Today we have one of our absolutely favorite interviews with LP for you, this one conducted by RedEye. Matt Pais and LP talk in Chicago, it’s 2014 and LP has just released her album Forever For Now.
Still frame from the interview for RedEye Chicago
Their conversation is cool and relaxed, yet in-depth and thrilling. The interviewer is clearly interested in what LP is saying, and you can tell he really likes her music and style. They discuss pop music, career choices, Chicago’s agenda for LP (well, fingers crossed for her upcoming Chicago gig on June 9th), whistling, songwriting… We l o v e this interview.
RedEye Chicago is a daily publication put out by the Chicago Tribune, strongly emphasizing pop culture and entertainment news. Matt Pais did a really good job and the interview is simply wonderful. We hope you’ll have a good read & watch!
LP: Hi, my name is LP, I am sitting here with RedEye, the paper, and you can check out the paper and check out me, LP, like the initials, and my record’s called Forever For Now. And it’s great to be here, thanks Pais!
Matt Pais: Good having you!
LP: All right!
MP: First of all, Forever For Now: one of my favorite albums of the year.
LP: No way! Really? Oh, that’s awesome!
MP: It’s so good, yeah!
LP: Thank you! Thank you!
MP: I think, in my review I said something it’s just, like, one potential hit after another.
LP: Oh, that’s very cool, thank you!
MP: And, I mean, in a good way, I feel like, these days, when someone acknowledges something as like “a possible hit song,” or when something gets massive radio airplay, do you feel like it almost sometimes has a negative connotation?
LP: Yeah, I mean, I’ve done a couple of interviews, and it was funny, it was a turning point for me, ’cause, the person was like: “So. You made a pop record.” And I could feel the bile, like right… I was like “Grrr!” and then after two or three of those I was just like, “Yeah I made a pop record! What are you gonna do about it?”
MP: Do they say it like grandma, that way?
LP: “Sooooo!” Yeah, no, I don’t, I just was very… It just felt a little accusatory to me, maybe I’m just paranoic.
MP: Like pop was an insulting word at this point.
LP: Right, I was thinking about it sometimes, and I’m a pop writer, and I love pop songs. There’s no way to get around the cork that is myself, so, it’s like corkier, but it’s also straight ahead pop. I mean, I just like songs that hit you immediately and lift you up, I mean I try, I just try.
MP: So you’re back in Chicago now, you had a show on Saturday here that was cancelled, I think, it rained out, is it right?
LP: Yeah, yeah yeah.
MP: Have you… you haven’t been here since Saturday, have you?
LP: I did a small little… I did JBTV last night, yesterday, and a couple of people showed up, a small audience showed up, but yeah, Chicago… I also was supposed to be here when I was on this tour with Kodaline, and I forget they… we both had to drop out of that show, because they had to go to a show somewhere else, it just didn’t work out, then Lollapalooza, it was 2012.
MP: That was the evacuation then…
LP: Yeah, there was the evacuation one!
MP: So did you even play?
LP: I did! I was the first band, I was supposed to be the second last band on the BMI stage. And I was the first band to play after the evacuation, and it was… It was not as… you know. Big. As it was before the evacuation, let’s just say that. But it was good.
MP: At what point do we start to wonder if the weather in Chicago is influenced by your presence here?
LP: [laughs] Chicago gets the best of me.
MP: I mean, it was warm and nice this morning and now we are outside and it’s…
LP: I know, what’s up!
MP: …it’s cold and windy and kind of terrible!
LP: Yeah, I don’t have an answer to that.
MP: I hope you’re not taking it personally.
LP: No, no, not at all, I love Chicago, man, it’s a cleaner version of you-know-what: New York.
MP: Yes! Eh, well, you’re obviously doing so well for yourself now, but I read that when you were growing up, your family was encouraging you to do law, medicine, stuff like that.
MP: Can you tell me a little bit more about that, in what ways were they kind of pushing you in that direction?
LP: Well, just: “Entertainment – you can’t make money out of it, you can’t do it…” And I don’t… Money is something that’s very important, obviously, but you don’t… sometimes if you don’t do something that you are relatively interested in, you start feeling like a slave after a while, it’s like, “What is it for?”, and I just…
MP: Did you ever think about going in one of those directions or have those…?
LP: Yeah, my mom passed away when I was young, and I just thought, life is short. I just feel, like, something about passion that excites me, being passionate about what you do, and I’ve seen and met people that aren’t, and I’d like to tell they were… I didn’t think my father was unhappy, but it was like, “You’re a lawyer. You’re not happy.”
MP: Did you have that kind of quintessential kid-parent argument, like, “It’s my life, I’ll do what I want!”
