April 18, 2013 5:00pm PT by Shirley Halperin
Katy Perry on Her 'Schizophrenic' New Album, Humble Start: 'It Was Stripping or The Matrix'
Katy Perry found herself back in the spotlight on Thursday, as the featured keynote interview at the ASCAP "I Create Music" Expo held at Hollywood's Loews Hotel.
The industry confab aimed at helping songwriters, producers and other assorted music makers launch a career in the music business kept the focus on Perry’s meager beginnings, first as a Christian artist whose Nashville label went belly up, then as a record company dropout, dismissed from contracts at Island Def Jam and Columbia before finally landing at Capitol, where she’s sold many millions of albums.
One would think that big rooms wouldn’t intimidate a star of Perry’s stature, but acknowledging that she expected “a conference table” rather than the standing room only ballroom fit for a thousand, she confessed early on, “I’m nervous … I haven’t done anything publicly for a long time.”
Indeed, since wrapping her Teenage Dream tour last year, the hitmaker has been busy writing her third album, which will no doubt feature future radio staples. Perry provided some clues as to the process so far, along with a few more laugh-out-loud revelations.
See a selection of her incredibly quotable highlights below:
“I’ll see you in hell -- me and Tina Fey.” So cracked Perry when asked about her Christian upbringing as the daughter of born again pastors. The “secular” song that changed her life: Queen’s “Killer Queen,” which opened her eyes to conveying genuine emotional sentiments through song.
“I'm a student of life.” Perry describes her song gathering process in simple terms. “Words are like little treasures,” she said, explaining that she often records thoughts into her iPhone. “I put all of my ideas in a folder, whether I read them in newspaper or through a conversation with friends. I've got years of titles and things I want to write about.”
“I don't feel like I have to f---ing prove anything to anyone anymore!” Her declaration came after discussing the compromised state she found herself in when she hooked up with production team The Matrix for an album as a band. What they wanted: “Complicated, the sequel,” she said. “And Since U Been Gone, the sequel.” But despite her label’s best attempts to pigeonhole, Perry added, “I still saw a spot left for me and my perception of what I want to say -- I fought against it.” The situation was tense, to say the least. “There were a lot more politics than I had ever known,” she said. “I was so desperate, it was either stripping or the Matrix.”
“It's an emotional abuse session.” Although Perry has written hits for other artists, like Kelly Clarkson’s “I do not hook-up,” she still relies on a core team of writers and producers that include Bonnie McKee, Dr. Luke, Max Martin and Greg Kurstin, among others. Perry described their individual attributes as such: “Max is about melody, Luke and Cirkut are production, I'm top line and melody and Bonnie is top line … It’s like the dream team. They push me the most, and also argue the most. It’s an emotional abuse session.”
“It’s a very tiny elephant. … It's like a little Tchotchke now.” That would be the elephant in the room: her divorce from Russell Brand. “The Big D -- you can say it,” Perry downplayed when asked about the additions to the deluxe edition of Teenage Dream, “Wide Awake” and “Part of Me.” Clearly, she’s over it.
“What a schizophrenic record this next record's gonna be…” Among the songwriters that Perry has been working with “a lot” is Sia. “She makes me laugh more than any human,” said Perry. “I can't do vocals because I fry my voice from laughing.” Perry revealed that one such song is called “Double Rainbow.” When the title elicited laughs from the audience, Perry cracked: “Sounds insincere, but wait for it, OK?”
“It's nice to have a head in there who knows what the f---k they’re doing.” Those complimentary words were aimed at newly installed Capitol Music Group chairman Steve Barnett, whose first meeting after taking over EMI’s recorded unit, now owned by Universal, was meeting with Perry. “He’s an incredible boss,” she said, giving him credit for resurrecting the Capitol Records tower – “an iconic rock ‘n’ roll staple in Hollywood.” But the label’s biggest pop presence is keeping one thing secret from the higher-ups: the proposed release date for her third album, which she says is halfway finished.