pressure to repeat that success, and what’s the easiest way to repeat a success? To do the same thing, once again?
LP: Yeah, I guess, but I don’t know how to do that. It’s like trying to write a hit every time. I think it gets in a way of what can be even better. Or different, or interesting. There may be some pressure, but I think this record will be good enough to keep the fans I have and see… I hope.
AN: And get you new ones.
LP: I hope, I guess, yeah. I don’t really have expectations, I don’t know what’s gonna happen. I’ve already got practically another record ready to go. I just keep writing songs and. I hope people like them. I don’t think I wanna put any pressure on this record. It’s not like: “Oh my god, if they don’t like these songs, what am I gonna do!?” You know, I’ll just… write more songs.
AN: So it’s not like, resting on your laurels, like, I’ve got a hit single, I’m gonna tour for few months and then rest and then think about the future.
LP: There’s no rest! You don’t rest! No, I’m just kidding. I don’t know. Yeah, I’m just not resting right now. One second [closes her eyes]. I just rested, okay, I’m good.
AN: Okay, that’s great. What do you do not to go crazy?
LP: Nothing, that’s why I’m freaking crazy. Let’s see. I do yoga. I meditate. I read. I try not to take it too seriously. But I still get in those moods. I’m not a stuffed animal. “Hello kids!” I get moody. I get annoyed. I drink and do… bad things. I get weird, with my friends or talk it out, and move on.
LP: [laughs] “Okay…”
AN: It sounds so easy. Easier said than done.
LP: Isn’t it though? “That’s right kids, it’s really easy, try it!”
AN: What about the songs that you perform on stage? Do you feel the same emotions that drove you to writing those songs when performing them, or is it just a thing that you have to distance yourself from?
LP: I do in the beginning sometimes, when I haven’t really performed the song yet much. But then I move on. It becomes a different thing to me. I’m usually in the emotional place, but I don’t go specific and I’m there to be the vehicle to get it to the people that are at the show. I don’t feel compelled to relive it necessarily, but I definitely feel the emotion of it. And then sometimes I do. I’d randomly be like “Oh, shit, this song is about this, wow.” That’s nice at times. Sometimes I’m thinking very much about the technical aspect of singing the song, to try to make it as good as the record is for people. I always wanna hear, when I see a concert, I wanna hear just like a record. I wanna hear the voice, like…
LP: Yeah. Yeah! You don’t?
AN: Yeah, I…
LP: You know, what if I would be like: [reciting] “Is that lost on you? Is it? Seriously, is it? I’m gonna talk the songs today. Sit down, sit down please.” I mean, I’m not rigid about it, I’m just looking to make it as… I don’t know… For me, I like to hear it like that, so I just try to, but I’m cool with mistakes. I’ve made a lot of mistakes. Let’s talk about it.
AN: And no one has noticed.
LP: Let’s talk about all the mistakes I’ve made.
AN: Do you go to many gigs yourself? Not performing of course, but as a fan?
LP: I do, yeah. I go to a lot of local people’s gigs. My… my lady likes to go to shows at home. And sometimes I’m like “I just got back from tour, I don’t think I can see four bands this week!” I go see two and then let her go. But I think it’s nice to see local bands. What was the last show I went to? Oh, the last show I went to was a cool punk band from America, called Surfbort. I really liked it. It’s fun to see shows when I haven’t been touring for a little bit. In festival and stuff I see so many shows, that I get, like, okay, I saw plenty of shows.
AN: Is there something like being tired of listening to music, when you don’t want to put on a record, you don’t wanna go to a show, nothing like that?
LP: Sometimes, I guess. I need time, I need quiet time. It’s so much music all the time that I don’t need to… My life is geared around it, so I don’t even think about seeking it out. If I see someone I wanna see or Lauren wants to see somebody, I will make it happen, get tickets or whatever. Like, I just saw Florence play, cause I know them, Isa’s my friend, so we saw them at the Hollywood Bowl the day I got home from tour. But it was amazing, so fun. Stuff like that’s always happening, so I feel like I’m good with it. It’s just a part of my life.
AN: It’s not the happiest of albums.
