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An LP’s Worth of Tunes

Bonnaroo 2012- photo by John Patrick Gatta

You may have heard the songwriting talents of LP may have heard the songwriting talents of LP whose credits include recordings by Cher, Christina Aguilera, Rihanna, Joe Walsh, Backstreet Boys, Rita Ora, Leona Lewis, Karmin and Chiddy Bang.

Pay no attention to those artists and you still had a difficult time avoiding her self-penned tune “Into the Wild,” which was featured in the Citibank commercial the moment the rock climber triumphantly reaches the summit of the Ancient Art rock formation in Utah’s Moab desert.

Then there are the countless music festivals she’s performed at over the past several years – Bonnaroo, Austin City Limits, Life is Good, Made in America, Bumbershoot, Sweetlife, Bunbury, Music Meltdown, Ottawa Folk and Cultivate.

Due to her hitmaking pedigree, her solo career had been put on hold for a decade. When she signed with Warner Brothers, the record company took matters slowly, releasing a six-song Into the Wild EP in 2012 to re-introduce her to the public before putting out her third full-length album last June.

With Forever for Now LP is ready to make good on the promise of her songwriting and performing past. Here, she blends pop craftsmanship on “Heavenly Light,” and undeniable hooks that embed in your memory (“Night Like This”) with a powerful voice and a celebratory quality that runs throughout its dozen tracks.

  • JPG: LP, a good name for a musician.*

LP: Yeah, it was a nickname and it just felt right. It had a good ring to it. There’s a couple of other artists, there’s El-P who sent me a funny tweet one time, “Yo! Next time you choose a name. Google it.” Actually though, that’s my actual initials. [To El-P] “You know you’re name wasn’t El Producto when you popped out of the womb.”

*JPG: Before we get into this, I wanted to let you know that years ago a friend of mine saw you in concert, raved about you and gave me your 2001 album Heart-Shaped Scar. Then, your second album, Suburban Sprawl & Alcohol, made it my way. And I also saw you a couple years ago at Bonnaroo and Bunbury festivals. Since I saw you perform I had a certain vision of you. So, I was really surprised when I heard, especially the opening numbers – “Heavenly Light” and “Night Like This” — on Forever for Now because they sounded so poppy…but I got over my anti-pop-ness.

LP: Well yeah, it’s pop that’s known. That’s what I do. I’ve always had the pop artist in me, and there’s a lot to choose from on this record. I also think that my voice isn’t that pop, really, and any sheen that you’re seeing on my voice is really just me being able to fucking sing. (laughs)

That’s basically…I’m sticking to that. I mean, I love pop music. I always have. There’s elements to that in my record. There’s no apologies. That wasn’t a mistake but there’s all kinds of stuff. It’s a little bit different pop. I know that first song (“Heavenly Light”) is very pop at the beginning but it’s a cool uplifting way to start the record.

JPG: That’s probably what it was. “Heavenly Light” was probably like the poppiest production-wise and then it seemed that each song afterwards either was a little less so or it was like, “Uhhh…I like this. I’ll just go with it.”

LP: (laughs) Well, see. We’ll scare away all the pussies with that first one.

JPG: The other thing is, I was listening to Heart-Shaped Scar — going back and forth between that and the new album — and that was a more guitar-oriented than +Forever for Now_.

LP: Yeah, I definitely steered away from too much guitar on this, and I was working with a producer (Rob Cavallo) that is a guitar man. He’s worked with Green Day and there’s lots of guitars on everything. We purposely stayed away from…I love the guitar but I kind of wanted a more organic sound. There’s a lot of acoustic guitar on this record. It’s not that I’m not down with the [electric guitar]. On this record, I didn’t use a lot of electric.

JPG: There are a lot of strings on the record. And on one of those tracks, “Tokyo Sunrise,” it’s interesting how your vocal mimicked the Japanese kodo.

LP: Yeah, yeah, yeah. That was just a melody that came out while I was writing it and I almost didn’t finish that song because I didn’t know…I was curious of how I was really going to work a theme and a lyric into it but I’m glad I did.

JPG: At the same time though something like that, if done wrong, could seem culturally insensitive.

LP: Yes. Totally. It could be really lame. (laughs) That’s the thing with any song because you’re always striving to make the melody and the lyric…the deepest and the most enduring songs are when you feel like the lyrics and the meaning of the song is so wrapped around like a spiral with the melody and you can feel it more and more as you keep going on. That’s the case with “Tokyo.” “Tokyo Sunrise,” that scale is a very ancient-sounding kind of scale and the song’s about love going on forever and ever.

JPG: You mentioned about Rob Cavallo producing. Having the record company’s chairman in the studio with you could be a good thing because he’s got your back or it could be something where you’re being pressured by him saying, “I need to hear a single.”

LP: That looms in there, for sure. Rob was very cool and related to me as an artist because ultimately he’s an artist himself. He’s got very much the artist temperament and everything that goes with that. He was very encouraging for us to be artistic. You can hear from this record that there is that element. There’s both qualities. There’s an artistic and a single-y type element.

JPG: You credit him with the idea of bringing strings to the album, in particular “Night Like This.” I read that you were almost going to let Shakira record that song and then when he heard it he had the idea of what was missing from it, which is why you had it shelved.

LP: It wasn’t anything like that in that regard but he definitely was the person who went, “Why are we not doing this song? This is a great single for you.”

I never gave the okay on that song. It was just one of those things. I never said, “Hey, pitch this to other people. I’m not using it.” I didn’t know if I was gonna use it. It was in the stage when I was compiling songs for this record. I needed to finish it. Put another part on it. It was hanging around like that. All of a sudden Shakira wanted to do it. Two different artists, unknown artists, wanted to do it. I guess it was kind of like, “How come you’re not doing this song?” And I said, “I honestly don’t know why I’m not doing this song. I never said I wasn’t going to do it. I just wasn’t finished with it.” Then when Rob heard it, I finished the last part and put it on the record.

JPG: When I read it, it sounded like he heard it and said something like, “Why don’t you add this to it?” and you’re like, “Aha! That’s what’s been missing all this time! Why didn’t I think of that?”

LP: One of the interesting parts of making this record was that as you went on with songs, certain songs opened the door for other songs. While I’d written “Night Like This” before, but “One Last Mistake” was on the record for sure, and I felt like that song opened the record up to having a song like “Night Like This” on it. It’s almost like the landscape of the record changed a little bit.

Funny enough that song “Heavenly Light” was the last song I wrote. I was really burnt from songwriting for myself and I think that one came out very poppy because I almost felt like I was writing that for someone else, maybe. Then, it became my song. I’ve only played it two or three times live. I think one of the reasons I also put it on the record is because the response is so massive that I was like, “Maybe I should put this on my record.”

JPG: Yeah. It does sound like something I could imagine hearing at a festival, and the song builds and then BOOM! the chorus creates an explosion and there’s a massive crowd reaction.

LP: Yeah. That’s one thing I learned as far as being in front of festivals, like when “Into the Wild” was first getting a lot of play on the commercial and everything. I would do all these festivals and it was interesting to see bands — and you have to fill up the space when you’re outside – so it’s nice to have a big rollicking dancey tune, which I don’t have many of. I like variety on a record. I don’t wanna sing the same fuckin’ song over and over.

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