Out New York singer-songwriter, LP, has captivated audiences with the beautifully layered and incredibly rich sounds she has created. What many may not know, is that while she is still very young, the curly-haired artist is a seasoned professional when it comes to impressing the music industry and her catalogue spans various genres. In fact, some of her songs have been recorded by artists such as The Backstreet Boys (“Love Will Keep You Up All Night”), Rihanna (“Cheers: I’ll Drink to That”) and Christina Aguilera for the movie Burlesque (“Beautiful People”).
We spoke with this dynamic performer about her music history, the confidence she brings to her performances, embracing her androgynous style and I couldn’t resist asking about her head of hair.
Photo courtesy of LP/Facebook
AfterEllen.com: (Hearing singing in the background of the phone call) Hello? LP? Are you just warming up or something?
LP: Hey! Yeah. [Laughs]
AE: Nice, was that a vocal exercise or something in particular?
LP: Actually it’s kind of an inside joke that’s part of a song from some video we were watching on YouTube.
AE: Well this has nothing to do with our interview, but when you have a second and you go back to YouTube, you need to look up “Butter Dance.” It’s amazing — just trust me on this. Fast forward to about the 1:40 mark; press play; have a good time.
LP: OK, I can do that.
AE: I feel like most people become instant fans of your music.
LP: Thank you. That means a lot.
AE: But it’s funny to think that your musical career really started with songwriting for pop artists closer to Rihanna and The Backstreet Boys, who I actually secretly love. But I guess it’s out there now.
LP: Yeah, I really like writing songs for pop stars. They’re really great!
AE: Well, yeah, I think so too. But then you’ve also got Heidi Montag singing your songs. [Laughs]
LP: Well the funny thing, you know, Heidi is really, really nice. She’s great and she wanted to do the record and she ended up liking a lot of my songs and wanted to buy them. And I had a lot of songs that we’re just sitting there at the time. As a songwriter I can only hope to write songs for other people that they want to buy.
AE: I guess that brings up another question for me: As a songwriter, is it like whoever wants it and has the money can buy it? Or do you have a say in who sings them?
LP: When you have a publishing deal you need to get a certain amount of songs done. So you’ve got to record and sell a certain amount of songs. I was writing through Warner Brothers Entertainment and so you have to get these songs released by artists on major labels. She wanted to buy a bunch of songs that I wrote and so it’s perfect because it helped me fulfill my publishing commitment. But you know, I’m really not trying to rip on her. She’s really cool, man.
AE: No, I’m sure she’s lovely.
LP: She really is. So, I write about like 100 songs a year and a lot of them don’t get cut so if there are people that really like a song and want to sing it, I want them to get out there.
AE: No, I know — I was just giving you a little shit.
LP: Nah, I know. A lot of my songs are pretty diverse so a lot of different kinds of artists can sing them. I’ve even got a Joe Walsh cut on his new record. So for me I’m happy that my songs can kind of go all over the place.
AE: You’ve been doing about a million and one interviews and performances lately. Does it get old after a while or are you kind of still riding the high of being really front and center right now? I know you’ve put stuff out in the past but now you’re just everywhere.
LP: As a songwriter I couldn’t be more happy that people are responding to my songs. Sure, in the past, people responded to my songs and I’ve always been grateful for that. But right now it it’s on another level. It just feels so great to have a lot of people digging on my songs.
AE: I guess maybe because I have TiVo or maybe I just don’t have time to watch a ton of TV, I didn’t hear about you from “Into The Wild” being used in the Citibank commercial. I was actually introduced to you by one of our readers who sent me a video of you performing. What really struck me was your stage presence. Anybody that has seen you perform live knows that you’ve got such a commanding presence. Where does that confidence come from?
LP: Well, you know, I don’t know. I don’t always feel so confident but I think that the look of confidence is important. The number one lesson of performing should be that the audience does not want to feel bad for you on stage. [Laughs] I don’t want to make anybody feel uncomfortable or compromise their enjoyment. But you know I think I naturally feel pretty confident in singing. I got super nervous doing Jimmy Kimmel, though. Doing his show brought me to a new level of nervousness. I had to recalibrate a little. I’m not sure if it was my nerves or concentration but being on national TV was so huge.
AE: Well, it last like came off great; there was no hint of nervousness coming from the TV!
LP: I thought I was going to cry. I was like, “Hold onto it!” [Laughs] It’s hard to watch yourself on TV. I’m not used to having to to look at myself on camera. I’m used to hearing myself playing but having to see myself makes me really nervous. I’m not an actor or anything like that and as a musician, I didn’t feel compelled to really be seen more.
Photo by Tamzin Brown/W Hotel
AE: No, I totally get it. Like, when I have to go back and transcribe this interview and listen to my voice, I’m probably going to cringe the entire time.
