With a voice that dances between gravelly and ethereal, songs that proudly explore themes of same-sex love, and a style that’s androgynous and effortlessly cool (think Harry Styles meets Linda Perry meets peak-Strokes) New York-based singer LP is one of the most fantastically queer musicians America’s ever produced.
‘I’ve always been gender-neutral, I just don’t enforce the pronouns,’ the star tells us at a gig in London last week, adding that she’s equally comfortable being considered a ‘garden variety lesbian woman.’
‘[But] whenever someone describes me as “cis” I’m like…’ At this, LP (short for Laura Pergolizzi) pulls a face. ‘I go by “she” and “her”, but I honestly don’t love it. But it would take me out of my life too much to insist on “they”. But I respect people doing it.’
The 37-year-old furthermore adds that she’d opt for a gender-neutral restroom, given the choice. ‘I hate going to “ladies’ rooms”; thats always bothered me,’ she says.
LP’s music is the sound of an artist with a firm grip on who they are – however complex that identity may be. As such, she’s been out since the release of her first album 17 years ago.
‘I’ve never denied it,’ she says. ‘In the very early stages when no one was paying attention, I didn’t talk about it. But my songs clearly were. But I’ve never pushed it. It’s never the first thing on the list. It’s almost coming up more now than ever!’
Through her journey to album number five – the brilliant, confessional pop-rock of Heart to Mouth is out next week – LP’s managed to amass a huge, dedicated core fanbase, including 2.28 million followers across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube combined.
That said, thus far, mainstream recognition has somewhat eluded her – not that that matters. Especially given her side-hustle, co-writing songs for some of the biggest pop stars on the planet, including Cher and Christina Aguilera.
‘It was such a thrill to get a song with Rihanna’
She calls Rihanna’s monster 2010 hit (Cheers) Drink To That her favorite credit to date.
‘For sure,’ she says. ‘It was such a thrill to get a song with her. I had another song she recorded but didn’t use. It went to Rita Ora.’
‘Which one was it?’ I ask.
Adorably, she can’t remember. That’s how many hits she’s had a hand in.
‘I can’t… Every time I do this! It went to number 10 here… I’ll have to research it…’
(We later work out the track is 2012’s Shine Ya Light.)
She says she’s never regretted giving a song away (‘it has a life of its own’), but rather, there’s a song she’s regretted keeping for herself.
‘There’s an inherent sexiness to what Shakira does’
‘There’s one on one of my records that Shakira was going to do,’ she tells me. ‘You never know, I don’t believe songs are going to do it until the end, but they were very hot on it.’
‘I felt “I wish to God we didn’t take that song back!” I didn’t want to. My label was like “This is a great song for you!” I was like, “Yeah, OK…”’
She furthermore cites Shakira as an example when I ask if it’s interesting seeing cis, straight artists put a spin on her songs.
‘A younger artist did a cover of it, and she did it in a much more “cis” way,’ she explains. ‘When I do it, it’s sweet, but she did it with a sexier twist. I’d imagine Shakira doing that, as there’s always an inherent sexiness to what Shakira does.’
‘A friend of mine plays drums for Hayley Kiyoko’
Naturally, she loves the current crop of LGBTI pop stars making waves on the music scene.
‘Troye Sivan’s fantastic. I’ve met him. Hayley Kiyoko – a friend of mine plays drums with her! Christine and the Queens. I’ve met her, she’s really, really cool. I’ve met Tegan and Sara a couple of times, they’re amazing.’
But who were her LGBTI icons, growing up?
‘Tracey Chapman, Freddie Mercury, people like that,’ she replies. ‘And there are so many local artists I knew at the time… Oh, and Ellen!’
LP’s new album Heart to Mouth is out on 7 December. For more information, visit the official LP website.