The year of 2017 turned out to be wonderfully generous in terms of LP’s media appearances. She’s given plenty of truly interesting interviews and a bunch of really good articles about her music have been published, together with a few amazing photo shoots (with the absolutely stunning session with Yoshitaka Kono for 1883 Magazine). It all started off in mid-January, when LP kicked off off her US radio promo and went to Philadelphia to play the Winter Jawn festival. During this trip, she also visited the World Café program, a WXPN radio show, to give an interview and play a couple of songs.
LP outside the World Cafe studio, photo credit: Galea McGregor/WXPN
Sounds pretty standard, doesn’t it? But it sure wasn’t – at World Cafe LP gave one of the most stirring interviews ever, and the way she sang “Lost On You” there remains one of her best performances. The host, David Dye, did an excellent job, just as a prominent music journalist would. He was prepared, he knew exactly what he was talking about, and you could tell he knows the music business inside out. He was a partner to LP in this conversation and maybe that’s why she opened up a bit more, talking about her music career from a bit of a different angle. Even when she talked about things she usually covers, she added a pinch more of this and a little bit of that, giving her answers another flavor and making this interview vibrant and compelling.
This interview was really something a year ago, and it remains one of our top favorites up to the current date. We’ve transcribed it, but do listen to the audio file, too – the sound in World Café was spectacular, and there is something almost velvet to LP’s voice (sic!). A perfect cherry on a perfect cake. Enjoy!
World Cafe: Our guest today is LP, born Laura Pergolizzi. She has put out albums on her own, she’s been signed to major labels – Island Def Jam and Warner Bros., a couple of them, but she had far more success writing for others, people like Rihanna, Christina Aguilera and The Backstreet Boys, than on her own, so far. Well, that seems to be changing with her Death Valley EP. Her song, “Lost On You,” became a number one hit in Greece, France and several other European countries. It’s the title track of the forthcoming album that should be out next month. She’ll play it today, and if you haven’t heard it, you will understand the buzz. We’ll talk with LP in a moment, after the song “Muddy Waters.”
World Cafe: That is “Muddy Waters,” that is the song that begins the Death Valley EP from LP, who is our guest today, and this great band who are new to the US right now, because they have been such an incredible success in Europe. And it’s good to see you. Can we just try to begin with your career, ’cause I just think that the whole thing is freaking fascinating, and…
LP: Hm… Petri dish: what’s in there…
World Cafe: Yeah, and, you know, did you ever wonder how the music gets out there today? Just check out what’s been happening with LP’s music! You’re originally from Long Island, right?
World Cafe: And did you move into the city to make music around that time…
LP: I did. We were originally from Brooklyn, then moved to Long Island when I was really young. And I would always go into Manhattan, all the time, just ’cause it just felt like the place, the source. Then I moved there, when I was late teens, and not really sure what to do. I was really kind of clueless about the music business in general, I grew up in a more academic family, but then decided… My mother passed away, and I decided I wanted to search a little more for meaning, so I did, in New York… I was just kind of struggling with some bands and stuff, and just trying whatever, doing what you do, playing some shows, and rock it on all that dives, and just experimenting with songwriting, which I had no idea where to go with that. There is not a school for that. I mean, there is, but I didn’t go to it…
World Cafe: If you’re writing and playing…
LP: Yeah, exactly, at your spare time, but, yeah, I felt it just kept calling me, in a way, and I was fascinated by… As much as I’m a singer, the songwriting thing is like my main… my job, I think.
World Cafe: And you were writing for yourself at first, but then… How did the writing for other people come in, was that later?
LP: Oh, that was kinda weird, ’cause I felt like, the irony is that… I think I couldn’t find the song for myself, that my songs weren’t “good enough” to either get me going, or the right vehicle for me. One of the things about my sound and stuff is that – I find myself saying this a lot lately – because people say, “what kind of music is it?” And I don’t really know, ’cause there’s a lot of things that I try, and I feel like it’s not some kind of lofty thing, like, “Oh! I couldn’t classify.” It’s just that I don’t really know, ’cause this is a lot of different things now, that’s a hard part of finding my sound… My first major label deal, I got in the system and it was like 2006 to 2009, and it didn’t yield any fruit, there was no record that came out, but I wrote in the range of 130-140 songs…
World Cafe: Wow!
