Christina Perry Curated
American singer and songwriter.
CURATED BY :
How do you maintain that authenticity, going forward as a young artist, against other people’s wishes and expectations?
It’s really intense. I have to be completely sharp and I have to be right up on every decision that’s being made, because I am in major-label land and I am in VH-1 land, but I’m also kind of like an indie songwriter. And I’m kind of bridging the both of them, but the way I’m doing it is just [by] listening to my gut. It’s funny, because I have the leverage to do that, since I’ve been following my gut from day one, [to] do certain things like “Jar of Hearts” and the EP [which] just did really well. And that was all my gut instinct and my ideas. For me, it’s not missing one thing. I’m definitely counseled in the decision-making for everything. If I’m nauseous — literally that’s how loud my gut is — if something doesn’t feel right, I get totally nauseous and I can’t sleep. I’m like, “Oh, my God, that’s just the wrong move.” Fortunately I have this label that, as designed as they are to pump out hits and be a business, they’re emotionally connected with me. I get to be honest with them and say, “Listen, I really don’t feel that that’s the way we should go. I don’t feel that that T-shirt design is very cool.” That’s the kind of stuff we go back and forth on, and in the end I’m happy with all the results so far. And that’s how it should be. It’s not getting lost. It’s not letting other people make decisions for me, and just doing what I do.
Has your approach to songwriting changed at all since you signed with Atlantic?
A little bit, because prior to me getting signed I would sit in my pajamas in my bedroom and just kind of write songs whenever I wanted to, whenever I felt the urge to.... I’m not the only person with an opinion anymore. There’s a little more pressure, and definitely more listeners. So the process has changed a little bit, not completely because otherwise it wouldn’t be authentic to who I am.
How are you enjoying performing live?
I can’t believe I never did it before. I don’t know why I always had this kind of hang-up...mainly because I was a little frightened, but also I wasn’t sure where I was really headed. Now the fact that I’m playing shows, I feel like I’m supposed to do this forever. I just love it. I love performing. I love connecting with the audience. I love hanging out with people after the show, talking with them and hearing all their stories about how they connect to my music. It just feels so right; all of this feels perfectly timed and right.
Are you still learning about the way you write, discovering new things you’re able to do or new insights you’re able to create?
Constantly. That’s one of my favorite parts about this whole process. I’m a very open person anyway, so I love learning all different things. I also love trying different things. Everybody has their own ideas and opinions. I’m always up for trying new stuff. I don’t necessarily like everything, but I’ll definitely try it, as far as sounds go or whatnot. I’m also learning stuff about me. I’m playing electric guitar now on one of my songs and I’m so stoked. I’ve never played electric guitar live. So I’m really green when it comes to experiences and firsts. I’m having all of my firsts right now.
Where did your appreciation for songwriting come from? You've clearly got a good foundation and an ethic toward the craft.
I started writing songs when I was sixteen, but I think a lot of it has to do with what I was listening to growing up. My mom was very much into, like, Elton John and James Taylor, two amazing songwriters and performers. My dad was from Italy, and he would just listen to Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra. So I really had this cool foundation. Then I got insanely into the Beatles — I want to be a Beatles historian when I have gray hair; I’m a Beatles nerd — and to study them also as songwriters. So I definitely was off to a good start, I think, with my subconscious. When I started writing songs I emulated my favorites, so they were just simple little pop songs about love. From then it’s just grown. I haven’t stopped.
Christina Perri talks about people who are having mental illness or depression
It’s temporary. It’s always temporary. That feeling of free falling is always temporary… Something will happen that will change my perception. It’s the practice of saying, “This is awful, but you will make it through. That’s what saves peoples’ lives"
Artists helping artists is essential in today’s business. Recently, in response to a letter from Taylor Swift, Apple announced that it would be paying artists during the free 3-month trial period of the new Apple Music. You commented on this via Twitter. Why was this so important?
I responded to Taylor’s tweet without even thinking. I had no idea it was going to be a big thing. I knew what she did was powerful. It was my natural response as a songwriter and performer and musician. It’s horrific to think that people wouldn’t be paid for the work they do. Taylor was the only person that could have written that letter. She is the most powerful musician today. A lot of us are not in that position. She spoke for all of us, which is amazing. Who doesn’t love Taylor Swift? The letter was so well written, everyone could understand it. The way technology is evolving, it’s a learning curve, but to not get paid for three months…so many people go into making the music they listen to, and people don’t realize that anymore: producers, engineers, musicians. It’s fun, but it’s also a business.
The “Girls Night Out, Boys Can Come Too” Tour is your first co-headlining tour, with Colbie Caillat. Caillat is amazing—2 Grammys, sold over 6 million albums and 10 million singles worldwide. What can you learn from working with Caillat?
I really admire Colbie as an artist, but mostly I admire Colbie and Rachel Platten as people. I love them as girls. I love who they are. I love their messages in their music. Colbie is awesome to tour with. I imagine I’m going to study her as an artist. When I tour with people I ask them a jillion questions. I’m so inquisitive. It’s going to be a fun two months.
