Singer-songwriter LP tries to be both indie and catchy
LP might not be a household name yet, but you’ve probably had at least one of her songs stuck in your head.
The singer-songwriter (full name: Laura Pergolizzi) is on the road with Bryan Ferry supporting her new “Death Valley” E.P. Last September the record’s bewitching gospel ballad “Muddy Waters” was featured prominently in the season four finale of Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black,” gaining the 38-year-old a whole new following. It’s her first bonafide hit, though LP has written more than a dozen hits for other artists, including Rihanna (“Cheers (Drink to That)”), Christina Aguilera (“Beautiful People”) and The Veronicas (“Lolita”).
LP says writing songs for hire helped her hone her own voice.
“I think I learned to be less obtuse,” she says on the phone, crossing the border into the United States after her first tour stop in Toronto. “I think I’m a little more universal when I write for other people, but I try to get at things that are unique to my experience if I can.”
Still, LP has struggled to fully express her identity in her music. Her last flirtation with a major label, her 2014 Warner Bros. Records full-length “Forever for Now,” left a sour taste in her mouth. LP says there were too many cooks in the kitchen during the recording process. Some of her favorite songs were left off the record, and others were altered without her approval.
“The record got a bit shanghaied at the end,” she says. “It was going the wrong direction. I think a bunch of songs were re-recorded for no reason at all. They were fine, but then the edges were taken off. The A&R part of it started to get away from me. I felt that there were certain songs that were not hits that I wanted on the record.”
The record was a moderate success, and it was hailed by critics for its stylish production and LP’s powerful vocals. Nevertheless, by the time the record was released, LP felt totally removed from the songs.
“It wasn’t really what I wanted, but I felt like now I had this opportunity,” she says. “It was kind of like, when you’re drowning or something like that, you just give into it and go, ‘You know what, OK.’ I felt like the best thing for me to do was write a bunch of new, great songs that no one could argue with, because what can you say?”
On “Death Valley,” LP reclaimed her name. She recorded the album for Vagrant Records and was given carte blanche with the recording process. She cites Paul Simon’s 1975 post-divorce album “Still Crazy After All These Years” as a key influence, and she wears her private and professional struggles on her sleeve in songs like “Lost on You” and “Other People,” and the title track.
LP’s pop sensibilities are in full force on the E.P. too. Like her tourmate Ferry, she feels at home in the intersection between the mainstream and the left-of-center. As LP says, “Catchy is not a dirty word,” so long as the hooks are propelled by real emotions.
“I like to call it ‘big indie,’ ” she says.
Steven Sonoras is an Ypsilanti-based freelance writer.
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