Katy Perry's rise to pop superstardom has been hot and cold.
In under a year, the 24-year-old has ascended to the top of the charts with the multiplatinum single, "I Kissed A Girl," taken Gwen Stefani's place as the quirkiest bubblegum dance act, and had arguably the biggest 2008 of any pop artist on the planet.
She's become a media personality—rifling off quotes as colorful as her outfits—and hosted the 2008 MTV Europe Music Awards, and is set to perform at the upcoming Grammy awards (in which she is also nominated) on Feb. 8.
Perry has also been paying the going rate for such activities by becoming lifeforce for Internet tabloids. It's made her a little more weary of what she says in public.
As 2009 began, Perry took her first venture into heartbreak on the world's stage when she and boyfriend Travis McCoy of Gym Class Heroes ended their relationship.
"I can say one thing, even in this interview, and it goes all the way to China," she said from Los Angeles. "It's almost like a game of telephone."
The music on Perry's 2008 debut for Capitol Records, "One Of The Boys," is full of banging dance tracks and catchy choruses, but such pop music has a notoriously short shelf life.
Many of the tunes on "One Of The Boys" come packaged in so many audible distractions, the only human quality allowed to shine is Perry's punchy voice and pointed lyrics.
Her heavy studio production can be deceiving. Perry is actually pretty compelling when given just a guitar and microphone.
The singer-songwriter has been performing since she was a teenager and before "I Kissed A Girl," Perry worked with big name producers like Glen Ballard (Alanis Morissette, Christina Aguilera) and Steve Lillywhite (U2, The Rolling Stones).
"One Of The Boys" is Perry's breakthrough, but she will have to fight to be remembered as the major labels prepare to roll out a whole new set of pop acts for 2009.
Ahead of her first headlining tour, stopping at Centennial Hall on Monday, we talked to Perry about her future, the media, good seats at the Grammys and whether or not she wants to be taken seriously as an artist.
Happy New Year.
"Thank you. Happy New Year to you. It's a fresh start. Everything can be washed away from last year. Well, not exactly. I don't want it all to be washed away.
Right, right. Just some of it, right?
"Yeah, just the bad stuff. There was no bad stuff! Oh s---!"
Let's start off with some good stuff. You're nominated for a Grammy. You're performing at the Grammys. Do you feel like you're dreaming?
"I'm dreaming in fast motion right now. For me, it's just taken so long to get to this point. I can't believe I actually lived through all of it. I'm sitting here with less stresses than I had a couple years ago. I remember a couple years ago it definitely was not so peachy keen. And I'm just so glad I didn't quit."
Right. And there's probably different stresses you had back then then the ones you have now, I imagine.
"Yeah, the stresses back then were about making it. Or not making it, but just getting the train going. And now the train is going so fast, that I'm just hoping I'm not running anybody over."
You mentioned on your blog that you weren't going to be a seat filler this year at the Grammys—were you actually ever a seat filler?
"I wasn't a 'seat filler' per se, but I did work with a company that did that type of stuff."
Did you ever work the Grammys?
"I never worked the Grammys. I had been to the Grammys a couple times. I'd always try and go to those things, but I'd never have good seats. . . . Every once and a while I'd get lucky and meet someone that knew somebody on the floor."
Have you been to an actual ceremony though?
"Yeah, but you could go to the Grammys. It'll be at the Staples Center this year— I don't know how you get tickets. I don't think they're available to the general public, but, being in the industry as long as I was, I got tickets. I mean, they were nose-bleeder seats. But this year I'll definitely have a good spot."
I would think so.
"I hope so, damn it."
You recently did a gig at the Hotel Cafe (in Los Angeles) and it was stripped-down acoustic, from what I heard. Is there a part of you that wants to make an acoustic record?
