Legendary hit-maker Linda Perry: ‘Singers have to earn my songs. I just don’t give it to them. music

‘I There are over 100 hats,” says Linda Perry, who is today wearing a flashy Western number in the style of Captain Jack Sparrow with her cheek tattoo closed. “I really don’t like hair. I’ve had a long dread, then a mohawk. Now I’m like, ‘Fuck it. I won’t even try to do the hairstyle. This It’s my hair.'”

But his headbands aren’t the only hats Perry wears. As well as being the author and producer of some of the most definitive pop songs of the 2000s – tracks written for choice Christina Aguilera, Pink, Gwen Stefani, Courtney Love, Alicia Keys and Adele – she’s also an artist manager, label head, film soundtrack, and queer icon. For a time during the new millennium, it was Perry when singers sought an edgy musical variation. Many of her early forays into hit-making leaned into rebellious riots, with rising stars grooving puny lines like “kiss my ass” and “be stupid”. Most memorable were Pink’s Get the Party Started, Stephanie’s solo comeback What You Waiting For? And Love’s Mono.

Musical makeover... Pink, Courtney Love and Solange Knowles.
Spiky musical makeover… Pink, Courtney Love and Solange Knowles. Composite: Reuters/Getty Images/Rex

Perhaps they gravitated not only to Perry’s hooks but to his sense of freedom amongst a rigid label machine that was creating other artists. By the new millennium, she was already one of the 4 non-white guys, the all-out gay US rock band for which she wrote the 1993 megahit Whats up, Despite their success, they were vehemently anti-commercial and seemed ahead of their time, but Perry now rejects any such notion. “I don’t think there’s anything radical or progressive about my band,” she says. “We sold 7m records.”

Still—during the AIDS crisis and the widespread homophobia that came with it, as well as rising tensions over abortion rights in the wake of the conservative Reagan era—Perry played a guitar on which she tapped words. “Dyke” and “Like”, she says The producers of David Letterman’s chat show were once asked to remove him them. “I knew it would make people feel uncomfortable,” she says. “I believe in being gay and I believe we have options because at the time – for the second time, in the 90s – we were fighting for abortion rights. So that was my statement: Dam and the like.” Plus, she says later, “I don’t give a fuck what people think.”

Perry, 57, is on a video call from her studio in Sherman Oaks, Los Angeles. It’s especially light-filled, which helps her keep regular hours so she can spend time with Rhodes, ex-wife, and her son with actor Sarah Gilbert. Endlessly gleaming guitars surround a recording booth above which hang giant horns. Black and white photographs of musical legends are on the walls, not discs of gold in sight. It’s here, in this rock’n’roll oasis, that Dolly Parton set a record for a day. Perry was producing the soundtrack for the Netflix film Dumplin’ and ambitiously rearranged some of Parton’s classic songs, along with original writing alongside the country legend—work that earned Perry her fifth Grammy nomination.

“He called me a weird girl,” Perry says affectionately. “And then he said he’s attracted to weird people. I took that as a huge compliment.” Parton had “never worked with a woman, writer or producer before” and became a “creative soul mate” who shared the ethic of hard work. “She sang seven songs in a day and appreciated them very much.”

Creative soulmate with Dolly Parton...
‘She Sang Seven Songs in One Day’ with Dolly Parton Photo: Amy Sussman/FilmMagic

Perry says she wants to work with her favorite actors. She has in the past criticized singers such as Katy Perry, about whose music she said: “She’s not reinventing the wheel, she’s not giving substance.” to this manufacturer, Matter is of paramount importance. There was another time “with a lead artist,” she says, “and I didn’t like her at all. All that came out of her mouth was… she was stealing some songs, you know, Even mine has one and I’m like, ‘If you want to rip people off, you’ve come to the wrong person.’ So I pardoned him from the studio.”

Perry will receive an Inspiration Award from the Music Producers Guild this week. back in 2017, an estimated 6% of the membership of the UK organization, and the two award nominees were women. Now that percentage has more than doubled, and enrollment has reached 13, but the number is still clearly disproportionate. Who is Perry part of in America? equalize, an initiative to address gender inequality in the American music industry, has equally grim statistics. “What I do, a lot of women don’t do,” Perry says. In America, she adds, “2% of producers are women”.

He struggled to get behind the mixing desk. The one and only album by 4 non-white people, 1992’s Bigger, Better, Faster, More! During production, she disagreed with producer David Tickle’s excessive directing. So he started taking recording tips from the in-house engineer hours later. In the end, her version of What’s Up made the final cut—but she wasn’t allowed production credits. When Perry left 4 non-white people to go it alone, she starred in her 1996 film In Flight, opposite Bill Bottrell. He shared more studio secrets. but while his label Eager to shape her into another Sheryl Crow, Perry wanted to write her own answer to the Dark Side of the Moon. Without the endorsement of the label, it sank.

