'For Now' and always: an interview with singer/songwriter LP
Thu. September 25, 2014 by Gregg Shapiro
People ask about old songs. I don't know that I'm that kind of person in life either. I don't go back that often. I move forward.
GS: (Gregg Shapiro) LP, what musicians, singers and songwriters have had the greatest influence on you?
LP: I would say Roy Orbison, Bono, Jeff Buckley, Joni Mitchell, Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan.
GS: That's quite a diverse assortment. Let's talk about ukuleles for a moment. When did you know the uke would be the instrument for you?
LP: To be honest, it was just when I was a songwriter. I didn't pick it up with the artist intention. It was a songwriting tool. I had always wanted one. It was an instrument that I could quietly bring into a session and have to fiddle around on or whatever. I write lyrics with it. Sometimes, when I would write for urban tracks or something like that, and you have the track booming all day, I like to write the lyrics quietly. As I got back to the artist thing, it came with.
GS: It's easily portable.
LP: Yes! I also love the sound. For enjoyment's sake, I couldn't put it down. It was something that spoke to me.
GS: Ten years have passed between your full-length albums, 2004's Suburban Sprawl & Alcohol and 2014's Forever For Now. In addition to releasing the live 2012 EP/DVD set Into The Wild, what were you doing during that time?
LP: [Laughs] A lot of drugs. Totally kidding! What happened was that I put out that indie record in 2004 and I was touring for that. In 2006, I got signed to Island/Def Jam and I embarked on this odyssey of songwriting. They were trying to find a direction for me (even though) I felt like I had one going in, but sometimes that happens. They felt like they wanted to explore some directions with me. For the next few years, I was in the major label system and just writing songs. They didn't yield any fruit. I didn't put a record out and at the end of three years, in 2009, I got dropped from that label and got picked up (by another) and that didn't work out and I got out of that deal. That was three years of just songwriting with no record. I didn't know what I was going to do. In the whole process I had lost my band. I hadn't toured in those three years. I had gone from touring 200 shows a year to nothing. I didn't have a band. I got a publishing deal as a writer. That was interesting to me – that you could be a songwriter. I enjoyed it after having been through the mill a bit as an artist. I buckled down and concentrated on my writing. That was another year and a half, bringing us to 2011. I had new management and people encouraging me to be an artist again. I got a deal with Warner Brothers and then I put out an EP in 2012 and a full-length in 2014. It seems like a very long time when you look at it from the outside [laughs], but I've just been working and songwriting the whole time and making a living as a songwriter. I agree with you! When I look at the time span between full-length albums, I'm like, "What the hell was I doing all that time?"
GS: You certainly weren't slacking off, which is admirable. You mentioned the five-song live EP Into The Wild. What was the thinking behind that project?
LP: I think what happened was the (Citibank) commercial (featuring the song "Into The Wild") came about. The EP also includes a live DVD. When we did all that, Rob Cavallo, who produced the record, wanted to record everything I had and see where I was at. He didn't have a handle on what my deal was at the time he signed me. He wanted to see the whole thing and get involved with the material. Some of those songs, when I did the live EP, I had never even sung them in front of an audience. It goes to show you when you are in this business, you have to watch yourself. You could be doing something random [laughs] and it becomes something that gets on YouTube. That's with everything now. We loved how it came out and we decided to put it out. Right around that time the commercial was in full effect. The festival season was starting and because of that story I was getting a lot of shows. That's what also pushed back the release of the full-length album. Had I not been touring so much with the EP, I would have buckled down and gotten the full-length out right away. I was kind of busy.
GS: I'm glad you mentioned the song "Into The Wild," which took on a life of its own when it was included in that national commercial. What did that experience, that kind of exposure mean to you?
LP: There are a lot of songs on commercials and they don't always get that treatment. I thought it was interesting that so many people sought out the song. I was impressed by that. Obviously it was very cool and good for me. It got my name and song out there.
GS: Forever For Now sounds like a fresh start, like a debut album. Do you also see it that way?
LP: I do! It's funny that you should say that. I was reading an article this morning in which they referred to it as a debut album. I was thinking, "Wow, that's interesting," having already done a bunch of stuff. But I do think of it as a debut album. When you go off and embark on a certain thing in your life – and again, I feel like a songwriter, first and foremost, I have dedicated my life to writing songs. I think that's the most important thing to; it's the crux of everything. I mean that whether I'm singing it or someone else is singing it. People ask if I get sad if there's a song that I want for myself. Not really. If someone does a great job with it, I'm stoked! But to answer your question, it does feel like a debut, like a fresh start, and happily. I'm into it. People ask about old songs. I don't know that I'm that kind of person in life either. I don't go back that often. I move forward.
GS: You sing about "heavenly light" in the song of the same name and you make reference to heaven in "Night Like This." What is heavenly to you?
LP: Heaven is a place where all your dead relatives get together and have a party [laughs].
GS: It's kind of like that Talking Heads song.
LP: It's a state of mind. Sometimes I think it's this little cloud in the sky. Other times it's just getting to have peace within yourself and being in a good place. I'm always searching for that. Like anybody, I'm searching for some relief from the anxiety and the craziness.
GS: "Your Town" sounds like an alternative country tune. What would it mean to you cross over into Nashville territory?
LP: I would love it. I was actually telling a writer friend the other day that I want to get down with some country stuff a little more. I love country music, especially like the really old kind. I like the new kind, too. I think it's amazing. I'm really into Miranda Lambert. That's some of the best pop writing I've heard in a while, it's a great record. I wouldn't be scared at all, Gregg.
GS: Finally, LP, how would you say that being a queer artist comes through in your work?
LP: I sometimes think it doesn't matter at all to me. Relationships are relationships with people. I'm more into the person thing. I identify very strongly as a gay person. I don't shy away from it, but it doesn't define me. I think I would be feeling these feelings, but I'd be wearing something different maybe [laughs], either way. To me, it's everything and nothing at the same time. I'm very happy to connect to that world and I'm very happy to let it be, and just connect with people in general.
Interviewed by Gregg Shapiro. Gregg Shapiro is both a literary figure and a music and literary critic. As an entertainment journalist, his work appears on ChicagoPride.com and is syndicated nationally.