"Yeah, I think I'm going to make an acoustic record. Not this next record, but I think I'm setting it up for the third record. But I guess it's too premature to even talk about. That's where I started. That's what probably makes me most musically fulfilled. It's something I can do on my own. It makes me feel really strong because I feel like a lot of other peers in my pop group don't have the balls to go and make an acoustic record. Or they can't. So I'll do that later on in my career, but I'm still very excited to do pure pop music."
Yeah, I just feel like a lot of people don't see that side of you or don't even know that exists.
"No, they don't even know it exists. But I'm not running around trying to press it upon anybody because I feel like it'll come out naturally and organically. And I love changing people's stereotypes about me over time. It's fun. It's a fun game. I end up winning a lot of the time, because people are very quick to size up a new pop act. And I understand that because a lot of pop acts have failed us all."
Do you feel like some people don't take you seriously because of that stuff?
"Well, I'm not really putting myself out to be taken seriously if I'm putting out a song called 'I Kissed A Girl' or 'Hot N Cold' in the beginning. When I want to be taken seriously, I will shift gears. I mean, the seriousness is there, but my middle name is 'kitsch.' You listen to Ray LaMontagne if you want something really serious."
You mentioned the whole fast train thing earlier, and going back to your recent Hotel Cafe gig, a Los Angeles Times reporter in (in a review) wondered if the media spotlight was beginning to take its toll on you. I want to know what you think about that and all these swirling stories from the press about you? Does that affect you?
"The media takes its toll on everybody. The media is an uncontrollable beast, but you don't know what's sleeping under your mattress until you get into the industry. But it's one of those things you can't really control and you just hope— I think everybody in the industry hopes— that it will change soon. Because it is quiet out of control, but that's just the way it is. You can't control it.
"And the people that made it in the music industry 20 years ago probably would have never made it in this day and age. Because it's just a whole different battle you're fighting. You almost sometimes have to come off perfect or with no personality to be kind of exempt from it. And with me, I'm not perfect and I have tons of personality, so I guess I'm kind of a red, bold target.
"But it's OK. I still speak my mind. I'll speak my mind more so through my music. But people want to know every little detail, I guess. I'm not too affected by it."
Do you feel a need to respond to that kind of stuff or is it just like a bite-your-tongue kind of thing?
"Not really. Not unless it gets really out of control. But otherwise, I always tell my fans that if it's not coming from me, or it's not coming from a designated person that I have designated, and if it's not coming from my blog or what have you, then take it with a grain of salt.
"It's amazing. Even just simple interviews are just not simple interviews. A lot of that has to do with the Internet and the way it's such a domino effect."
And I'm assuming last year was a big learning experience in your ascension to where you are now. What are some of the other things you learned?
"I've learned a lot about the media. Definitely. I have learned a lot about myself. And I'm a bit of a control freak, so I've learned about delegating responsibilities.
"I've also learned about my responsibility to new fans and music listeners and people who are coming to my shows. And putting on a great show and giving them their money's worth. Because people will need to be entertained if they're buying a ticket.
"And especially with this tour coming up. You'll get your money's worth. I swear."
What do you think are going to be the biggest challenges for you this year, career-wise or other?
"Well, I'm in constant competition with myself."
"Everything. I'm trying to one-up myself every year. So I guess just keeping up with the goals I have and the aspirations I have for myself. And staying focused. There's a lot going on around you. There's so much going on around you, after you have a little bit of success. Lots of people, lots of opinions, nothing is as pure as once it first started. So I guess it's just to be able to have a piece of mind in the decisions I make and to be able to keep people wondering who the hell I am. And where the hell does she comes from."
How are you going to try and maintain that sort of purity from when you started? Is that possible?
"Yeah, of course. I think it's really possible if you maintain it in the songwriting. I'll be working on my new record in the end of the summer. And I already have a bunch of ideas. I've already been through some huge life experiences and, even this year, that will. . .I'll have a lot to sing about."
What: Katy Perry in concert with The Daylights.
When: Monday at 8 p.m.
Where: Centennial Hall, 1020 E. University Blvd.
Cost: $10 for students, $15 for general public.