My LA: Linda Perry talks life in a locked down Los Angeles

Los Angeles News

Few possess the raw energy of Linda Perry: artist, producer, songwriter, singer, business owner, and all-round powerhouse.

Linda Perry, a Songwriter Hall of Fame inductee and multi-Grammy nominee, began her journey as the lead singer and songwriter of 4 Non Blondes (penning the band’s hit song ‘What’s Up?’) before turning her hand to production.

As a songwriter-producer, Perry quickly established herself as one of the industry’s heavyweights, shaping the sounds of musicians such as Pink, Christina Aguilera, Gwen Stefani, Alicia Keys, Britney Spears and Adele and having a resounding influence on the presence of female empowerment in pop culture.

Inducted into the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame in 2015 as a testament to her immeasurable impact, Linda Perry’s multi-platinum, award-winning songs include, ‘Beautiful’ by Christina Aguilera, “Get This Party Started” by Pink and “What are you Waiting For?” by Gwen Stefani. In 2019, Perry earned a groundbreaking Grammy Award nomination for ‘Producer of the Year’, making her the first woman to be nominated in 15 years in this category. This same year Perry was nominated for a Grammy and Golden Globe for her work with Dolly Parton.

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Artist Beatie Wolfe sat down with Perry, an LA resident since 1997, to talk about the best (and weirdest) things about life in the City of Angels.

What first brought you to LA?

The interesting thing is I’m a California girl. I was born in Boston but when I was a year old we moved to San Diego and then San Francisco. Los Angeles was never a place I was going to live. It’s a place I visited. I would run away from home and come to LA and hang out at Melrose when Melrose was actually cool with all the punks (because I was a total punk), I never thought as an adult I’d live in LA.

What motivated you to stay?

San Francisco was starting to bore me. Silicon Valley’s in and all the really great mom-and-pop stores are starting to close down. Record stores are disappearing. So I was driving to Los Angeles and usually I drive with no music, nothing. I drive for like five hours and it’s just quiet. But I started talking to myself in the car, arguing: “Oh, you’re going to move to LA.” And I’d reply: “I am not moving to LA.”

And then I get to my friend’s house and I’m really annoyed and he asks me what’s wrong and I tell him: “I’m f***ing moving to LA! My f***ing gut is telling me that I got to move to LA and I’m annoyed because I have to f***ing do it!”

(Jack Cohen on UnSplash)

How did you figure out where you wanted to be?

I asked friends, “where’s the hip area?” And everybody said: “Silver Lake, Los Feliz, West Hollywood.” So I said, “okay so where’s the un-hip area?” And they said: “Burbank, Sherman Oaks.” And Sherman Oaks just stood out to me so I asked, “what’s Sherman Oaks like?” And they said: “Well a lot of porn stars and coke heads live out there and old people. And I go, “is it hip?” And they’re like: “Oh no!” So I said, “Okay, that’s where I’m moving.”

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What do you most love about LA?

The thing that I love about LA is that LA is whatever you want it to be. It’s you! That’s what I love about it. San Francisco is a sleepy town, it moves very slow, you can walk from one side to the other and it’s a very specific flavor over there. LA is more of a diner with an all-you-can-eat buffet and it could be trashy food, or it could be super fancy or eclectic food, it caters to everything.

Is there something you’ve done here that you feel you couldn’t have done anywhere else?

Yeah. My whole thing changed here. My gut told me to come to LA if I wanted to reinvent myself and that’s exactly what I did. I left San Francisco an artist and came to LA and became a producer and songwriter, which was exactly what I needed to do.

(Photo by Ray Tiller on UnSplash)

One thing people might not know about you?

Maybe people don’t know that I’m very easy to talk to. I’m very warm and caring. I’m very aggressive, I’m very hard too, I get that, but I’m very yin and yang. What is very hard about me is also very soft about me. I am this and I am that, but I’m never in between, I have both extremes. There is one foot in bad-ass and there’s one foot in soft and vulnerable.

Do you have a favorite time of day and why?

My favorite time of day is always going to be the one I feel the most powerful in and that’s random. Like today my favorite time of day was at 5:30am, I felt at that moment really in my power for some reason.