LP: Does that upset you? Do you think people will be upset…
AN: No. Because I think that sad music is better than happy music. Sad songs are more beautiful and they have got more depth.
LP: Oh, really? Yeah, I write a lot of sad songs. “Lost On You” was the saddest song of all time. I was there, I know! I wouldn’t be able to fly on a fucking rainbow every time. Things are sad. Life is sad. Get a helmet. I think that’s what just came together. I think it’s not so sad, as some of it is ominous. There’s some ominous shit in here, right?
AN: Yes, one might say so.
LP: Yeah, I think it’s just got some… this is not tea. It’s not tea. What is it? [muted] So good. Don’t buy me any, if you’re watching – don’t buy me any.
AN: We will give you some.
LP: What was I babbling about?
AN: About sad records and sad songs.
LP: Oh, I was saying that this record reminds me, and a lot of songs remind me, of when you’re dreaming. I have a lot of dreams like that, then I wake up and I’m like… I remember some details at first but then I forget them by mid-day, but I still have that ominous, kind of anxious, weird, leaves me in a strange mood. That’s like “Dreamcatcher,” the first song on the record. Feels like it’s the set up for that. There’s like witchy shit in the air.
AN: But it’s so annoying when you forget a dream, when you forget the details…
LP: That’s why people do that whole exercise when they keep a pen and pad by the bed.
AN: People do it?!
LP: People do that, that’s what they say you do. If you wanna remember your dreams, keep a pen and a pad by your bed. But I always have to pee when I wake up, so…
AN: And you go back to sleep.
LP: Yeah, exactly.
AN: So no notes.
LP: No notes.
AN: Do you keep it secret sometimes – what or who the songs are about? Do you tell people in your everyday life – this song is about you, or is it a secret?
LP: If they ask, I go: “Yeaaah, ehm, I mean, yeah, maybe. Possibly.” There’s a song called “Special” on the record. It’s about my friend who was killed right around this time two years ago. And that song’s for him. You can’t force things. I can’t force myself to write about anything, but this just popped out and I knew it was him. That had been bothering me for a while. He was such a good friend and a musician and an actor and all this stuff. I wanted to get a tattoo honoring him, but then I said “you know what… I’ll write a song instead.”
AN: And it’s about him.
LP: Yeah. That’s the last song on the record.
AN: Some people say that if you only live a few years, if you have got experiences in life, sometimes rough experiences, you might write something that is wise. Because without all the experiences you are just writing about fantasies.
LP: I don’t know. I guess that might be the case with some people. I feel like you can see through it. But there are many times when people have very little life experience and write insanely poignant and insightful songs. I don’t believe that theory, but I do think that it’s nice to have experiences.
AN: Would you write, let’s say, a dumb song?
LP: I’ve written a ton of dumb songs.
AN: I don’t know any. Is it a crime to write a song that doesn’t necessarily bring deep lyrics but is just fun for people?
LP: I like songs like that. I wouldn’t shy away from a song like that. I’m trying to think of a dumb song. I don’t wanna insult anybody, cause they may not think that’s a dumb song.
AN: So let’s call it a guilty pleasure.
LP: They’d be like “That’s about my mom who passed away and it’s not dumb.” I don’t know… let’s talk about what?
AN: A guilty pleasure.
LP: A guilty pleasure. You know, like… A guilty pleasure… Like Justin Bieber song, “Baby,” back in a day. I liked the tone of his voice then. I like it now, but that song was so cute.
AN: He threatens to retire.
LP: Ah, the retirement thing! What about that song back in a day… [sings]
AN: Hanson. They’re back.
LP: Yeah, yeah. That’s a great song.
AN: But there was also a song by Crash Test Dummies in the 90s.
LP: Oh yeah, with that guy’s really low voice?
AN: Yeah, yeah.
LP: Yeah, shit like that. It’s great.
AN: And what if you were to write a hit single? Someone told you: okay, this is your task for today – write a hit single. Would you do it? Do you know the recipe?