Over the years, you have collaborated with many distinguished performers, including Jason Mraz and Ed Sheeran. What is it like to work with other artists? Is there anyone you would like to work with that you haven’t yet?
I am a huge fan of a lot of people. I’m a fan first, because this career is still so new. Chris Martin and Ryan Tedder are two of my favorite songwriters in the world. Jason and Ed are two of my favorite artists, as well as close friends. So far I’m satisfied with all of the collaborations I’ve done. I can’t imagine what album three will bring. People always ask me about the future, but I can’t tell them because I didn’t even known this was going to happen.
“Jar of Hearts” is just one of many hit singles for you in the last five years. In addition to climbing the pop charts, you also have songs on film soundtracks, most notably “A Thousand Years” and “A Thousand Years, Pt. 2” on The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn—Part 1 and 2 soundtracks. How does the writing process differ when working on a song for a soundtrack compared to a song for an album?
That was my first time, with “A Thousand Years.” I got the phone call about writing that song, and I cried and fell on the floor because it was one of my favorite books. I’m so in love with the love story between Edward and Bella. I was so invested in the story that the writing felt really naturally. I originally wrote it for the wedding scene, which most people don’t know. The song plays during the credits. But people have played it at weddings, and it’s become one of the most popular wedding songs today. People intuitively knew that song was for the wedding scene. Every time I have success with a single it lets me continue doing what I’m doing. I’ve been to 5 of the 7 continents because of “A Thousand Years.”
How did Stacey Tookey come across your song, “Jar of Hearts,” which she used to choreograph a piece for So You Think You Can Dance in 2010?
That is my favorite story to tell. It sort of sounds like a Disney movie. I was working as a waitress, and my best friend of 15 years was helping to manage me. I was “discovered” on YouTube by a management company, even though I didn’t have any views. They put me in the studio and I started making a demo like the million-and-a-half people in LA. I emailed my friend the demo of “Jar of Hearts.” She actually grew up with Stacey Tookey in Canada—they were both dancers—and she emailed my song to her. It was seriously like Cinderella. What came next is just a dream. A magical dream…I always tell people that you have more of an opportunity if you don’t give up. Do what scares you.
Talk a little but about your growing up in Bucks County. What do you remember from that? How does that influence your life?
“Sure, so I remember everything. I had such a really wonderful childhood. My mom and dad are both hairdressers – my dad’s a barber -- so they always had a salon together. I grew up playing outside – you know, I’m 28, so I had a lot of fun rolling around Bensalem with all my friends and walking everywhere. We’d go to the Neshaminy Mall. I did the all the summer program at Bensalem High School – I did the Rec, all the plays, every year. “And I just had a lot of fun. My family’s huge, we’re very Italian. So I think my foundation really comes from the way that I grew up – always having dinners and food –so much food and so much family and always doing things together. “And when I go home I still visit everybody that I know and love. I always go down to the Jersey Shore, we went down to Ocean City growing up my whole life. Steve’s is my favorite cheese steak. “What else? I don’t know – I love it. It’s still my home. I visit so often – every chance I can, and I’m really glad that’s where I grew up.”
Just briefly talk about “A Thousand Years,” and about how that came out and how it ended up in the movie. What’s that story? Did they come to you and ask you to write it, or come to you and ask you if you had a song?
Yeah, so that was really cool because – well, I’m not very cool, and I like ‘Twilight’ and books and I’m very nerdy and into that stuff. And so when they were doing that fourth movie, they came to my record label and said ‘We’d love … they knew I was a huge fan, and they said, we’d love for Christina to come see the movie and write something for the wedding scene of the movie. And so I, like, passed out, I was so excited.And so I went and I went straight home after – I took my friend David Hodges, who I love writing songs with – and he and I saw the movie, we went right back to his house and we wrote ‘A Thousand Years,’ and then I sent it in. But at the time I’d never done that before, I’d never written a song that wasn’t about me. I’d never been a part of anything like this. So I thought millions of people were writing songs for ‘Twilight.’ I felt like … I didn’t know how the process worked.And so I really, truly didn’t know I was going to get chosen, but what happened was they picked ‘A Thousand Years’ but they didn’t put it in the wedding scene – and this is my favorite part of the story, because I was a little bit disappointed, ‘cause I’d written, like, a wedding waltz. And I was like, ‘That’s OK, they put it in the credits.’ And I was like, look, I’m just excited to be a part of it. I don’t care where it is.And what happened is next, the fans freaked out so hard about this song that because of them they came back for the fifth and final movie and put a six-minute version – asked me to re-cut the song with an orchestra and make it longer – and they used it for the last six minutes of the whole film saga. And it became the swan song of this whole series.But then was the coolest part – that millions of people have since gotten married to this song. And that was my intention. You know, this song I wrote for a wedding. And it’s so interesting that everybody didn’t know that and they got married to it anyway. So it continued to be played in all these weddings, and I feel really grateful for that – to be included in everyone’s most romantic, special day ever.But I just love that that really just took off all on its own.