You know it’s interesting you talk about feeling uncomfortable on TV, but you you seem so confident. And your whole whole appearance and style on-stage and off is a pretty androgynous one. You just seem to be so comfortable in your own skin, which is fantastic but in the industry you’re in, it seems to be very difficult to do.
LP: Oh yeah, man! Like the show I’m doing tonight, my manager is telling me I’m performing in front of all these record execs who have turned my down in the past. Over the years I would go into these meetings and I could tell immediately who got me and who didn’t.
So eventually, you know, I was starting the songwriting thing and just carrying my ukulele with me everywhere and would just be writing songs. But eventually, my manager at the time was telling me that he really wanted me to go back to doing the artist thing. So I was like, okay man, but I’m not changing myself for this. And he’s like, no of course. I feel on the inside the way that I look on the outside which I think is where the comfort comes from.
Some people are going to like you and some people aren’t going like you and there’s nothing you can do about it. So eventually I decided that I only want to surround myself with people that get me right away. I don’t need to wait for them to come around. I just need somebody to show me that they know what I’m doing, they like it and that’s it.
So many artists try to force themselves into something. Like they’ll try to attach themselves to an A&R guy and think, oh I need this person like me and then they’re going to do something for me. I think I got really lucky, I wasn’t after anything at the time when this next phase of my artist career came through. It’s just been amazing. Warner Bros. has really been great and they respect who I am and I didn’t have to ask them to, they just did it. You need to be around the people that are going to make you the best version of yourself.
AE: It’s kind of like love.
LP: Yeah, it’s exactly like love. It’s like that that Bonnie Raitt song “I Can’t Make You Love Me.”
AE: Nope or else you’re stuck being somebody that you aren’t.
LP: Yeah, so with the songwriting I feel like I’ve gotten around to really crafting the kind of music that is me and has a marketplace in the pop arena but it still true to my indie side. I think it’s a good time for that, there’s a lot of Indie bands out there now that a lot of people want to listen to and the internet is great for that. Instead of just radio, but that still amazingly plays a huge part of it, too.
AE: I guess now my biggest problem with music right now is that so much is being done electronically in post-production. You don’t even necessarily have to have talent with a particular instrument or even singing. And then you get into the cookie-cutter music where you line it all up and it sounds the exactly the same.
LP: Oh yeah, that happens all the time in all kinds of music. When The Strokes came out, you couldn’t even walk down the street Brooklyn in skinny jeans without getting signed. [Laughs] It was like all these kids in skinny jeans trying to be The Strokes, thinking it would be simple — but it isn’t.
AE: I know that you’ve got a lot of music in your back-catalogue, I’m curious to know if any of those will be making it onto your full-length album. Like, “Last Star” maybe?
LP: Oh yeah! Oh, that’s a dope song. I don’t think it’ll make it on the album but yeah, I have a lot of stuff. 2011 is when I had this ambush of content coming out of me and it all felt connected, so that’s on the album. But, you never know!
AE: Well I know that now you’ve got a lot of fans that are basically starving for your music so I would hope maybe some of your older songs could even come out one by one. You know, with the internet you don’t have to wait for that anymore.
LP: Yeah, that’s true. I might not wait. I might just throw it out there.
AE: That’s right, just do it!
LP: I think you’re angling for a copy of “Last Star,” aren’t you?
AE: Well I wouldn’t turn it down! So, I’ve probably seen your Bardot Sessions with Florence Welch at least 20 times at this point.
LP: Aw, I find that kind of embarrassing now.
AE: Why? It’s incredible!
LP: Well because that night, I was working sessions all day and I never really knew what song I was going to do that night. My friend Isa (Isabella Summers), who was announcing and is Florence’s keyboard player, she’s my buddy and was staying my house, was like, “Oh you should do my song,” because she’s the one who co-wrote “Dog Days Are Over” and it wasn’t really big here yet. Like it was here but not big big. And, I do know the song of course but it’s different when you sing a song without any help. So that night, Isa was like, “Oh yeah, Florence might come out.” She doesn’t usually come out, so all of a sudden I hear that she’s going to be there and I’m like, “Oh hell no, there is no way I’m singing that song because no one can sing it better than her.” But I couldn’t get out of it by this point and at the last second, I was like, “The only thing that would be good is if I don’t butcher the song and she comes up to join me.” I was really embarrassed and felt badly that I didn’t know the words inside and out yet. But it was cool. She was very gracious.
AE: I mean it looked like an impromptu live band karaoke party up there. It looked awesome.
LP: Yeah, it definitely was.
AE: She was even kind of dancing down on the floor by your feet. At some point are you like, “How is this even my life right now?”
LP: Yeah, it was such a cool night. Oh and Isa and I have written a couple of songs for my record. We were just having fun! We wrote the song “Someday” and another song that is definitely making it to the record.
