There's a long tradition in music of songwriters stepping out from behind the scenes and into the spotlight, from Leiber & Stoller becoming a renowned institution to Carole King transitioning from a songwriting role into making her mark as a performer. LP has penned songs for Rihanna, Cher, Christina Aguilera, the Backstreet Boys and more, isn't new to putting out her own music, but her Warner Bros. debut, Forever for Now, her first in 10 years, feels like her flag-planting moment. It's a diverse album; the songs are sometimes acoustic guitar-driven, while others feature her ukulele prowess, propensity for whistling, or sometimes layers of strings add a soaring sweetness.
Forever for Now isn't out until June 3, but we have a pair of songs from the album to debut (these songs will are also be available on May 19 to anyone who pre-orders the album). We also spoke with LP about snatching one of her songs back from a superstar, the insane greatness of "Bohemian Rhapsody," and the inspiration she still gets from Jeff Buckley. She also tries to teach us how to whistle.
AllMusic: What makes you decide that a song is one you're going to keep for yourself as opposed to one you'll give to another performer?
LP: It’s something I can’t really explain, it’s like trying to translate languages. So many songs for this album, when I first wrote them, I just knew that I didn't want to give them to somebody else. I hadn't felt like that in a long time, because I'd been writing songs for other people for a while, so I didn't consider being an artist, I was just ready to use them up. But I noticed when I started writing a few songs for myself, I wasn't keeping any restraints on my voice, I just went full-on with all of the vocal arrangements for these songs.
AllMusic: So when you'd write for someone else, you would intentionally keep vocals within a range to suit them.
LP: I have a certain range that I like to do that I found is kind of exclusive to me. That was an interesting experience, I didn't really know that was going to happen. Now that I’m considering writing another record and I’m still writing for other people, I’m going there again, where I’m kind of putting the wall up between what’s for me and what’s for them. Sometimes things that I write, like “Night Like This,” my first single, I had that in a group of songs I’d written for me, but it wasn't finished, and it hadn't been played for anybody. Somebody in my management camp thought that I didn't really want it or didn't like it, and I was like, “I think it just needs a little more,” so during that time they pitched it to Shakira. Her people loved it and they wanted to buy this song and put it on her record, so we said "yes." Then another person said, “Why don’t you play that song for [producer and Warner Bros. chairman] Rob Cavallo,” and I said, “OK,” and he was like, “You have to put this on your record, you can’t give this to someone else."
There’s very few songs that I get protective over, where I’m like, “No, I’m doing this song.” But "Tokyo Sunrise,” I wouldn't have given that to anybody. I just feel very close to that song, and I can’t really picture someone else singing it.
AllMusic: Is there a song that you think is completely perfect?
LP: I think one of the most perfect songs is “Bohemian Rhapsody." It’s so over the top, and he goes for it so insanely that it just works on every level. I've read stories about that song that when it came out, no one thought that a seven-minute, operatic, crazy song like that would work, yet it was a smash. That’s really fascinating to me, songs like that.
AllMusic: And there are so many ways that it could have gone wrong.
LP: Oh my god, right, exactly, there’s so many ways that could have gone wrong. It’s the work of a madman, someone who’s clearly insane, in the best way. He was the perfect musician, the perfect frontman. It doesn't get much better than that. I have lots of favorites, but he’s beautiful.
AllMusic: Is there an album you think you've heard the most?
LP: I've heard Grace so many times, I think that’s the one that I’d have to say that I have heard the most. The power, the passion of his vocal, and for a first album, it’s such an opus. I feel like I can really discover things about it all the time. It’s hard for me, because I can’t deal with the fact that there’s no more of those songs coming. I’m sad that there’s no more. When I got Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk, the album that got put together by his mom and some people, I kind of got this bad feeling, I was like, “Ugh…” I knew he wouldn't want it out like that, because he was such a picky bastard. I could tell by Grace that he was such a perfectionist and had such a vision, and it didn't seem like it was what he wanted. "The Sky is a Landfill," that’s crazy. I feel like if he’d kept going, he would have done that kind of shit.
AllMusic: You do some whistling in your music. I cannot whistle. Please help.
LP: My advice would be to have your friends dig a 10-foot hole and throw you in it and leave, and after you’re done screaming, you’ll have to learn how to whistle. I can’t imagine that people can’t whistle. What I’d say is that it doesn't take as much breath as you think, try to keep your tongue against the back of your front teeth. Drink a lot of water; if your mouth is dry, you’re screwed. Sometimes I've gone onstage and I haven’t whistled that day, and I’m like, "Oh shit." It’s like your voice, and the way I whistle, it has to be really precise. Sometimes I’m just not ready, and so I think you should warm up and do some mouth exercises. I love when people come up to me after a show and don’t say anything about my voice, they just talk about the whistling. I think it’s funny.
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