Christina Perri interview: Beatweek 2011 Rising Star talks Lovestrong
May 10, 2011 by Bill Palmer
by Bill Palmer
“I’ve tried so hard to be more closed or more private or more discrete,” says Christina Perri, “and I just can’t be that way.” That explains why her debut album Lovestrong, which includes Jar of Hearts and eleven other songs about the ups and downs of love, is drawn directly from her own personal experiences with little to hide. Nine months after scoring her first radio hit while working in a coffee shop at the time, her full album finally sees release today. The album represents a journey which has seen her sign a major label deal, craft new songs, and polish up existing favorites.
“It’s what I aspire to be and what I aspire the listeners to be,” she says of the term Lovestrong, a title which offers a hopeful take on love despite her songs spanning the spectrum from the hopeful to the cheerfully in love to the lonely. The album in fact connects the dots of her love life. “I feel like you definitely can map out my entire adolescence up until today, because that’s definitely the wide range that I’ve chosen from. They’re not all about one person, they’re not all about one thing. The Lonely is about loneliness personified. It’s really about my relationship with no one. So yeah, there’s a very clear timeline if you totally look into it. For people who know me, I think they giggle at pointing out which song for which era. But I want to be that way.”
Those expecting the defiant pain of Jar of Hearts to permeate the entire album are in for a surprise when they get to songs like the soaring Arms, which sees her clearly in love (“You put your arms around me and I’m home”) and the wistful Miles (“Don’t count the miles, count the I love yous”). Catch phrases like that have become Christina’s signature, and she admits that there are times when she knows she’s got one. “There are moments where I’ve written a line like that,” she says, “and just been like oh shit, I feel goosebumps. I know that I’ve nailed it or something, and then I go and explore that. I feel like my songs, there’s always a window in the beginning where they can kind of go either way. It’s never like today I’m going to sit down and write a song about this. It always kind of surprises me every time.”
Of the dozen songs on Lovestrong, only four are ‘new’ in that they were written after she signed on with Atlantic Records; the rest are from her pre-label days spanning back nearly a decade. “I’ve been writing songs since I was fifteen when I first fell in love. The first song I wrote was called The Perfect Man, and the second song I wrote after he cheated on me was called Tragedy, which happens to close the album. So that’s kind of how it went for me from day one, real stuff I’ve gone through, real relationships and I’ve collected this arsenal of songs. So when it came time to pick the album, I fortunately have such an amazing label that they just said do whatever you do, it’s working, it’s you.”
But even with two-thirds of the album written beforehand, the past nine months have been a whirlwind of recording, television performances, and touring, all while the ever-increasing popularity of Jar of Hearts has pushed her progressively more into the spotlight ahead of her album release. So does she have time to reflect on the changes in her life? “I don’t, but I feel like that’s my path right now and I feel like it’s probably a good thing for me because so many things are so crazy and so scary because I’m just this little human who gets crazy nerves and I’m full of emotions and fears and stuff. If I stop and think about everything, I’m going to totally freak myself out, I’m going to possibly pass up on an opportunity because of my fear. I feel so lucky that the universe kind of nailed it with me. They’re like you know what? This girl, we’re just gonna go with it and she’s not gonna have the chance to stop or to get scared or to say no. And that’s been my experience. I feel like from day one everything’s been crazy, but if I had stopped to think about it, A) I think I’d have said no to certain things and missed huge opportunities, and B) I think I would have changed. I think what’s so cool is I’m the exact same girl that made you coffee a year ago. Anybody in my life will tell you that. I didn’t float away to some other planet, I didn’t grow a huge big ego, because I just feel so in the moment and so grateful for everything. If I had gone to think about stuff, who knows what could have happened.”
There’s seemingly little that Christina Perri isn’t willing to talk about candidly. On the serious matter of whether she’s currently in love, she doesn’t hesitate: “I am madly in love, yeah.” And when it comes to the comparatively trivial matter of fans on the internet pondering what her middle name might be as they can’t seem to track it down, she’s happy to reveal that as well. “It’s Judith. I kind of feel like it’s an old lady name, and when I’m sixty I’m gonna switch my middle name and my first name and be Judith The Beatles Historian when I’m an old lady. That’s kind of in my plans when I have grey hair.”
In the video for Arms, she’s seen flying out of bed before crashing into the ocean and then ultimately driving her beloved Mini Cooper back to reunite with her love interest. She says the shoot for the video “kicked my ass so hard” and quips “I don’t know why I think I’m an action hero.” So which one would she be if she could? “Superman,” she says, as if all the flying in the video didn’t give that away.
Lovestrong is expected to debut in the iTunes top ten today, and she already has a spate of high profile television appearances lined up this week. But with one massive hit song under her belt, does she feel any pressure to score another hit amongst the rest of the songs on the album? “Jar of Hearts was what blew up and took off and had its own life, but I’ve been working as a songwriter and musician for awhile, and collecting a group of songs. If I worry too much about anything else, I think it would just be totally different. I think there was definitely a window where I could have just bloop-bloop and up and down and out, you know? I feel so lucky to have gotten ahold of people who believe in me and stick with me. I’m so humbled and so blown away by how I just get to have this little career now. As long as I work my ass off I get to keep doing this thing.”
And as to the ups and downs of it all? “That’s just the way it is, and if I complain about it, you should punch me in the face.”