It’s simple: Once you see and hear LP, you remember. She’s a gripping performer, a curly-headed force of nature who looks like a cross between a young Bob Dylan and Marc Bolan, albeit often wielding a ukulele. A rockin’ ukulele, in front of a dynamic, versatile band, that is. And her voice is instantly ear-catching, a natural instrument of power and grace.
But there’s much more to it. There’s just something about the Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter-artist that grabs hold — a spirit, an exuberance, and a belief in her gifts as a musician and in the power of music to reach people. It comes through in her songs, whether written for Rihanna (the 2011 hit “Cheers”) and Christina Aguilera (“Beautiful People” from the movie Burlesque), or for herself, such as “Into the Wild” (the song that has tantalized ears through its use in a Citibank Card TV commercial) and the hauntingly epic “Tokyo Sunrise,” also from the “Live At EastWest Studios” EP (6-song CD + DVD) to be released April 24th, 2012.
While writing songs for others was rewarding (artistically, as well as in other ways), her most natural habitat is on stage. It was playing the L.A. club gigs that reenergized LP’s drive to write songs for herself as a solo artist. Thinking back about her earlier days, performing live is what motivated her while living as a rock ‘n’ roll road warrior: “We were doing 250 shows a year, driving around the country in a crappy van my brother leased for me; one hotel room for all of us in the band,” she explains.
Fueled by a contagious, pure love of performing, LP’s stage presence is inherently powerful with a free-flowing, infectious confidence honed through her years of touring. At a January show at the Troubadour in West Hollywood, it became abundantly clear after just one song that the energy shared between artist and audience reflected a breakout buzz gig confirming LP’s status as an artist to watch in 2012.
In fact Esquire Magazine has singled out LP as one of 2012‘s rising stars, adding its voice to a growing, global legion of fans. All this comes before she’s even released her Warner Bros. Records debut live EP, let alone the full album she’s currently working on with producers such as Isabella Summers (Florence and the Machine), Rob Cavallo (Green Day, Alanis Morissette), PJ Bianco (Metro Station, Veronicas), and Fraser T. Smith (Adele, Ellie Goulding) among her collaborators.
And then there are the multitudes of people online Google-ing to find the striking voice behind the mysterious “Somebody left the gate open” line (a vocal snippet from LP’s song “Into The Wild” ), which can be heard accompanying the daredevil rock climbers in the much-discussed Citibank Card commercial. The success of this song and commercial was the subject of a recent CNN news piece, not to mention a surge of popularity for viral videos of LP’s concert performances, in which she sings her own songs and delivers soaring versions of everything from Guns ‘N Roses’ “Sweet Child O’ Mine” to Beyoncé’s “Halo.” That growing awareness and word-of-mouth is not the work of the PR machine; it’s just the natural order of events that has brought fans to LP’s music.
LP — born and raised in New York and now a Los Angeleno — came to music early, despite hailing from a “family of doctors and lawyers.” Her mom loved to sing, though, and the youngster was not to be deterred. She was drawn heavily to transformational artists, those who blended mystique with the rare ability to make an instant connection with listeners, both as performers and writers.
When LP talks about the music and artists who have provided inspiration, she says: “I’m a huge Jeff Buckley fan. Kurt Cobain is another one — he was able to make the most unique music that stands on its own. I also love Chris Cornell’s voice and Chrissie Hynde’s swagger. I love Joni Mitchell, Jim Morrison, and Robert Plant; and I really appreciate rappers like Jay-Z. The wordplay is really important to me. I’m into so much music and I draw from everywhere.”
Trying to describe LP’s own music is daunting task. There is an elegant energy that rocks but does that make it rock music? The structures are memorable and melodic but does that make it pop music? The lyrical content has an emotional depth that holds a universal appeal, which draws the listener closer, but does that make it folk music? One might detect traces of Roy Orbison, or the aforementioned Jeff Buckley, a hint of U2 or maybe some suggestion of Edith Piaf but it somehow doesn’t really sound like any of these per se. This is the music of LP.
LP’s live performances gracefully evolved during bouts of intense touring, and her songwriting skills developed profoundly while working with such top songwriters as Billy Steinberg and Desmond Child among others. “When I went into sessions with people, I had to make it rain really fast or they wouldn’t want to write with me again,” she says. “You learn to hit your mark pretty quickly.”
All of those factors are coming into play as LP makes her Warner Bros. debut album, which she hopes will be worthy of her teachers and will also satisfy her own creative expectations. “I want to make a journey of a record, something that flows as a full and complete piece of work,” she says.
It’s the same for her approach onstage. “I’m at my most intense when fronting a full-on band,” she says. “But what I ultimately strive for is that connection with the audience.”