AE: You know, I didn’t know much about Carol King until listening to an interview she did on NPR a little while ago. I didn’t realize the extent of her songwriting career.
LP: Yeah! I just read a book on the Brill Building stuff and it’s amazing. I feel like, to be honest with you, we are a little bit back to that time because singles are so popular and a lot of songwriters are writing in groups now.
AE: Well, to be honest, I had listened to the podcast right around the time I was preparing for our interview and it seemed to me as though you and she have a lot of similarities. Hopefully you never marry anyone with a psychological disorder though.
LP: [Laughs] Yeah, I mean I’d be honored to follow that kind of path. It’s all about songs for me and I feel like I’m studying songwriting like an art form. I’m enamored with the art form of songwriting. There’s just so much to learn all the time.
AE: I think that comes through in your portfolio — not just in what you sing but in who else sings your songs.
LP: Wow, thanks.
AE: True story.
LP: I feel like being a singer as well as a songwriter gives me unique insight into writing songs as well. Not everybody that can sing also writes songs. So when I’m writing a song for myself I really try to go for it. It’s fun. I think it gives me a unique perspective.
Photo by Tamzin Brown/W Hotel
AE: Well and having the musicality that you do and being able to figure out layered sounds and where certain instruments will come in when you’re writing — I’m sure it must be helpful. You can tell when a lot of care has been put into creating a song.
LP: I think it’s important to know where you’re at in your abilities. I feel like a lot of times I can tell now — where I don’t think I was able to observe before — if a melody isn’t working. Now I feel like I can tell the rejects right away. That’s been really nice and I have more confidence in myself in that regard, you know. And that’s just doing it and doing it and that’s part of the fun of it.
AE: Yeah I would assume with time and nailing it — knowing that you’ve nailed it, has to be an incredible feeling.
LP: Yeah, because you never know. Sometimes you’ll write songs and they don’t get picked for a while. So like, you’ll hear some song that wasn’t cut for four years and now all of a sudden it’s number one. You never know what’s going to sell. That’s what’s fascinating.
AE: I notice that you seem to be wearing one lone long cross earring in a lot of your pictures. Is there a story behind it?
LP: I don’t know, a friend of a friend had it and gave it to me. And I don’t know I think I just like to wear shit I can just put on and leave. Like I love uniforms. I love cartoons because they’re always wearing the same shit. [Laughs]
AE: What’s your favorite cartoon then?
LP: Well, I love me some Sponge Bob, that’s for sure. And I’m a Family Guy and American Dad fan.
I’m not an organized religion person, so the earring isn’t about that. It’s a very pure symbol to me so I don’t know, I like it.
AE: Well, I guess that’s an acceptable answer. So, as somebody who has been fighting mine my entire life, have you always embraced your curls?
LP: Yeah I guess so. I guess I just have always liked to have my hair in my face. And of course my friends’ moms would always be like, (in great old Jewish mother accent) “Ah you have such a pretty face; take your hair outta your face.” But I think it’s kind of my little shield from the world. I would wear sunglasses all the time if it wasn’t looked down upon in certain situations. I always thought I’d be someone who wore sunglasses like Roy Orbison.
AE: It’s a little douchey to do right now though.
LP: Yeah, it’s a little douchey. Trust me, you’ll know that I think I’ve arrived when I don’t take off my sunglasses ever. [Laughs] I need to get some of those glasses that change color when you go inside so I don’t bump into shit.
AE: Oh yeah? Eh. Those are a little weird.
LP: I have seen people wearing them at night and watched them bump into shit.
AE: So that makes them even worse because then they’re just kind of barely tinted and people are still bumping into things looking like a douche. Not a good look.
LP: So you have a curly head of hair yourself?
AE: Yep, my entire life I’ve had a Jew-fro.
LP: Oh yeah, sometimes people call mine a Jew-fro. I don’t mind it — I love the Jew-fro, I’m down.
AE: I just never knew what to do with it until very recently and then I guess once I finally cut my hair short in college, my grandma who is my BFF, looked at me and said, “Yeah, I guess you did look kind of weird with long hair.” And I’m like, “Grandma, 22 years later you’re going to tell me this? You could’ve told me earlier.”
LP: Yeah, Grandmas can be weird sometimes.
AE: I know you have to perform in a bit so when somebody puts your music on or sees your live show, what do you want to be their biggest takeaway?
LP: I just want them to feel an overall sense of goodness. I did this benefit kind of recently and there were some soldiers there. There was this one soldier who was like really highly decorated and he waited in line to talk to me and said, “You know, I just want to tell you, as soon as you started to play, I felt peaceful.” I was just like, “Holy shit! That’s the greatest thing you could say.” And I’d like people to feel that way. I want them to feel rocked for sure. So peacefully rocked. [Laughs] It was definitely one of the best compliments I could have ever gotten.