She spent a few more years in San Francisco, where 4 non-white people met, and she moved to Massachusetts at the age of 21. Recording local bands for free helped him improve his technique. Then she relocated to L.A. and, for the hell of it, stocked up on digital equipment to be the kind of pop she’s listening to on the radio. She began accumulating lyrical clichés and soon did a demo for Get the Party Started. Madonna turned it down. But a week later, Perry got a call from a young singer named pinkAn Aerosmith loyalist whose team was trying to groom him for R&B.

Megahit ... Perry and his son Rhodes perform What?  Up during Rock 'n' Relief in Los Angeles in March 2021.
Megahit … Perry and his son Rhodes perform What? Up during Rock ‘n’ Relief in Los Angeles in March 2021. Photograph: Richard Shotwell/InVision/AP

Perry thought about resuming her solo career. But when she met Pink, she knew she had to stop it. He said to the manager in anger: “Listen, I feel it.” And it paid off. Pink took Get the Party Started to number 4 in the US, while Perry co-wrote a large portion of Pink’s second album, Missundaztood. Then she gave Christina Aguilera a comeback song she wanted and showed a different, darker side. Aguilera was known to protest against the ad-lib Olympics, Perry wondered: “What does that sound like when it’s coming from pure emotion?”

Beautiful was Aguilera’s 2002 single, Answer, striking in its simplicity and poignancy of its message, with a vulnerability that Perry felt was unique to the era. “It stood out because it was a time when pop was ridiculously over-produced,” Perry says. Wasn’t Pink angry that she gave it to Aguilera? “It wasn’t for him,” she shoots back. “I just don’t let people sing. They have to earn them. ,

During this period, Perry was prolific, working with Kelly Osbourne, Lisa Marie Presley, Ashley Simpson, Alicia Keys and – on her debut album – Solange Knowles. Perry had a unique bird’s eye view of the music industry: a rare woman in the studio at a time when countless artists, from Britney Spears to Kesha, were ruthlessly screened or taken advantage of. Perry has said that she never experienced sexual assault herself, but did hear stories from other women. Did he feel a duty of care?

“All I can do is be powerful and strong,” she says. “I try to educate people. Christina, Gwen — I tell them what microphone they’re singing in. I give them the settings. I just try to make sure everyone feels empowered, And I’m a responsible producer by making people feel safe when they come to my studio. During that time I worked with a lot of women who had never worked with a woman before. It made them feel at ease, this Knowing I’m not going to hit them.”

She adds: “In the past, women have taken the bait to get where they want to go, because that’s the situation in which they were brought up – ‘If you want to be famous, darling, you have to suck some penis.’ In 2002, if they had 10 Lindas, we would be talking a different story.”

More recently, Perry has moved on to film and TV – writing the theme music for Sean Penn’s documentary Citizen Penn with Bono. And she wrote and performed her first solo track in years for 2021’s Gen-X Doc Kid 90. “In scoring,” she says, “you don’t have to hit the radio and you don’t have to follow the rules.” He is disappointed with the way pop songs are produced these days. “A lot of music is just put together. They have their protools, the one who does the beats, the topline writer, the friend who comes over to help with the melody. There’s a circus of people who write songs.”

She says that anyone, whatever their contribution, can be credited as a lyricist. “Even if your mind was stoned, had nothing to do with the track but came out of your high, ‘Maybe you should say, uh,’ it feels great to be here now And then they write that – that guy is a songwriter now.” She moves to her piano and glides on the keys. “There’s hardly anyone sitting here going, ‘I’m going to write a song today.’ There’s no quality. No, scratch it. There’s a lot of quality, but it’s hard to recognize.”

Occasionally, however, Perry would still be struck by a voice and would stop at nothing to record it, like he once detected in the background of a video call. “I heard Kate Hudson singing and I was like, ‘Holy crap!’ I took his number and called him and I was like, ‘I have a song for you.'” Perry convinced the actor to sing it and then began to “tease him” to make an album. “When she was ready, we wrote 25 songs. It’s a great old school record you’d expect from a girl from Almost Famous.”

It’s something like how Perry felt about Pink: determination ignited. “I am someone who goes with my gut on all matters,” she says. “And I never look at anything as a failure. Everything is an experience, everything is a risk. When you want things, you will do whatever you can to get there. You have to. Will find a way.”

Well, salute to this.

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