LP: No, no, I’m one of those, I don’t … I just don’t do it.
MP: “All right, dad.”
LP: I’m like, “Yeah, whatever you say, man, later.” He was the first of many men I haven’t listened to. Just kidding, man!
MP: Well, you are hardly the first person in the industry to jump from label to label when certain things didn’t pen out or go the way they wanted you to. Do you have any… did you have a moment, even though you had so much success writing for other people too, was there ever a moment with all these kind of label things falling through, when you felt, like, discouraged or kinda tired of that another times?
LP: Of course, I mean, you feel it, I’ve felt it within this week, just different things, everybody is striving, and it’s not even in outer words, just my internal dialogue of what I wanna be better at. And being a songwriter, being an artist, it’s hard, you want to keep yourself constantly moving, and trying to be better.
MP: I mean, can you think of a moment, in that time, that was… I’m not gonna say the lowest, but just like when you were the most, kind of, bummed out by stuff.
LP: Yeah, I mean, after my second major label deal didn’t work out, it was like, “ohhhh, what do you do,” but, I was, it was kind of being on those labels led me to writing this volume of songs that I never had, and to getting cuts with artists I never dreamed of, and so it actually, it brought me to something else, and then I was just like “Oh, this is nice, I’ll do this.” I mean I don’t think I said it to myself, but I was like, okay, this is what I’m doing now, and then, I didn’t… I have to be honest with you, I was surprised with this myself, I didn’t miss it, performing, as much as I would have thought. When I look back, as soon as I signed to a major label I did not perform again. As of 2006 I have been touring for, like, three and a half years, and I did not tour at all ever again, until “Into The Wild” thing. And that was like five or six years, and I, I don’t know, I wasn’t… It was like, I was satisfied in what I was doing, I was still feeling good about stuff. and then I started playing at Bardot and Sayers, that’s where I started… And I’m talking about one song a week or two songs a week at this venue, and we were just drinking and having a good time and it was just part of a musician night out, to be honest, and… and then things just started… And I was relaxed, and I guess, stuff comes out, people always say that… I was always thinking to myself, and I would read about people that’d like, “As soon as I let go, it happened”, but you can’t… If you think about it like: “Okay, letting go!”
MP: Right, then you’re actually not.
LP: Exactly! So it was kind of the bait and switch, it was like: “Look over here! Look over here!” [laughs]
MP: I love your impressions of people, the journalist before, and this one, it’s like [?]: “LET GO!” and that’s one …
LP: “Go ahead, let go!” Yeah.
MP: We talked about the kind of the way pop music is perceived. I’m tempted to talk about the definition of a pop star, which you… whatever it is, isn’t.
LP: My crazy ass – no.
MP: Probably not you, once you put ukulele in there, the whole definition falls apart.
LP: I know it ruins it for some people, but I don’t care.
MP: I mean, are you…
LP: It’s like, “Sorry!”
MP: You must at least be aware of the fact that musically you’re falling in line… I mean something else I wrote in my review is that I think a lot of, quote unquote, “bigger names” as of now, will hear a lot of the songs on the album and be like, “Man, I wish that was my song.”
LP: Man, it’s nice, I don’t know…
MP: But you’re a part of this world now, with people who aren’t so musically inclined, aren’t bringing as much personality to the music, is it… is it weird that whatever that definition of pop star is, it’s like “And then it’s me over here, doing my thing, being awesome.”
LP: I don’t know, I feel… I don’t feel that way, to be honest. I feel like there’s so much good stuff out there that has a pop element to it. I think, it’s such a ridiculous word sometimes, because people would use it to describe stuff that isn’t. But, yeah, I think it’s amazing that all the music gets out there right now, I’m just happy to be a part of it, but I don’t see this, like, my stuff that’s so, like, crazy.
MP: Was something you’ve heard…
LP: Stuff that I’ve heard?
MP: Something that blew your mind…
LP: Ehm, I love London Grammar. I really… I love Lykke Li’s new record. It actually made me feel better about the pop thing, when I saw Lykke Li’s record being described as pop record, ’cause to me, I don’t know, I think she’s really interesting. I love Tove Lo, she’s amazing, Swedish woman, and she’s killing it right now, and it’s just some really interesting women that are doing pop, but corkier, interesting. Banks is really cool, I was digging her stuff a lot, it’s so moody and so… ehm, I don’t know.
MP: Do you feel with that, with those differences, at least with what you are bringing to the table, and the show, and the songs, have you ever… do you ever get the sense, whether it’s new fans or fans seeing you for the first time at a festival or a smaller show, that they’re almost surprised, like, “Oh my god, ukulele?! Whistling?! What is this?”