LP: …and one of those got picked up by The Backstreet Boys, and it kind of started, it was like a watershed moment of sorts. What I felt was like, “Oh!” I didn’t picture that, I didn’t know that it could happen. I knew it happened, I didn’t picture that for myself, and then I got a publishing deal, in 2009, and I was like, “Oh, you know, that’s cool, I’ll just be a songwriter,” I don’t have to worry about who thinks I look good, or who thinks it’s good for me, or whatever. It was just, like, go hard, and I just started writing songs constantly, like a few a week, every week, for years. Then I was getting bigger cuts, and then, oddly, that brought me back around to myself.
World Cafe: That’s interesting.
LP: Yeah, I just got some management that wanted to wrap me as a songwriter, but it was like, “Are you sure you’re done with your actual singing career?” I was like, “I don’t know,” and then I think their enthusiasm bolstered my confidence, and I started writing like, “Into The Wild” and stuff like that, and then, by the end of the year, I got signed with Warner Bros., again, as an artist, which was interesting, in 2011.
World Cafe: You mentioned “Into The Wild,” which was a song that got you some notice, I mean, people who hear the song and they say: “Oh, I know that,” and they know that from their television, there are so many ways you release…
LP: Yes, I realized the power of TV. That commercial did so much for me. Funny, when people would ask me “Do you feel like you sold out?” I said: “Oh, get the hell out of my face, I don’t!” [laughs] “Yes, I do.” I was like, “Come on…”
World Cafe: You know my song and now I’m sold out? I don’t think so.
LP: Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s like, it’s just the way the world works now, that’s the platform that gets the most notice. It’s unbelievable that it has such a reach, when a lot of people have satellited off to their computers and doing things whenever the hell they want. It’s just a different world… I believe in technology and moving on, and “Into The Wild” is in fact about that. I think you can stay classic and move forward into the new…
World Cafe: Yeah, explain a little bit more what “Into The Wild” is about.
LP: “Into The Wild” is about – are we losing our souls in the runaway train of technology, and how. And are we getting further apart or is it bringing us closer together, and I don’t think we really know the ramifications of that, just yet, to be honest.
World Cafe: Amen to that. This is LP and this is “Into The Wild.”
[Into The Wild]
World Cafe: LP is our guest today, and yes, she whistles as well. “Into The Wild,” going back one album for her, she’s got a new EP out now called Death Valley, which is gonna be expanded, right? We’re getting a full length…?
LP: Yeah, it’s coming out in March.
World Cafe: Excellent.
LP: Actually, I don’t know, May maybe. But yeah, it’s gonna be a few songs, a couple of songs off the EP and then a bunch of new ones.
World Cafe: Cool.
LP: Yeah, some that are out in Europe already, and a couple others.
World Cafe: Let’s talk a little bit about Europe, because, I think, people think the music business is like a monolith, you know, it’s like, something happens here, something happens there. And your situation with this EP, which came out in, what, June or so…
World Cafe: …is that… that’s true, you had an amazing kind of thing happen – one of the songs became a huge hit starting in Greece and then spreading everywhere. How did that feel for you, did you, you know…
LP sings “Lost On You” in the World Cafe studio – still frame
LP: Oh, it felt amazing, it was so interesting, ‘cause again, like you said, it’s been out for months here, and had a little float on Hype Machine, number six on Viral Top 50… And again, I was on an indie label, so I wasn’t expecting a big push or money behind anything. Around January of 2016 I got a direct message on Instagram, which I just started checking then, because I’d missed something, I’d missed a show offer or something like that, someone who contacted me through that. I said: “Oh, man, I gotta start checking this,” so I did. And a guy, Panagiotis was his name, he’s from a label called Cobalt, in Greece, it’s with a C, and I… There’s a Kobalt here, very prestigious, with a K, and so, I wasn’t even thinking about the letter, I just thought, oh, Kobalt, in Greece! Interesting! Like, “I’ll check this out.” So, I clicked on it and he’s asking about my material, and he said he tried to contact the label, but he didn’t get a call back, could he trouble me for my info, with my managers and my publisher. So, I said: “Sure” and I totally forgot about it, ’cause I thought it was, like, film, TV kind of thing, and the next thing I know they’re licensing a record. And as much experience as I have, I didn’t really understand that whole concept of licensing a record from a label to put it out somewhere else, in a different territory.
World Cafe: Like, Vagrant would not necessary have a deal with Europe.