LP: I would try. This is the thing. I’m always trying to write a hit single and at the same time not trying. That’s a kiss of death in writing, I think. If someone in the room gets too “oh my god, this is a hit!” while we’re writing a song, I’m like “Shhhh, jesus! Of course we’re trying to write it, but don’t say it yet, let’s just write the song.” I think it just gets in your head. I’m just trying to get the real… just make it feel right in my heart. And I love catchy stuff, so I just try to make it catchy and use my intuition as a songwriter to write parts that are worthy of repetition, that I wanna sing again and again, that I wanna hear again and again. “Lost On You” was just this song that I was, you know, I got dropped from the label for it. I told you guys this last time. I had no idea. There were people that interviewed me that said “You must have known when you wrote it” and I didn’t. I mean, I knew it was good, but I didn’t know it was gonna be a song that changed my life. I had no idea. When I was writing it I felt very similar to a lot of songs I write. I just get in it that day and just go for it. I want it to be the best it can be. And I think working with huge hit songwriters… I really have seen the songs that they write that don’t go anywhere. There are people who wrote the biggest hits you’ve ever heard and then they have hundreds of songs that no one has ever heard, because that’s just how songwriting is. Some people can churn them out, sure, but even they write songs that aren’t big. I don’t think that in my head, I just write to write. It’s art to me.
AN: How has your life changed since “Lost On You?”
LP: The touring has been non-stop. In the show people sing lyrics to almost every song. They like the records and like me in general. But “Lost On You” introduced me to a lot of people that I never would have met. It’s life-changing to connect with the bunch of new people, and very humbling and awesome. I just didn’t have the visibility before. That song broke things through. That’s nice.
AN: After some time in the record business and show business, does it still surprise you that a song becomes a hit and that something you think might be a hit, a huge hit single – doesn’t?
LP: It does surprise me. It’s not just for me. I’ve seen it dozens of times with other writers, other artists. For me, when people first started coming around for me, as an artist again, I was like “ehhh, again…” They were like “yes! no! yes! no!” Every artist go through that, whether they can stomach it or not is the thing. As an artist I’ve always said: you’re one song away, you’re one song away…” And I’ve said this many times before as well – if you write a hit, everybody wants another hit. If you don’t write a hit, everyone just wants a hit. So it’s not like writing a hit lets you go like – ahhh, I wrote a hit. It’s nice at first, but you just keep trying to write songs and put out records. I had all this stuff that I wanted to put out, so I’m putting it out, we’ll see if anyone likes it.
AN: I think people will.
LP: I hope so. Many times when I was on stage in last three years or so in front of very big crowds, I was sitting there thinking – wow I really have a responsibility to these people. I gotta write another record of good stuff. And then another one. It’s a responsibility to myself as well. I take it pretty seriously, and I can’t not. If I was on a desert island, I would be doing that. I would hope I’d have a guitar and a ukulele there so I could play. I won’t be straying on the first hour in this desert island I’m gonna be on for fifteen years! Damn it! I always go on a boat with a bunch of strings and a guitar and a ukulele. ‘Cause you never know.
AN: You never know.
LP: Anything can happen.
AN: Life is full of surprises. So it not only takes talent to remain in this business and to be still recording and playing. You need to be stubborn, I guess. How many record deals have you had in your life?
LP: Record deals? Oh my god! So many, I mean, in the States I’ve had, like, seven.
LP: Yeah. Four majors and three indies. And all the major label ones were a big deal. Like, recording and being like: “Oh my god! It’s going to be so great! You’re amazing, you’re the next blablabla! You have so many singles, we can’t even choose!” And then they’d be like: “You have nothing. We just don’t hear anything.” You wouldn’t believe the things I’ve been told. And I’m proud to say, I’m not bitter. I just know, and it’s nice to know. I feel for my friends that are doing it. I feel like I’m the first person somebody calls when they get dropped from the record deal. It is like: “Ah, I’m so sorry, but it’s great! Don’t worry! It’s gonna be okay! Fuck those guys! You’re better without it!”
AN: “Get used to it, it might happen again.”
LP: At the end of the day, your perspective is so great. And I think it gets to the point where no one can hurt you anymore, ‘cause you’re like: “Whatever, dude.”
