Dylan, Callas, Joplin, Jagger – LP is all of this and more! This NY-native is living in LA, where she has written many hit songs for many of the top pop stars. Her superb voice comes together with this killer songwriting in her own hit music.
By K. Cambron
Photographer Darren Craig
I have to thank our Creative Director, Sylvain Blais, who introduced her music to me. When I saw her live recording of “Lost on you,” I was really blown away: her voice, her sound, how cool she looks… I had to dive into her work, her videos, her interviews. She has the rock star attitude, she has more confidence than Madonna, and she’s witty like Shakespeare.
I’m glad we got a few words with her; she’s super kind. Seeing her perform live in Toronto, I could tell that she truly appreciates her fans.
You have such a distinct voice and a spectacular style – was it always like this for you? I think everybody works on things. Some of it came from tenacity and just not accepting someone else’s view of me, which was kind of difficult, but I didn’t know I was doing it at the time, which I think is just known as basic, plain old stubbornness when you get down to it. The music business tends to have a narrower viewpoint of women especially. For years, they’ve allowed men to dress as women and get away with it and then marginalize women who play with androgyny a little bit more, but I think that is evolving and changing, and, stylistically, it’s your job as an artist to keep pushing yourself. It’s kind of how they say you’re always competing against your former self, and I had a girlfriend that was very involved in the fashion world and was very helpful with understanding the silhouette that I wanted to achieve with my personal style. Then, I had so many teachers as far as people I wrote with and wrote for – not in a formal way – I’m not a good formal student, but I’m a student, in general, in things I love, like music and fashion.
And you’ve written songs for other artists for a long time – were you uncertain to step out on your own as a musician? No, not really. It started with me. I found it almost easier to sing my own songs. Except, I didn’t find it easier to find a place for them to go. I felt like I was writing songs for myself as an artist, and then I’d get signed. Recently, I had a couple major label deals where I wrote like 130-140 songs for the three years that I was in these two different major label deals on Island Def Jam and Universal, and no record came out, and I was dropped. One of those songs was picked by Backstreet Boys, and that began my songwriting career. Songwriting was the most important thing. I was comfortable on either end of it – singing or writing for other people. Even when I wrote for other people, I would always be the person that sends a demo for the song when it was pitched. I have versions of a Rihanna song of me singing it.
How old were you when you started writing songs? Late teens or early twenties, but I didn’t really know what I was doing. I didn’t really know I was going to do anything at that point. It was a very muddy kind of thing, and I didn’t have any idea how to do it. It was more like you play a gig once or twice a month, out with a band or your friends, cross your fingers, and hope for the best, you know, shit like that. I didn’t know how to get there. I kept doing it because it was something that interested me, and that was better than everything else that didn’t really interest me.
How did your creativity come about? Are you from a very creative family? No. I mean, my mom sang opera and studied voice when she was young, and my father’s a lawyer. My family is very into academics and doing well in school. I couldn’t even entertain the idea of an entertainment career. It was a really outlandish, kind of wild notion. Funnily enough, I think that they both thought I’d be a lawyer, possibly, which I was like, “Really? You guys are fucking nuts.”
I’m sure you would be a good defense lawyer, though. You think so? I don’t have the fucking stomach to be a lawyer. It would just make me crazy.
You just seem like you’re being yourself in a really free way. It’s rare to do something for the first time, and I don’t know if you realized that you were going to offer something for the first time, but you are a novelty. That’s so dope. I think the thing is, with all of it, is they always say there’s nothing new under the sun. To me, there is new stuff under the sun, but it’s all in the combination that you bring to the table. I do think that I’m combining a few things that make it a little bit different, I hope, but that’s what you strive for.
I think it’s a really rare thing to do, and you do it so naturally and so flawlessly. That’s really attractive about your work and what you create. Does it take a lot of courage to do what you do? I think to not do it can ruin a person. I don’t know if it’s courage or necessity. I feel very lucky that I was able to find it and actually do it – that was quite a challenge, and I didn’t really know what would happen. I think the courage comes in where you don’t know because it’s a gamble. I’m not a gambler, in the least sense of the word. I can count on three fingers how many times I’ve put money down to gamble on the table, but I basically took my whole entire life and put it on the roulette wheel, like red 25. It’s kind of wild when I think about it because I wasn’t raised like that, especially raised to not take a huge chance with my entire life like that. I think my dad was always looking for that shortcut, and I think that really made a huge impression on me – trying to get to the shortcut and always fucking him up and making him lose and have to restart in all those things. I’ve always thought that was the worst way to do it. You take the longer route, the more scenic route, and learn a few fucking things, and try to get good at something. Not only that, [but] you become a human and evolve to become more empathetic, more compassionate, and understand and have a perspective. To me, as an artist, with what’s happened to me right now, I feel like my perspective is literally everything. I feel very grateful to know what I know, to have seen the careers I’ve seen, seen my own career – the rollercoaster that it has been. I get to come to this place and have this insane gratitude because I know how lucky I am in a way, whereas I think sometimes, when you’re trying to get the shortcut, you don’t appreciate it anyway.
I consider you as a sex symbol – how does it feel to be rewriting the code of what it is to be a sex symbol? I don’t know; no one really ever talks about that. I think you’re the only person who thinks so.
