“I think people can appreciate a songwriter who shows different sides,” says Katy Perry. “The whole angst thing is cool, but if that’s all you’ve got, it’s just boring. Everything I write, whether it’s happy or sad, has a sense of humor to it. Someone told me the other day that I’m a bit like Lucille Ball. They said, ‘You look pretty put together on the outside, but inside there’s just something a bit wrong.'”
Comparisons to Lucille Ball only tell half the story. Now if Lucille Ball had a secret love child with Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, it would look, sound, and behave like Katy Perry. The L.A-based singer-songwriter’s sassy confidence and feisty confessional songs have already had fans and savvy media singing her praises, even before her new EP, Ur So Gay, is released by Capitol Records on November 20th, 2007. Blender Magazine called her “The Next Big Thing” while Teen People dubbed her “One to Watch.” And no less a harbinger of ‘what’s hot’ than celeb blogger Perez Hilton wrote of Perry on his website: “If Avril Lavigne were actually talented, pretty, and had an appealing personality, she’d be Katy Perry. She’s got the whole package!”
“I don’t care who I’m compared to as long as people listen to the music,” Perry says. “Usually I find it funny to say I’m like a skinnier version of Lily Allen and a fatter version of Amy Winehouse. It always renders a good chuckle.” It’s that sort of cheeky comment that encapsulates Perry’s irrepressible sense of humor, which shines through on songs like “Ur So Gay” (a hilarious kiss-off to an ex) and “Waking Up in Vegas,” which is about doing just that. Her upcoming debut album for Capitol Records, due in Spring 2008, will also feature several honest, searching ballads, like “Lost,” (about trying to find yourself after losing your way) and the regretful, emotional “Thinking of You,” both of which display a more vulnerable side to this talented, multi-dimensional artist. Perhaps that dichotomy stems in part from Perry’s upbringing. The middle child of two pastors, Perry grew up listening to gospel music and singing in church in Santa Barbara, CA. “My dad would give me ten dollars, which is a lot of money when you’re nine, to sing at church, on tables at restaurants, at family functions, just about anywhere,” she says. Perry was raised on a strict diet of church music; “secular music,” as her mother put it, was “not allowed.” But one night during a slumber party, Perry happened upon a Queen record “and the heavens opened and saved me. From then on, they have been my biggest influence,” she says. “Their musicality and lyrics were so flamboyant and real. I’d never heard anything like it.”
By the time she was 15, Perry was determined to pursue a path in music. She spent some time in Nashville working with professional songwriters — “these seasoned country music vets who had been writing songs for forever” — and honing her own songwriting skills. “Every single one of my songs is drawn 100 percent directly from my life.”
At 17, Perry hooked up with legendary producer and songwriter Glen Ballard, who spent years guiding and developing her talent and songwriting. The strength of the songs and Perry’s big voice captured the attention of Jason Flom, Chairman & CEO of Capitol Music Group, who signed her in Spring 2007. “I’ve been through a lot of highs and a lot of lows in this business,” says Perry, who’s now 22. “Last year was tough. I’d write a check for my rent and next to it, I’d write, ‘Please, God, please.’ But I didn’t jump off the Hollywood sign. Everything always works out for the best.”
Indeed it has, as Perry has just wrapped up work on her debut full-length album, which she recorded with an array of noted producers and collaborators, including Ballard (Alanis Morissette, No Doubt), Dave Stewart (Eurythmics), Dr. Luke (Kelly Clarkson, Avril Lavigne), Butch Walker (Pink, The Donnas), Sam Hollander & Dave Katz (Gym Class Heroes) and Greg Wells (Mika, Natasha Bedingfield, Rufus Wainwright). She’s also been keeping busy performing lowkey acoustic shows at Hollywood’s renowned Hotel Café (hey, it keeps her off TMZ), as well as landing high-profile opening gigs for artists as diverse as Mika, Puffy AmiYumi, and The Starting Line.
Whether it’s by hearing her music on MTV’s The Hills, Oxygen Network’s Fight Girls, the soundtrack to the film Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, or by seeing her emotional performance on ABC Family’s hit Wildfire, people are now taking notice of Perry. She’s also unleashed her considerable charisma making cameos in the videos for Gym Class Heroes’ “Cupid’s Chokehold,” which has been viewed on YouTube more than 18 million times, as well as appeared in a video for P.O.D. In addition, her face has graced ads for Too-Faced Cosmetics’ Spring 2007 line. All these things, and more, have people wondering: “Who’s that girl?”
Perry, however, doesn’t put too much stock in the acting or modeling, or the whole media fame game for that matter. “It’s become about who’s showing up at what party, who’s dating whom, and what plastic surgery they’ve had,” she says. “I want to bring it all back to the music. Pop stars are hard to relate to because they are so scared of being vulnerable or real and afraid that people will exploit their flaws. I on the other hand, celebrate my flaws and actually welcome them. Flaws give us character and at the end of the day, I want people to see me as that girl they can relate to, talk to, and have a good laugh with.”
Katy Perry’s mix of sass and spunk combines the cheeky, club-ready pop music of Lily Allen with the commercial pop/rock of Avril Lavigne and Alanis Morissette. Born on October 25, 1984, in Santa Barbara, CA, Perry grew up in a Christian household as the daughter of two pastors. Though she was not allowed to listen to secular music as a child, Perry later found herself captivated by Alanis Morissette and Freddie Mercury, having discovered Queen’s music during a slumber party. Religious music remained at the forefront, however, and Perry released a self-titled Christian album in 2001 under the name Katy Hudson. She would later abandon the genre in favor of a pop career.
At age 17, the burgeoning songwriter began working with hitmaker Glen Ballard, who had produced and co-written Alanis Morissette’s chart-topping Jagged Little Pill in 1995. Several years later, she teamed up with the Matrix, a Grammy-nominated production/songwriting team whose résumé included collaborations with Avril Lavigne, Shakira, and Korn. The Matrix had plans to record their own album, with Perry serving as one of the group’s two singers. The project was ultimately shelved, but not before Perry appeared in a 2004 write-up by Blender magazine, who hailed her as “The Next Big Thing!”
With the Matrix’s unreleased album sitting in the vaults at Sony Records, Perry went back to the drawing board and ultimately signed with Columbia in 2007. Her debut single, “UR So Gay,” generated some online buzz with its mischievous lyrics and accompanying music video, and Perry’s audience grew accordingly. In 2008 her debut album, One of the Boys, was released, and she helped promote it by joining the summer’s Warped Tour and appearing in an episode of The Young and the Restless. Andrew Leahey & Jason Birchmeier, All Music Guide