LP at EastWest Studios
May 1, 2012 9:00 AM, By Bud Scoppa
A NEW MODEL ROCK STAR
It was during this period that she began writing on the ukulele. “At the time I was writing a lot of urban stuff, and I’d take my ukulele to sessions, which threw a lot of people,” she recalls with a laugh. “But I just fell in love with the ukulele; it gave me a completely different perspective from the guitar. The fact that it’s a little bit ‘off’ makes you think differently.”
In late 2009, LP’s manager encouraged her to become a performing artist again. “I said, ‘Okay, man, but I’m not changing shit. I’m playing the ukulele—this is it,’” she says. “Then, in mid-2010, RedOne signed me to a production deal, and I figured, okay, I’ll be an artist, but he’s one of the biggest producers in the world—I’ll also start writing with his people. At the same time, I decided I wanted to play out again, but I was having trouble finding musicians.”
That changed one fateful night in early 2011 when she stepped on the stage of Bardot in Hollywood during one of the club’s Thursday night events in which moonlighting session musicians and visiting vocalists tackle cover songs. “That was the night my band was born,” she says, “because, after I sang a song, every musician on the stage and in the house gave me their card. I became a fixture, and A&R people started coming down to see me, which was totally unexpected. The first time I did one of my own songs, everybody flipped out. I realized I was onto something, so I ended the production deal. I said, ‘Red, I found out what I want to do.’”
LP made the decision just as her writing career was taking off. Her co-writes included Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful People” from the soundtrack to the 2010 film Burlesque and Rihanna’s 2011 hit single “Cheers.”
“So I had this band,” she continues, “but I didn’t have material, and I wasn’t interested in doing the artist thing without having songs I cared about. When I was writing songs for other people, I was editing me out of them, which is good—I was writing for them. But when I started writing songs for me, I decided to do whatever I felt like. I can sing really high and I enjoy it—I’m a belter—so I didn’t hold back. And then the songs started coming, one after the other. I was writing because these songs went somewhere, and I started to get very in tune with what was working.”
Since signing with Warner Bros. last September, LP has skewed the writer/artist formula in a radical way, penning her intensely personal songs in collaboration with the writer/producers she’d been working with as a hired gun—primarily the versatile PJ Bianco, Isa Summers of Florence + the Machine, and the team of Carl Ryden and Marc Nelkin. “I really enjoy bouncing stuff off someone else and tapping into their energy,” she explains. “The way we write for other people’s sessions carries over to my own thing,” she says.
LP has come up with a new model for the writer/artist, discarding the traditional romantic notion of what is considered authentic self-expression in favor of a pragmatic attitude fueled primarily by her work ethic.
“I think of it as a job, but a cool job,” she says. “Some people would say that takes the soul out of it. I don’t find that. I feel very inspired by having to be there in the room. I’m just interested in the work. I feel like I have to do what I love. Songwriting is hard enough; if I didn’t love it, it would be a bitch. But you have to go through it—it’s the process. I didn’t get into this because I wanted to be massively famous. To me, fame is a by-product of writing songs you love and doing great work. It’d be nice to be a pop star and a career artist. Why not be both?”
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