No, I don’t think so. I can read the comments of your fans, and it’s very interesting. If we imagine a girl as a sex symbol, we’ll imagine the blonde girl with perky boobs and a certain type, but you come the way you are, and you totally achieve being a sex symbol. How does it feel to rewrite those codes? I think sexiness has always been confidence in people. I think it’s changing all the time with women now. It’s always been with men – a man doesn’t have to be the hottest guy ever or even remotely good looking, for that matter. You see the most beautiful women with men that are physically not even close to being their equal, but they carry themselves with confidence, or they’ve got a brilliant mind, or they’re very good at what they do, whatever it is, and people are attracted to them. [When] you’re confident, and you do your thing, you know I’m attracted to people like that, too. Maybe it’s my overkill confidence.
That’s was my next question. Do you really have all that self-confidence, or is it something that you have worked on to get to that point? I think I worked on it. You go through periods where there are people in your life that make you not feel confident, and you get to sit on that for a while. When you have someone that makes you feel a certain way that’s not a confident feeling, you want to sit back, you put the pieces back together, then you come back stronger. I think that’s something that shapes you, and I know I’ve built my confidence, but I think always had the pristine of it in me, and I think everyone does. You have to cultivate it. It’s like that old tale, the Native American tale, about [how] you’re two wolves. I think you’re more than two wolves, but whatever wolf you see inside of you, you know like the confidence wolf, you see that one, and it builds. It’s kind of like competing against your former self. You’re always trying to beat your former self, and I rely on me… I try to make myself as strong as I can because it feels good. I think that anybody would agree [that] to be self-sufficient and autonomous, it’s your job to try to get there, and then when you’re there, to try and help other people get there.
You seem to have a vibe of sex, drugs, and rock and roll – would you agree with that? Yeah totally – a little too much sometimes. I don’t do anything when I’m on the road and working, but I do indulge in a lot of things when I’m off the road. I’ve been up and down with that in my life, and I’m lucky enough that I didn’t have a problem ever. When you’re a kid, that’s one of the things you’re attracted to, of going into music and all those things. Probably 75% of people that go for it are thinking about one of those things. There’s a romance to it, and I don’t want to kill all of the romance of that kind of thing for anybody. My answer to that is yes, I’m all about that shit, but I get my work done, and I do my thing, and I know when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em.
Your style is so great – you talked about a girlfriend who was involved in fashion, but what were your other influences? I think a lot comes from a lot of male artists that I love, from David Bowie, Jim Morrison, to Bob Dylan. I like to kind of go for that kind of stuff. You know, the Bob Dylan thing, I didn’t actually realize until I was doing it, that it was actually Bob Dylan influencing me. I dress how I dress for me because I feel it comes with the muse for me. I feel like that person. I pretty much dress how I go on stage. Yes, it’s an identity, but it makes me feel in my life, in this place, and it’s a big part of how I enjoy my life. I think that’s everybody’s strategy, and whether they know it or not, that’s why the clothing industry is such a huge deal. Your physical self is your home, your house, and I feel like you always want to feel as comfortable as you can, and clothes are a huge part of it. I’ve always been fascinated with what your personal style can do for you, with how you cut through the world; it’s such a huge statement. You don’t have to get lost in it like it’s the most important thing, by any means, but it is a thing, especially as an artist. It’s just something to be enjoyed. I’ve always enjoyed it, and I’ve always been redefining, making it my own, and fine-tuning my own brand, if you will.
When [listeners found] out what I looked like, that was a really big kind of like, “Oh shit, really?” I want to be that person because that’s the thing that hopefully opens people’s minds. You have no idea what that person’s going to be like.
Do you think that romantic breakups are great fuel for writing songs? Absolutely. I don’t think that that has to be absolutely necessary, but I think you can say having gone through it a couple of different ways and a couple of different times in life is very helpful because you can draw on those experiences. It’s like being an actor: some people don’t need that kind of experience, but it’s always, to me, good to have experiences that are human experiences and to have your own take on it. That’s your job basically as an artist: to take your experience, your specific experience, and kind of condense it, hopefully to present it in a universal way but with details of your own that speak to certain people directly where they’re like, “Holy shit, that’s almost exactly how I feel.” Then, you’re also telling them something about you; it’s like an exchange. You tap into something they’re feeling while revealing yourself to them, and it’s almost like it’s a relationship. That’s what bands and artists do. They’re relating, and it’s almost like you’d be friends with that person in a weird way because you’re relating to them in what they feel.
In your videos, you have all those sexy women around – how does it feel to present your sexuality so publicly? That’s my life. If you want to see a video of what I’m into or what’s going on in my fucking head, that’s what going on in my head – a bunch of hot women. I’m not going to sugar coat it for anybody, and if it’s too, you know, whatever it is, you can’t argue with a dream. That’s like the dream sometimes, and I think it’s been going on forever with men. I just try to tell the truth of what’s going on in my life.
What does femininity mean to you? It’s kind of gotten a raw deal for a long time, like femininity is being submissive and being gentle and weaker, but I find it to be a point of strength, a point of emotional intelligence, a vulnerability but without weakness. It’s so many things. I definitely think, physically, it conjures up dresses and high heels and stuff like that, but I think that it’s more involved with the countenance on someone’s face if they’re open to receiving a person or a thing or an idea. It’s a state of mind, and I think that men have it as well. I don’t chew on it too hard, to be honest. It’s not one of my daily words – I think because it had the wrong connotation for me for a long time, but I think I believe in it as a positive thing more and more.
If you had more free time what would you do with it? I’d probably go out drinking with my friends more. I’d like to say travel, but I travel so much right now. Probably just spend more time being with my friends and being with my mother. That’s something that takes the biggest hit, is my social life. It’s a very social job, but ultimately you become your job. Doing this for a living is the – quote, unquote – dream job for so many people, but if you move those quotations over, it’s a real job. I love it, but it’s definitely hard.