Laura Pergolizzi is not one to conform, and if you haven’t heard of her – that’s probably why. There’s an element of pushiness amongst many artists in the music industry today that just doesn’t seem to resonate with her, with many of her fans stumbling across her music as organically as she has produced it. And if you didn’t know she was a writer, the poetic tenor of her raspy American accent would give it away in a second.
So, what exactly (besides music itself, obviously) drives a singer-songwriter who not only has five albums behind her, but has written for a roster containing the likes of Cher, Rihanna and Christina Aguilera? Laura, better known by the stage name LP, answers the above with a sagacious “The human heart is my biggest inspiration. I read a lot of biographies and I’m fascinated by the arch of someone’s life – how they come into their art, the triumph and the tragedy.” This particular line seems to unequivocally articulate LP’s journey as a musician, having grown up as part of a largely academic family that was ‘blowing up’ around the time that she decided that music was the path she wanted to take.
The added strain of an alcoholic father and a tragically sick mother meant life for a young LP wasn’t exactly a walk in the park. “But I wasn’t being looked at too closely, so I did whatever the fuck I wanted,” and by this, she means music. “I think my extended family were like, ‘at least she’s not homeless’” she explains. “I just kept doing it, I never really ask permission from anybody to do anything, ever.”
This weekend sees LP play the BBC Sounds Stage at Latitude festival, and she professes that the UK is actually one of her favourite places in the world. “I could live in London; I feel very at home here. I love English people; I’ve dated English people… I’m a fan of how they are and [how they] think” (a flattering, if slightly hyperbolic credit to the brainpower of Her Majesty’s people). Playing festivals, LP tells us, requires a different level of energy than playing her own shows: “It’s nice to get introduced to people that might have never seen you, mixed with your old crowd. They get to see why [your fans] are into you, sometimes having never heard of you. [Her own shows] are more of a finesse game, festivals are wilder.” Incidentally, LP champions the ‘rock ‘n’ roll vibe’ of London, counting us brits as her favourite crowd to play for.
Having established that LP is very much her own person and that her art is, essentially, stimulated by other art, she tells me that Kahlo, Mozart and Hemingway are amongst the creators acting as inspiration for the work that she has and continues to create: “We’re all constantly busy, in the place of feeling like we’re going to make it/we’re not going to make it, we love everybody/we want to fucking kill ourselves. I’m constantly aware of myself, and that constant tornado of emotion that we all have.” She nods towards the idea of the illusion of appearances; how for many people, an internal struggle can be well-disguised by a strong exterior.
“I’m constantly aware of myself, and that constant tornado of emotion that we all have.”
One thing LP has mastered is the art of connecting with her loyal listeners through her music in a way that evokes buzzwords like ‘pure’, ‘sweet’ and ‘emotional’ (alongside an abundance of heart-eyed emojis) in her YouTube comments: ‘I love her soul’, ‘I wish I could listen to this song for the first time again’ and (a personal favourite) ‘she know how to hit the ear G-spot’. LP’s latest track, ‘Shaken’, which tells the story of seeing an ex-lover with somebody new, was released alongside a fan-made animation music video. “This woman [Maayan Priva] was making little cartoons of the band, in these scenarios that were really funny. She’s very astute, she picked up on certain peculiarities, things that I do. I thought she was really interesting… such an artist.” Team LP encouraged Maayan to draw up some more of the album, and with non-stop touring and no time to produce a music video herself; LP put the job in the hands of her trusted devotee.
LP believes that social media is “a really cool way to stay close [to fans], and for fans to be close to artists” but admits that this ease of contact is “kind of funny” to her, unable to imagine an exchange of DM’s with an idol of her own, Jeff Buckley. “I have fun with it [social media]. It’s fun to be privy to other artists as well, see what they’re up to and how they’re rocking it. It’s interesting to see how we’re affected by other artists and other people now; it continues to manifest in all these ways. We’ve just got to remain aware that everything can be manufactured at times.”
I’m curious as to what obstacles LP has faced as a queer woman in the music industry. Sadly, she opens with: “How much time do you have?” There’s something of a ‘token’ system when it comes to queer artists, particularly women, and LP is very much a casualty of this. Over the years, she’s had seven record deals in the States and the most common label-artist-breakup line has been “we just don’t know how to market this” – the musical equivalent of “it’s not you, it’s me” (in short, a cop-out). LP, along with the masses, longs for a time in which labels don’t have to think about how many queer artists they’re signing: “There’s always discrimination for women as far as being queer; there are quotas. I’ve seen that so many times, ‘we have one rock-pop lesbian artist, so we can’t have another one.’” Thankfully for LP, she’s not one to be too phased by the nature of a cruel industry, and despite being ‘hard to market’, she continues to be her absolute self. Style-wise, LP has what she calls her “own brand of androgyny”, compiled of “some rock ‘n’ roll stuff, some old, some new,” She compares her morning routine to that of a child: “they just put on whatever the fuck they want. I like to look and feel like that, just wearing whatever makes me happy on that day.”
“There’s always discrimination for women as far as being queer; there are quotas.”
She’s often asked what advice she’d give to young artists, and the answer is always “Keep writing songs.” For LP, there’s no stopping, and she’s all too familiar with writing in bulk because “when you have a hit, everybody wants another one,” she says. “You’re only a song away. When ‘Lost on You’ was out there, people were like ‘you must have known that was going to be a hit’, but I didn’t know shit.” In fact, when she first played ‘Lost on You’ to the label she was with, they dropped her. “Songs are currency,” she explains. “and it’s your job to keep cranking them out if that’s what you’re in to.” A final word of advice on existing within the music industry: “Trust no one.”
Artwork by Sasha Green