(Photo by Daniel Lee on Unsplash)

Where do you go or what do you do to get inspired?

I’m inspired by my son, he’s everything to me. He inspires me to live and to be a great human. He makes me feel like I have a purpose.

How have you found this quarantine experience?

I would say for the past five years I haven’t really known who I was and I’ve had a hard time touching base with what I’m feeling. So with this time in quarantine, in isolation, and the world shutting down, I’ve had a lot of opportunities to really focus on who I am and who I used to be. Ultimately I’m nothing if I don’t know who I am.

We’ve been given this incredible opportunity to reorganize, prioritize, reevaluate. Life hit pause and everything’s stopped and we’ve been able to move emotionally and spiritually through this without really losing time, in a sense. And then we’re going to un-pause and we’re going to get through this with better answers and clarity and unity and community and f**king change man, long-overdue changes.

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A favourite place you like to go?

I love walking. I don’t care where I’m at. I could be in a beautiful field or on some scenic mountain hike or the busiest street in LA and it all registers the same emotionally and physically. Because I’m not walking to look at things, I’m walking to be inside, not outside. Walking helps me find myself. It helps center myself, it balances me.

What’s the last album you bought?

The Velvet Underground & Nico because I lost my copy. So when we had our record store, I bought that record again.

A piece of music that is synonymous with LA for you?

I instantly go to The Mamas and the Papas, The Doors, Guns ‘n Roses, Concrete Blonde. Those are the first bands that remind me of what LA would probably mean to most people but my first experience of music in LA was all English bands and the punk scene. Guns ‘n Roses is an incredible example of tying a band to a city.

But when I think of LA my heart is the warmest with The Beach Boys. When I was growing up my sister was totally in love with Brian Wilson and I would always hear “Don’t Worry Baby.” But for me, it’s got to be “God Only Knows.”

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Something that only happens here?

You could be in your house thinking, I wish I could meet the music supervisor who did some soundtrack that I f***ing love, and then you walk out your door and go to Whole Foods and you’re grabbing a mango and somebody else is right there and it just happens to be that same music supervisor.

Biggest misconception about this city?

That it’s filled with a bunch of assholes and egotistical, stuck up, rich people that are just fame-hungry and ruthless. It’s not that at all. If that’s who you want to be around then that’s who you will be around. It’s not that there aren’t those elements, but it’s an awesome city filled with so much diversity and so many great, generous, helpful, kind, nurturing people and a kick in the ass when you need it.

(Rebecca Cabage/Invision/AP)

One word that you hear too much, and one word you say too much?

I hear “influencer” way too much. I’m so done with that word. I don’t even know what that f**king means, you know? There are no artists anymore, it’s all influencers. So I am bored with that word. And I probably say “you know” too much and “f***.” I shouldn’t say f*** so much. I say it so f****** much that my son the other day yelled: “Get me out of this f**king pool!”

What’s underrated?

The culture. You have to explore LA to really understand what’s going on here and it took me a long time to. I underestimated the beauty and the art here because sometimes I would just think: “Oh, everybody is just so focused on one particular thing and that’s to be famous.”

What’s overrated?

The star appeal. The idea that every time you walk down the street you either see a star or some hot person.

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If you were a juice, what juice would you be and why?

It’d be a celery juice with a little bit of ginger. Because it comforts my mind and it makes my body feel good and I feel like it’s also open for interpretation. Because with celery juice, people normally would think it’s just celery, what could it possibly do? But it does a lot of great things. So it’s unassuming but it’s also aggressive in the taste, especially if you put ginger in it, and it’s a little bitter. So I feel like that pretty much wraps me up. I’m unassuming but aggressive. And I think most people usually walk away feeling good after they have met me or spoken to me.

LA in three words?

I love it.

(Rebecca Cabage/Invision/AP)

Beatie Wolfe is an artist and innovator who has beamed her music into space, been appointed a UN Women role model for innovation and held a solo exhibition of her album designs at the V&A Museum. Wolfe’s next musical innovation is an environmental protest piece titled “From Green to Red”, which will be exhibited at the London Design Biennale in Somerset House.

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