Interview: Katy Perry – Singer, Songwriter and Producer

Posted: July 18, 2008 in interview, music
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Katy Perry

Date of Interview: 07/18/2008

© 2008 Clayton Perry

Every summer, artists of all stripes engage in an intense battle for radio domination.  The summer of 2008 was no different, but it was decisively ruled by Katy Perry.

On June 26, 2008, “I Kissed a Girl” became the 1,000th chart-topper of the rock era, after only six weeks on Billboard’s Hot 100.  The rapid ascent of “I Kissed a Girl”—from the 76th rung—was fueled largely by digital sales, but its stay in the top spot was the product of online buzz and extensive promotion.  Interestingly enough, “I Kissed a Girl” climbed to the number-one spot just as she was embarking on her first major tour.  As a performer on the Warped Tour, Katy Perry traveled to 46 cities during the months of June, July and August 2008.

Although such success is often hard to replicate, Katy Perry’s debut album, One of the Boys, is jam-packed with potential hits.  A decade removed from Jagged Little Pill, female angst has rarely tasted (or looked) so good.

Upon review of One of the Boys, Katy Perry managed to squeeze some time out of her busy schedule and settle down for an interview with Clayton Perry — reflecting on life, Lolita and the long road to success.

Clayton Perry: “I Kissed a Girl” has definitely taken on a life of its own—completely dominating the Billboard Hot 100.  Where were you when you first found out it was number one?

Katy Perry: I was on tour. I don’t remember the specific city, but I knew we had a day off in Las Vegas – which was exciting because that is the best place to celebrate anything, right? My producer sent me a bottle of Dom Perignon and it showed up at the hotel.  We took it and sat by the pool. We just raised our glasses and said, “How the hell did we do this?” It was pretty awesome.

Clayton Perry: Recently, you have gone on record to state that you have never really kissed a girl. But if you could kiss a girl, who would you put your cherry ChapStick on for?

Katy Perry: Scarlett Johansson. She’s beautiful. She’s such a lady, too. She reminds me of a pin-up girl. It’s really beautiful to watch a woman have a presence about herself.

Clayton Perry: After spending several weeks on the road with the Warped Tour, do you find yourself liking the large stage productions, or do you prefer low key acoustic performances?

Katy Perry: I like both. In the future, I want to do big production value shows, where there are props and all kinds of fun things to watch. But I think it’s really important for me to do some stuff in my home town – or elsewhere – that’s acoustic, with me and a guitar or two on stage. I love doing that. I miss doing that. I just got a brand new Taylor sent to me – they are my favorite brand of acoustic guitar. It sounds amazing, so it definitely inspires me to play more.

Clayton Perry: A lot of the material from One of the Boys was being introduced to concertgoers for the very first time, since the album’s release coincided with the tour’s opening week.  Has there been a particular song that you have found that the crowd really connects with?

Katy Perry: Well, people jump and go crazy for “I Kissed a Girl.” Definitely. When they hear the first beat, they freak out, especially the girls. It’s insane to see. “Hot ‘n’ Cold” too. The audience is always singing along and the girls are shouting the first verse.  So that’s a very exciting thing.  I believe that is going to be our next single.

Clayton Perry: As fame comes, so does the paparazzi. On your blog, you mentioned that you finally understand Posh Beckham, after you woke up in LAX one day with the paparazzi in your face. What is your most interesting or scary paparazzi moment?

Katy Perry: That one, thus far. Showing up at the airport after deciding I wasn’t going to shower that morning until I got to my destination was a big mistake!  [laughing]

Clayton Perry: Welcome to the pop life, I guess.

Katy Perry: I guess so. I got to be on point at every corner and step I take – which I’m okay with because I’ve always prided myself on having a look and a unique, certain style. So, I think it’s cool that people want to take my picture for that.

Clayton Perry: You definitely have a unique style. I was intrigued by your cover shot for your album, where you draw some references from Stanley Kubrick’s Lolita. In the title track, “One of the Boys,” you mention that you studied Lolita religiously. What fascinates you about the Lolita concept?

Katy Perry: Well, it’s just weird. I mean, I’m obsessed with it – not the black and white movie, but the color movie with Dominique Swain and Jeremy Irons. I’m obsessed with how she can straddle the line of being innocent and sexy all in one. She’s a beautiful creature, very girlie, sweet, and innocent, but she knows exactly what’s she’s doing, you know? To me, I see a lot of myself like that. I am still sweet and a girl-next-door, and I’m a good girlfriend. I think that I straddle the line a little bit because I know that I also am a bit of a tiger.

Clayton Perry: In the liner notes of One of the Boys, you send a very special thank you to Glen Ballard, who challenged you to write a song a day. Do you still take on that challenge?

Katy Perry: Yes. He brought me to Los Angeles from Santa Barbara when I was 17. He took me under his wing and showed me the ropes, as you would say. For three years I was at the studio all the time, recording and polishing my skill, learning how to play guitar, and all kinds of things. He’s always been the chief leader of my career, so I wanted to pay respect to him.

Clayton Perry: One of my favorite songs off the album is “Mannequin.”  What life events inspired the lyrics?

Katy Perry: “Mannequin” is one of my favorite songs to play, as well. The lyrics were inspired just because I was in a relationship – I don’t know if you could actually call it a relationship – where the other person was nonexistent. They were totally having mannequin characteristics, like all I wanted to do was love and be loved in return. It just wasn’t happening. I think that it was just because of personal problems, things that they were going through. I could not get through to them for some reason. And I tried everything.

Clayton Perry: Did you find it challenging to come into your own as a singer and a songwriter?

Katy Perry: It took five years. It wasn’t overnight. It was five years of major labels being signed and dropped, signed and dropped. You know, I think the advantage of that was that I really got to grow. Also, I got to work with so many different people and take my time and really kind of carve out and figure out who I was and what I wanted to say, ultimately, as an artist. You know, there was pressure from other people when I was on other labels: “Make certain things sound like this person,” and “Make songs like this,” and blah, blah, blah. But I never gave in.  I never wanted to do that, ever. But what is out there now is really neat. It took a minute to get there, but it’s here now.

Clayton Perry: Is there a particular song that you wrote in the midst of your label shuffling that you are really proud of?

Katy Perry: Probably “Thinking of You,” because that was a song that I wrote in my apartment by myself and thought nothing of it. It’s not only my most personal song on the record for me, but I really enjoy playing it. And when I play it people are really moved by it. Night after night, it never gets old. I don’t get to play it on this tour, but I think it’s cool that it’s a big ballad on the record.

Clayton Perry: In 2007, you distributed an EP that featured a cover of “Use Your Love.” The song is absent for your debut, however.  Is there a particular reason for its absence?

Katy Perry: The EP had a couple of songs that were just for the EP.  I wanted all original material on my debut record, so the EP kind of gave everybody a little taste of what we wanted to do—and kind of forewarned them a little bit.

Clayton Perry: As the middle child of two pastors, did your parents find it hard to embrace your secular turn?

Katy Perry: They’re very cool. And they have been with me for a couple of days on the road. I’m their daughter!  They love me, so we all get along and have a great family life. I think that they may not be signing along to a song like “I Kissed a Girl,” in particular, but they’re signing along to every other song. They’re very supportive and happy, and they’re glad that I’m not strung out on drugs somewhere and not doing centerfolds. I’m thinking about a couple of cheeky things, but I know what I’m doing. I’m very focused, trying to keep a good head upon my shoulders.

For more information on Katy Perry, visit her official website: http://www.katyperry.com/


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