LP: Right, yeah, and even Vagrant’s owned by BMG, and BMG had to allow them to do it. And they were actually fine, like, “We’re not doing anything with this right now, we’re not putting a big push behind it.” So, the next thing I know, a few months later, I’m hearing like it’s charting, I was like, “‘charting’, what does that even mean?” They were putting it out on iTunes and it was playing on the radio, and it went number one there and stayed there for like seven months or more, and it’s gone like Monty Python there. And then my other song, “Other People,” actually went number one recently, too, there… “Lost On You,” that’s the song we’re talking about, then Italy, who also say that they discovered it themselves, not from Greece, they also licensed the record on another label, and then France followed and then, once you hit France you’re kinda getting in, like, good, percolating territory. But I think when France started asking for it, BMG was like, “Wait wait wait, what’s going on here?” I mean, I’m on Electra in France, I’m on several labels in Europe, and it just kept spreading and spreading, and it’s been number one in almost 20 territories or something like that, and it’s got golden and platinum in a bunch of places, and… It’s just interesting. With all the experience I have of my own self, and of other artists that I work with, as a songwriter, it’s been the most interesting thing I’ve seen [laughs], to be honest!
World Cafe: I would think so! And, so, you go over to Greece and you play yourself, what’s that like?
LP: Yes, it was like, sold out, 4 500 people in Athens, and people going nuts in there. In Thessaloniki as well.
World Cafe: That’s great! Yeah, I’m just thinking of all those artists who feel like they don’t get anywhere. Come on, hold on, it may happen, in some major way. You mentioned maybe you wanted to do something that’s gonna be on the album that comes out later, but could you do “Lost On You,” so people know what we are talking about?
LP: Of course, yeah. Let’s do it.
[Lost On You]
World Cafe: “Lost On You,” LP live at the World Cafe live studio today, and that’s another one from the Death Valley EP. You kinda figured you were not in a good place in your life when you were writing this… What was going on? There’s a lot of songs about, I wouldn’t even call them breakup songs, but…
LP: Yeah, I was in a difficult time both personally and professionally. It was the summer of 2014, and my personal life, my relationship with my girlfriend then, at the time, was just not feeling right. And I was feeling like, I don’t know what was happening with it, both places, and professionally, also. The record was taking too long to come out, Warner Bros… It was just timing-wise. We were not in synch, and I kinda knew that the record was not gonna get pushed, and all the personnel had changed. It was classic stuff. And so, I was pretty desolate, emotionally, for a while. But I felt very in tune to my actual feelings, so… That was cool. And “Lost On You” was just born of that darkness. I didn’t know where I was, to be honest. “Muddy Waters,” as well. So, yeah…
World Cafe: Yeah. You know, hearing you sing, I’m scratching my head that you ever thought that you would just be a songwriter, you’re such a natural performer!
LP: Oh, thanks.
World Cafe: And to people who’ve not seen a video yet, I should tell you that LP, that this voice comes out of Prince’s body, with Marc Bolan’s hair on top, and… I just realized that androgyny is a rock’n’roll look for everybody.
LP: Yeah, Prince had got a lot… I don’t think people talked about how androgynous Prince was, I don’t even really think I thought of it as much, ’cause it’s such an interesting brand of it.
World Cafe: Right.
LP: I’m a big fan of different people’s styles of it, and it’s really cool when someone does it so uniquely, and Prince was definitely…He had us all fooled… Like I was wearing two-inch heels all the time, and I’d scooting around. He was so feline, but he was also very masculine, and that’s cool.
World Cafe: Was this your look before you were performing or is it…
LP: Ah, yeah, I’ve always messed with it, and I think that I’ve just dialed it in and in and in, and just kind of played with it myself. My changes in my look are not as wildly across the board, as, like, David Bowie’s, I’ve always looked sort of the same and I dialed it in and out a little bit, a little smaller dial.
LP sings “Lost On You” in the World Cafe studio – still frame
World Cafe: Yeah, that makes sense. So, can we hear one of these new songs that’s coming out now?
LP: Sure. I’ll play this song that’s called “Tightrope.” And it’s one of the new… That’s one of the songs that kind of, ehm, me coming out of that haze of only break-up songs. This is kind of a life song, love song, that’s about: “Can you, we, make it, and does it matter, really.”
World Cafe: “Tightrope,” something new from LP, finishing up our session today. Great to meet you, thanks a lot for coming!
LP: You too, thank you so much!