In 2007, LP had already spent a year-and-a-half on L.A. Reid’s label, Island Def Jam Music Group, and she had no album to show for it. No one knew what to do with her. She dressed like Mick Jagger, belted melodies like Mariah and walked into every room like she owned the place (and might steal your girlfriend too).
“They put me off in like four different musical directions,” LP tells BandWagon. “I don’t think they could deal with what I looked like and what I sounded like.”
After the label executives took her off the road, LP spent months writing song after song spanning folk, hard rock, indie and pop. Finally, fed up with trying to find her sound, they told her she would have to perform in a perverse iteration of a battle of the bands to keep her spot with the company.
“Jay-Z was there and L.A. Reid and everybody. They made me perform three or four songs in completely disparate directions with these studio guys as my backing band,” she said. “Then they brought up all these Fall Out Boy type bands. I was one of the artists dropped at the end of the session.”
Fourteen years later, none of the Fall Out Boy sound-alikes are of note, but LP is at the height of her career as an international pop star. She has billions of streams to her name and devout fans from Italy to Poland, Mexico and all over the world.
“It went from ‘who do you think you are?’ to ‘who are you?’,” she said.
It almost seems like she’s gloating — her last two music videos have featured bacchanalian celebrations with posses of models in picturesque locations. After years of grinding, she has earned a good time and she’s here to party.
On August 28, LP will bring the party to Edge Fest 2021, a multimedia outdoor arts festival in the hip, burgeoning West Edge district of Cheyenne, WY. In its 6th year, Edgefest pledges to keep it “free to the beautiful people of the front range of Colorado and Wyoming,” with LP and Tai Verdes, plus local bands, art, food and beer to fuel the festival feel.
Attendees will get a live peek of LP’s forthcoming album Churches, due October 8. The record’s four already-released singles suggest a change towards an EDM-oriented sound, different from 2018’s Heart to Mouth, which presented eclectic rock stylings.
One thing, though, hasn’t changed at all. LP is an irreverent truth-teller who doesn’t hold back on putting her deepest-felt emotions into her lyrics and delivery. The androgynous songstress comes across both irreverent and vulnerable.
In her web bio, she writes, “my music errs on the histrionic side, but that’s how I feel, you know.”
Like many artists, LP found herself lost in reflection during the pandemic. A recent single, “One Last Time,” was inspired by a news story: relatives of severe COVID-19 victims were forced to say goodbye to their loved ones over video chat.
“It made me think back to all of the deaths that I’ve lived through,” she said. “Many years out, they’re still not there anymore, that’s it. Anyone who’s gone through it understands the enormity of that.”
Another single, “Goodbye,” explores a further kind of loss, wherein LP describes the catharsis of experiencing pain and letting it go over a euphoric, washed-out pop soundscape.
“We’re all dealing with our own level of trauma and bullshit. Sometimes, when I’m trying to figure things out, I write about it,” she said. If “Goodbye” feels like a breakup song, that’s because it is.
“Every other record cycle has a severe breakup on it,” LP said with a laugh. “I don’t know what that says about me, to which a choir of ex-girlfriends says, ‘I do!’”
LP has become adept at filtering her own dramatic inclinations through a pop-tinted filter. The result is music that toes the line between boldly unique and accessible. And, of course, it is all grounded by her incredible vocal range and rich vibrato.
But it wasn’t always so easy to find that one-of-a-kind voice. Back when she was grinding out songs under Island Def Jam’s management, LP felt directionless. After trying to fit into so many different genres, she lost sight of what she wanted to sound like.
“When you’re a younger artist, all you can think about is ‘get me on tour,’” she said, but ultimately, her ability to write prolifically is what sustained her career. After losing her first big label deal, she got a gig as a contracted songwriter. “I was just writing as many songs as I fucking could,” she said.
And she was good at it. After years of writing at a breakneck pace, she wrote “Love Will Keep You Up All Night” for the Backstreet Boys, “Beautiful People” for Christina Aguilera, “Cheers (Drink to That)” for Rihanna and “Change My Mind” for Celine Dion. It wasn’t what she had envisioned for herself, but LP was becoming a very successful musical ghostwriter.
“I went through almost two years with no hope of being an artist in my own right,” she said.
Of course, good things often come when you least expect it. While grinding out hits for other artists, LP was subconsciously honing her craft. Writing for others gave her the confidence and skill set to re-emerge as a frontwoman.
“It happened through, like, a long fucking haul, that’s impossible to duplicate,” she said. “I’m an eclectic artist — that’s why it was difficult for a record company to find me a place in the world. Ultimately I had to find it myself.”
When listening to LP’s music now, it’s hard to imagine a version of her that doesn’t know exactly who she is and how to convey it. But, as with any master artist, it takes years of work to build that kind of confidence.