LP has her heart on sleeve in passionate songs

After breaking through with Lost On You, singer LP has already sold out her Irish gig, writes Ellie O’Byrne.

MAYBE the world wasn’t ready for LP. Or maybe LP wasn’t ready for the world. Laura Pergolizzi, AKA LP, the 38-year-old singer-songwriter whose break-out global hit ‘Lost On You’ topped the charts and catapulted her to stardom in 13 countries, spent years honing her craft writing songs for pop queens like Cher, Rihanna, Christina Aguilera and Rita Ora.

It’s been 18 years since her debut album was released; LP’s career traversed six record deals and some serious self-doubt as to whether she could make it as a performing artist in her own right before ‘Lost On You’ was released in 2016.

“When I had this phase where I was only song-writing for other people, I didn’t think I had an artist career at the end of that,” the outspoken singer says.

“I kept getting deals and getting dropped; my first major label deal, it was like, ‘Oh my God yes, she’s a star,’ and then I got dropped and they’d go, ‘I know I know, she’s very hard to market.’ It was the same f**king person. That’s this business.”

Being decidedly gender non- conforming, LP seems to have been able to appropriate the best of both sides of the traditional gender binary equation. 

Visually, her distinctive style channels male ‘70s rockers, with what she’s described as her “weird Roger Daltrey hair”, wiry frame, leather biker jackets and ship tattoo emblazoned on her chest. Sonically, she’s got a breath-takingly operatic and decidedly female vocal range, used to full, emotional effect in her song-writing.

Perhaps it’s taken until this decade, with its move towards gender fluidity, for her to become marketable? Or perhaps social media has allowed her to circumvent record label tastemakers and reach out to fans directly?

“Sure, there were always gatekeepers, but I don’t mind taking responsibility too,” she says. 

I wasn’t quite there yet. I think I always knew that if I could just get out there, there’d be like-minded people I could talk to. When I was finally able to, it was like, ‘Keep going!’ It feels really good.

Speaking directly to fans works for LP: social media live-streams garner heartfelt and global responses. A live session of ‘Lost On You’ posted to Youtube went viral and notched up 266 million views. Even the Instagram account of Orson, her “dog son” with her fiancée, California rocker Lauren Ruth Ward, has 16,500 followers.

There’s an uncannily common feature in comment threads on her Youtube videos: straight women admitting to having a crush on her. Is this flattering, or baffling, or both?

She chuckles: “I think it’s awesome. I want to live in a world where it’s just people who are attractive. I wouldn’t ever call myself bisexual, but I’ve had sex with men. I can find them attractive, I just don’t want to have sex with them. So I’ll take it. I’m honoured, and I think it helps people to question things. The younger generation are getting better at being fluid.”

Born in Long Island but now based in Los Angeles, LP is arguably more revered in European countries than at home in the US; her summer tour for 2018’s Heart to Mouth album sees dates across Europe, with one night in Dublin.

‘Lost On You’ was a tough act to follow, but she’s been delighted with the response to Heart to Mouth so far.

“I feel like ‘Lost On You’ was such an emotional record that it was hard to match,” she says. “The worst thing would have been putting out a f**king record that had a bunch of sterile songs on it.”

Because it’s all about heart with LP; the new album is named, she says, for the direct line she’s trying to establish between her heart and her mouth when she sings.

Love songs and songs of heartbreak, delivered with a brittle vulnerability that belies her tough exterior, and, it seems, more than a little masochism. LP believes in suffering for her art, and there’s a very real sense that she has done so.

“Song-writing 101 to me is that you’ve got to break your own heart first,” she says. “When I’m going, ok, this hurts me to even write about, it’s working. You know when you have a sore muscle on your body and you can’t stop messing with it? I feel like that with songs. That’s what turns me on musically.”

There’s a lot of talk these days about being authentic and that’s great, but the hardest part is the path to that place. It’s an ongoing process, and it’s worth it as an artistic endeavour in itself. You can find your comfort zone, inside your own self.

LP plays Dublin’s Olympia Theatre on Tuesday, May 21. Tickets are sold out.The album Heart To Mouth is out now, as is the new single ‘Girls Go Wild’.

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