Musician LP on Androgyny, Identity and How Joni Mitchell Breaks the Rules
18 August 2017
LP, (real name Laura Pergolizzi), has been making music professionally for over a decade, writing songs for the likes of Cher ("Red," "Pride"), Rita Ora ("Shine Ya Light"), and Christina Aguilera ("Beautiful People"), and scoring her first major breakthrough with Rihanna's "Cheers (Drink To That)." In addition to precise songwriting prowess, LP also has a powerhouse voice and an aesthetic that's both classic (think: clean cut blazers and natural curls) and subversive (see: her giant chest tattoo of a pirate ship), that's drawn fans from all over the world. The openly gay, gender-neutral singer is also an LGBT role model, connecting with fans everywhere through her signature androgynous style and heartfelt lyrics about her relationships past, present and future. LP has released three albums and one EP and is currently on tour in the US to promote her most recent album, Lost On You, released in December 2016.
PAPER: One of the things that's so amazing about you is your authenticity. Have you always been so seemingly comfortable in your own skin?
I wouldn't say I've always been that way. I've always strived to be that way, and I think I'm the most comfortable I've ever been. I definitely think we all have to find it within us to bring our most authentic selves to the forefront, and I try to continue to do it myself. But everything's a work in progress.
How would you describe your personal style? You've got the iconic curls, the sunglasses indoors - have you always been committed to that aesthetic?
I've always tried to. One of the first, big-time girlfriends I had was a fashion designer, a pretty high up one, and she taught me a lot. She knew what I was into obviously, and she taught me a lot about how to wear clothes.
Your look is pretty androgynous.
I think androgyny is an art form. When I see a good brand of it, no matter who it is I'm like, "Wooow, that's dope." I've always been fascinated by it. I've always felt kind of gender-neutral, to use a fairly recent phrase. I think some people wrongly assume that I'm trying to be a dude, but I just don't feel like it's either for me. I'm not one of those people that would be like, "Don't call me he, she, whatever." Because it's too much for me, it's too over the top for me personally. I think it's really fucking dope when people do it, but I've never felt comfortable with those. I don't like going into a ladies' room to be honest. I find it limiting and not accurate. But I think my style has come from that.
Who were your influences, coming up as a songwriter?
So many, for sure. Kurt Cobain, Jeff Buckley to name more current ones, but Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell was huge. Just those people that you were kind of like, "How do you put that in a song?" Joni Mitchell always amazes me 'cause she'll put something so conversational in a song and you're like, "No, it's a song. You're not allowed to do that Joni!" She fucking does it anyway. She's fucking awesome. You know, Simon and Garfunkel, shit like that, Led Zeppelin. The Stones and the Beatles, you know. It's like the Beatles teach you how to love, the Stones teach you how to fuck.
Joni teaches you how to cry.
Are you self-taught?
Basically. When I first got into the real rat race that is songwriting, I learned by working with some people that wrote some of the biggest songs over the last ten or twenty years. I was just blown away by their intuition. It's really cool. It's a fascinating craft because as much as you can learn the craft and shit like that, you just never know when it's in the room. I learned that from seeing these songwriters that have like, ten to twenty of the biggest hits you've ever heard, and I see the songs that didn't make it, you know what I mean? Hundreds of terrible songs, or even okay songs, like mediocre kind of songs.
You just never know what's going to hit.
Do you still play the ukulele as your instrument of choice?
I do, it is still my instrument of choice [laughs]. Sorry, my girlfriend's making fun of me. For me, there's a simplicity to it that allows me to shut off a part of me that gets too technical. It's this joyous instrument, and at the same time, I find it very melancholy.
That's beautiful! I know you're in Amsterdam right now touring; do you spend a lot of time interacting with your fans at shows?
I do, I love interacting with them. Once in a while I feel bad if it's after a show and I can't go out and sign a million things. It's just a lot physically, but I still do it, 'cause I love it. Sometimes when I'm on stage I just want to run through the entire crowd because it's just like, "How do I get to them?!" It feels so far away.
What would you say your fan base is like?
They're very diverse. It's wild, dude. I was in Prague in the town square and a gaggle of ten Italian guys, like max 30-years-old, were like, "Heyyyy!" and asked me to take a picture with them. And then right after a sixty-five year old woman came up and was crying, and it was really beautiful and we were taking pictures, and then a twenty-two-year-old girl came up to me and it was like, that's how diverse my fan base is and it blows my fucking mind. There's little kids in the audience, straight dudes, people of all genders, whatever, and it's beautiful. It's really shocking and amazing. I couldn't have asked for or wished for a more interesting, beautiful, diverse fan base.
Russia was amazing. Diverse. Not just like all our people showing up, it was diverse. And I went to Morocco and I was like, "Really?!" This is shocking. But it's fucking awesome. Israel, too. It's very, very cool. It's so wild to me. I do think people in all ways can appreciate authenticity. They just do. I like to give people the benefit of the doubt. I'm all about inclusion. As much as I love, love, love the LGBT community, and I'm so into that, I want everybody. I want to sit down with all kinds of people, and that's the thing that I hate about our administration and all that stuff is that, who the fuck wants to look around and see all the same motherfuckers? Do you? I don't! I don't want everybody to be gay, dude! I'm not looking for that. Fuck that. I want to be cool, I want to be unique, I don't want the whole motherfucking world to be gay. [laughing]
Do you feel a special connection with your LGBT fans, especially the younger ones?
Absolutely. Every generation brings new challenges of being gay. I think we're in a better time than ever, and we're also in a dangerous time. But I've been really blown away by how I've been received in Europe and in countries you would be like, "Really?" It's wild. And that's the thing that's so sad about all of this going on in the world, going so forward and back at the same time. I think it's a bigger gift than we all know, what's going on politically, because I think that sometimes we can't get shit out if it's not at the surface. It's the fools that are still harboring those prejudices that are revealing themselves and that to me is ideal. It's better than the hidden shit sometimes.
Sunlight is the best disinfectant, as they say.
Yes, and I think it's going to hurt before it heals. But I think the young community is very brave and I think they get that from their predecessors, 'cause there were some brave motherfuckers out there that fucking started the ball rolling when it was definitely not okay.
Do you have any advice for young fans who are struggling with their sexuality or identity?
I think you know when you feel good. And you have to struggle. I remember I worked with Linda Curry a long time ago, and she said she always went with her gut feeling. And I was like, man what is that? But I think it's worth trying to find it. It shouldn't matter what a person is, what they look like, who they are. You know when you feel good around a person. You have to really try not to think about the different separations that are already there. I think they have to trust themselves and live authentically and love who they've got to love. My dad said, "I just feel like it's a difficult life." And I said, "Dad, sucking a cock for the rest of my life is not what I want to do. There's nothing wrong with that but like, no." And he's like "Jesus Christ!" And I was like, "Do you want to suck a cock for the rest of your life?" And he's like, "Hey, hey, calm down," and I'm like, "Well, don't fucking tell me what to do then."
You're going to do with your body what you want to do, I'm going to do with my body what I want to do and whatever. It's a much more difficult life not living that truth.
Splash photo by Michael Comte.