LP: Yeah, the whistling thing is very funny, ’cause people… I could see people looking behind me, like…
MP: Like: “Where’s the whistler?”
LP: Yeah [laughs], like, here he is, it’s a little man in my blazer.
MP: That would be awesome, if you actually had that!
LP: Yeah, I know, people get kinda shocked by the whistling, I feel like I get almost as much stuff said about my whistling as my voice, and… I don’t know, I think, since I’ve put it on “Into The Wild,” it was the first thing I put it on, and it just seemed to, like, I just really, we liked it and… I’ve been whistling my whole life, and I just was like, ahhh, it just was my melody thing, sometimes my first take at melody… And what I like about it was when I’m whistling and I’m playing chords or whatever. It comes from some part of my brain that I’m not paying attention, and some really interesting stuff comes out. Like, “Into The Wild” whistle, I wasn’t, I was zoned out, playing the chords.
MP: So you didn’t realize you were doing that.
LP: Yeah, and it’s like, you don’t think about it all and it’s just something that’s coming out of your subconscious, in a way. “Forever For Now” is the same thing, I was in Big Sur… on, erm, some drugs [laughs], and zoning out, staring at the water on a cliff, and just whistling, and this thing came, and I was just, “Wow, what is that?” It’s like, it’s just another instrument that runs parallel to my thought.
MP: It actually occurs to me now that if you had a little man who’s whistling in your pocket all the time, that would get annoying pretty fast.
LP: [laughs] that guy, we’re setting him out.
MP: I thought I was cool at first. Yeah, right off there!
MP: I mean, is there any sense of… I feel like, as someone who has had… There are some Andrew Bird stuff that I like, there is some Andrew Birds stuff I don’t like as much.
LP: I honestly didn’t know much about Andrew Bird until people started saying about how he whistles all the time. And I checked him out and I loved him, and I also … I had heard him already and I didn’t know it… but I was jealous of his turn in the Muppet movie.
MP: Oh yeah.
LP: [laughs] ’cause I remember thinking ‘Wow, that was some really great whistling!’ And then I saw… I was like, “I wish I’d gotten called for that.”
MP: …you may be the next one.
LP: Right. A whistling choir!
MP: Well, do you feel like there’s… When I interviewed him and talked about that, he sort of, shrugged off on a notion of how much whistling is too much whistling, ‘cause “it’s what I do when it feels right and I’m not really worried about what people think is too much.”
LP: Yeah, I agree with him, I think to me, to where I have been, doing it lately, it’s just another instrument and I don’t think… It’s almost like a, ehhh, I think maybe the ukulele is more, like, gimmicky than whistling, almost. And I’m not talking about the whistling that’s like [whistles] that kind of way. It’s just like a cute little… But I’m talking about Andrew Bird’s whistling, stuff that, you know, you’re really featuring it. I guess the other whistling is also featured like that, but it’s just like a different kind of thing, I think.
MP: Have you ever had someone wanna buy a song or give it to someone, and you said no ’cause you didn’t like who it was going to be assigned to?
LP: I have to admit this not… I don’t get, like, “ego” about, like, “I don’t like that person!” If they like the song… ‘Cause sometimes you save a song and it goes nowhere, I mean, I’m pretty much like: “Get them out there, whoever’s gonna do it”. If there was a competition and there was this one person I thought was gonna do it better, erm… It depends, it’s been once or twice I thought a person couldn’t handle a song, like they just were not… yeah, I’d get it back. And it was like butchering the song. I saw it once or twice, but I’m like: that person was not really ready to sing this song, vocally. So I would just not have it sung.
MP: It seems like you do some outdoorsy stuff sometimes, have you seen the movie “Into The Wild,” what do you think of that expedition?
LP: Oh, I love it, I love it. When I was writing the song, the words “into the wild” came out, and I was like, “Are we allowed?” But I love that movie, I love the book, I mean it’s great, it’s an amazing tale, and the song…
MP: Do you see it as, like, romantic, like a romantic journey, or kind of a crazy one?
LP: Well, I think it’s both, I think the guy was obviously just, I had to hand it to him, he believed in something, was very passionate about it, went after it. I think it just shows you that it’s the wild. It just makes life seem so much more amazing, that we’re like… we’re sitting at the top of a building with a camera facing us. People had to die all the time because they ate the wrong berry. It’s like, we lifted ourselves up from eating the wrong berries, and then eating the right berries, and then boobooboom…
MP: That was the turning point for the civilization!
LP: …building a skyscraper! Eat the right berries, for God sakes, man! Yeah, so. They made it all very palpable, life-and-deathly.