AN: You just have to go on, because many people after being dropped for the first time think that they have got no talent, no chances and they start, let’s call it a “real jobs,” they come back to their lives and…
LP: But then, how about getting a hold of yourself going: “Somebody never got a record deal. Ever!” It’s hard stuff. And people are constantly… there are constant disappointments. Even the talent shows. It teaches people that: the disappointment, when they think someone’s gonna win. Or the people that are in the talent show also experience that. And it’s really hard. I could never do one of those. They asked me to do the Voice back in the day and I was like: “Are you nuts?! No way!” It’s so hard, I admire the people that do that. I’d be like: “Listen, I don’t need somebody turn around in a chair to tell me I can sing. Fuck you!” But people that do it, that’s really brave, brave, brave stuff. And I think these shows really show people how hard it is. And at the same time it’s glorified in a way. They want to do that, it’s the drama. But life is up and down, man.
AN: Are there some things that you really laugh at? When you think about your past, when you think about your dreams as a musician, about your career, or your thoughts about the business and anything like that?
LP: Things I laugh at? Oh gosh, I think I laugh at how fast things would go, all the time. Like, it would take just this one thing, and then: bam! And I know that’s some people’s experience, but very few. That’s the thing that’s kind of hard. I think there’s 0.000001% of musicians and pop stars that that does happen to, that fairy tale thing, but it’s so ingrained in the public’s mind that kids get involved in a career like that and they’re like: “That’s what’s gonna happen to me!” And then if it doesn’t go down like that, they’re just like: “Yeah. Didn’t happen…” I think that’s a bit premature and I think there’s work involved. I also say this all the time about painters. A person who becomes a famous painter doesn’t sit and paint one painting and wait. “It’s great. Yeah. You should see it. Yeah, I’m a painter. This one, it’s great, right?” They don’t do that. That’s to me what songwriting is. It’s just constant honing, crafting and just trying to channel the emotions through the craft and whatever you can get it through to get some magic to happen. It’s magic, there’s an element of magic in songwriting. And I think a lot of very huge songwriters would say that. I think Paul McCartney has said that basically, in not so many words. There’s something about it that’s just alchemy, and it happens.
AN: Luckily for you, with songs it’s not as complicated as with painters, because many of them have to die before they get appreciated.
LP: Still though? I don’t think. I think paint fumes were responsible for that back in the day. I probably am not familiar enough with the art world at this point to know if there are modern painters that pass away before they posthumously become famous.
AN: Many of them need to pass away before people recognize them.
LP: Yeah, many of them back in the day. You know, the whole Van Gogh thing.
AN: So music is better in those terms, definitely better.
LP: I just recently read, because they’re making a movie about Van Gogh, and they were saying how Van Gogh’s brother worked very hard for him. And he was very ambitious. I’ll wait to see the movie, I’ll let you see the movie as well. It’s interesting, the sacrifices that people make. I’m reading… there’s this woman, Lucia Berlin, I’m just starting to read, she also didn’t live to see her fame, it was like fifteen years later and her writing started to become famous. It’s so interesting that she could be writing and the timing – that is what this is all about. Like, what happens and why people did not come across her work before. It just seems strange to me. Well, it doesn’t seem strange to me, I get it. It’s just tragic and interesting that that happens with people’s work. And that’s why I feel like, not that that would happen to me, but I feel very blessed to be… And I’ve been doing it for over ten years, I’ve been making a cool living at music, and then this happened in a home stretch. And it’s awesome. And my perspective of it is so invaluable to me. I feel really lucky also for that, that I just have the perspective to go: woah. It can happen, and it doesn’t happen. There’s plenty of people. I feel I’m living their the other “what if I…” ‘Cause when I left New York and moved to California, I think that was a new beginning for me. And if I hadn’t done that, things would be so different. And I always think about that. ‘Cause I was in a relationship in New York and it wasn’t bad, it was just kind of plateaued, and I knew if I didn’t pursue my career even harder, then in ten years I would go like: “Oh man, I should have… I should have really gone for it,” because I did all this stuff to get to where I was and then I kind of… I think about that often. The what ifs are really, very deep.