Chely Wright talks teaming up with Linda Perry


We recently caught up with out country music singer Chely Wright to talk about her collaboration with acclaimed producer and musician Linda Perry, why Stephanie Miller nominated her to be her “coming out coach,” and how many toes she would give up to work with Emily Saliers of the Indigo Girls. Since we’re here to talk about the Linda Perry collaboration, I’ll begin with the obvious: Do you remember where you were the first time you heard the 4 Non-Blondes’ song “What’s Up”?

Chely Wright:
I do and it just now came back to my consciousness. My brother, Chris, still lived in our house after he graduated from high school because he was doing concrete work with my dad. He had a concrete work truck and this shoebox full of cassette tapes. He was driving me somewhere and said, “Check this out!” and pulled out a tape. Chris liked AC/DC, Bad Company, Kiss, he liked rock and roll, and he put in the 4 Non-Blondes’ song “What’s Up.”

I was so into Randy Travis and The Judds, really straight ahead country. I remember I was ambivalent about the song, but I was more taken with my brother’s obsession. I didn’t know if it was a guy or a girl singing. I said, “What’s the name of this band?” and he said, “4 Non-Blondes. It’s a bunch of chicks. Aren’t they awesome?” He was just obsessed with them.

Recently I was talking to my brother and [told him I was in LA writing]. He said, “I thought you didn’t co-write anymore?” I said, “Well, I’m co-writing with someone that you don’t pass up the chance to write with: Linda Perry.” He said, “Holy crap! Linda Perry?” He about lost his mind and I remembered, oh my God, he liked her. When I told [Linda] that, she just laughed and said, “Oh, yeah, those jarheads love me.”

AE: How did you and Linda Perry begin working together?

: I have my good friend Diana Rodriguez, formerly of GLAAD, to thank for positioning us. She laughs now and says, “I put you guys at the same table on purpose.” I participated in the San Francisco GLAAD awards, as did Linda and Clementine Ford. I was scheduled to sing at the event and Clementine was there to give Cybill Shepherd, her mom, an award, along with another daughter of Cybill’s, who’s gay as well. We walked into the red carpet and Clementine turned to me and grabbed my shoulder and said, “I’m so happy for you. I’m so proud of you.” Then Linda Perry walked by and [Clementine] said, “Do you know Linda?” and I said, “Oh s–t, you’re Linda Perry!”

CW: I didn’t know they were dating because I’m just super duper not up on anything. I’m so behind I didn’t even know that Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman had broken up. [Laughs] I just don’t get these things. Linda sat at the table and we didn’t visit much because Cybill was sitting between us and Cybill and I hit it off. I mean, we had a great time. She was wonderful. So Cybill and I we were just having this good talk and I was thinking back to when I was a kid and—do you know that show Moonlighting?

AE: Sure.

I loved that show. I know I was supposed to love that show because of Bruce Willis but I loved it because of Cybill Shepherd. I would become fixated on it on Tuesday nights and I know that my family thought that I had a crush on Bruce Willis, but I really thought Cybill Shepherd was smoking hot.

AE: When I first came out to my mom she said, “But when you were young you were so obsessed with Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing,” and I had to explain to her that it was really Jennifer Grey that had my heart.

Isn’t that great.

AE: OK, so you’re talking to Cybill and—?

So we have this good talk. Clementine is next to her mom and leaning over to contribute a little bit, but Linda was pretty quiet. She was making eye contact and smiling and friendly, but she was atypical of rock stars that I had been around. Typically, a rock star commands the table and is tossing back drinks. I don’t mean to perpetuate stereotypes, but they kind of exist for a reason. But she was knocking down stereotypes left and right that night and I thought that was interesting and cool.

I got up to play and sing and I got back to the table and Linda leaned over and said, “You need to come out to LA. Let’s write a song.” I said, “Pardon?” She said, “Come out to LA. I have a great studio. Come out and we’ll write a song.” I said, “Don’t tease me like that. That’s not very nice to do.” And she said, “I’m not.”

Clementine looked at me and said, “She doesn’t do that. She’s not teasing. She really liked your performance.” Linda had a quick talk with me about the song. She said, “Of course I know who you are, I’ve been watching the press lately and heard some stuff. I think I know a bit about your past records. Let’s do something.” She grabbed her nametag off the table, wrote down her number, handed it to me and said, “Call me.”

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