Linda Berry, Legendary Songwriter: Singers have to earn my songs. I don’t just give them ‘| Music

‘I “You have over 100 hats,” says Linda Perry, who today wears a flattering western number with a bandana scraping and her Captain Jack Sparrow-style cheek tattoos. “I don’t really like hair. I dreaded for a long time, then the Mohawk. Now I’m just like, ‘Fuck.'” I wouldn’t even try to get a hairstyle. this is It’s my hairstyle.”

But hats on her head aren’t the only ones Berry wears. In addition to being the writer and producer behind some of the most specific pop songs of the 2000s – having written songs for the likes of Christina AguileraPink, Gwen Stefani, Courtney Love, Alicia Keys, and Adele – also an artist director, brand head, film soundtrack, and curious icon. For a while during the new millennium, Berry was the one singers turned to when they wanted a thorny musical change. Many of her early forays into hit-making destined to stoke rebellious mobs, with rising stars spouting such rotting streaks as “Kiss My Ass” and “You Stupid.” Most memorable were Pink’s Get the Party Started, and Stephanie’s solo comeback so what are you waiting for? and Love’s Mono.

They were made musically... Pink, Courtney Love, and Solange Knowles.
A spiky musician made… Pink, Courtney Love, and Solange Knowles. Composite: Reuters/Getty Images/Rex

Perhaps they were drawn not only to Berry’s hooks, but to her sense of freedom amid a rigid naming machine that was making new artists per second. By the new millennium, she was already in 4 Non Blondes, the all-around American lesbian rock band she wrote for the 1993 Megahit. what’s up. Despite their success, they were fiercely anti-trade and seemed far ahead of their times, but Berry rejects any such idea now. “I don’t think there is anything so radical or progressive in my band,” she says. “We sold 7 million records.”

However – during the AIDS crisis and its accompanying spread of homophobia, as well as simmering tensions over abortion rights in the wake of the conservative Reagan era – Berry played the guitar on which she recorded the lyrics. “bridging” and “selecting”. she says Talk show producers David Letterman once told her to remove it they. “I knew it would make people feel uncomfortable,” she says. “I believe in being gay and I believe we have a choice because at that time — another time, in the ’90s — we were fighting for abortion rights. So that was my statement: dam and choice.” On top of that, she later said, “I don’t care what people think.”

Perry, 57, takes a video call from her studio in Sherman Oaks, Los Angeles. It’s remarkably light-filled, which helps her maintain regular hours so she can spend time with Rhodes, her son with ex-wife and actress Sarah Gilbert. Endless gleaming guitars surround the record booth with giant horns hanging above it. Black and white photos of musical legends line the walls, not a gold disc in sight. Here, in this rock ‘n’ roll oasis, Dolly Parton came one day to record. Perry has been producing the soundtrack for Netflix’s Dumplin and ambitiously re-arranged some of Parton’s classic songs, as well as writing the originals with country legend — work that earned Perry her fifth Grammy Award nomination.

“You called me the weird girl,” Berry says proudly. “Then she said she was attracted to strange people. I took it as a great compliment.” Parton had never worked with a woman, writer, or producer and they became “creative soulmates” who shared a hard-working ethic. “She sang like seven songs in one day and I heard it.”

Creative Soulmates...with Dolly Parton.
“I Nailed Seven Songs in One Day”…with Dolly Parton. Photography: Amy Sussman/FilmMagic

Berry says she has to work with artists she loves. She has in the past been critical of singers like Katy Perry, who said of her music: “It’s not reinventing the wheel, it’s not offering anything.” for this productAnd the The article is of paramount importance. She was there again “with a female lead artist,” she says, “and I didn’t like her at all. All that came out of her mouth was…she would steal a song, you know, even one of mine and I’m like, ‘If you want to tear people apart,’ You’ve come to the wrong person.” So I let her out of the studio.

This week, Perry will receive an Inspiration Award from the Guild of Music Producers. Back in 2017, an estimated 6% of the members of the British organization, and of women nominees for two awards. Now that percentage has more than doubled, nominations are up to 13, but the numbers are still starkly uneven. In America, berry is part of tied her, an initiative to overcome gender disparity across the American music industry, which has similarly grim statistics. “There aren’t a lot of women who do what I do,” Berry says. In the United States, she adds,2% of producers of women.”

She had to fight to get behind the mixing table. While making the one and only 4 Non Blondes album, 1992’s Bigger, Better, Faster, More! I disagreed with producer David Tickle’s exaggerated trend. So I started picking up logging tips from the in-house engineer after hours. In the end, it was her version of What Up that led to the final cut – but she wasn’t allowed to credit the production. When Berry left 4 Non Blondes to go on her own, she worked with Bill Bottrell on her debut, 1996 In Flight. Share more studio secrets. But while her label Eager to shape her into another Sheryl Crow, Berry wanted to write her answer to The Dark Side of the Moon. Without label support, it sank.

She spent a few more years in San Francisco, where he met 4 Non Blondes and moved, aged 21, from Massachusetts. Recording local bands for free helped her hone her style. Then she moved to Los Angeles and stocked up on digital gear to make the pop music she’d hear on the radio. She started collecting lyrical cliches and soon had a demo for Get the Party Started. Madonna rejected it. But a week later, Perry got a call from a young singer pinka believer in Aerosmith, her team was trying to prepare her for R&B music.

Megahit ... Perry and her son Rhodes are performing what is it?  Top during Rock 'N' Relief in Los Angeles in March 2021.
Megahit … Perry and her son Rhodes are performing what is it? Top during Rock ‘N’ Relief in Los Angeles in March 2021. Photo: Richard Shotwell/Invision/Associated Press

Berry thought about relaunching her solo career. But when Pink met you, she knew she had to put it off. “Listen, I felt,” she told her horrific manager. It paid off. Pink took Get the Party Started to number four in America, while Perry co-wrote a large part of Pink’s second album, Missundaztood. Then she gave one of her songs that she intended to return to Christina Aguilera and showed a different, deeper side. Unlike the Olympic ad-lib for which Aguilera is famous, Berry wondered, “What does that sound do when it comes from pure emotion?”

The beautiful answer, Aguilera’s 2002 single, was the answer, surprising in its simplicity and touching message, with the weak point of Berry’s poetry being so unique to the era. “It stood out because it was a time when pop music was ridiculously produced,” Berry says. Wasn’t Pink annoyed that she gave it to Aguilera? “It wasn’t her,” she replied. “I don’t just give songs to people. They have to earn it.”

During this period, Perry was prolific, working with Kelly Osbourne, Lisa Marie Presley, Ashlee Simpson, Alicia Keys, and – on her debut album – Solange Knowles. Perry also had a unique insight into the music industry: a rare woman in the studio at a time when countless artists, from Britney Spears to Keisha, were scrutinized or ruthlessly exploited. Berry said she has never been sexually harassed herself, but has heard stories from other women. Did you feel a duty of care?

“All I can do is be strong and strong,” she says. “I try to educate people. Christina, Gwen – tell them what microphone they’re singing in. I give them the settings. I just try to make sure everyone feels empowered, and that I’m a responsible producer by making people feel safe when they come into my studio. During that time I’ve worked with Lots of women who had never worked with a woman before. It gave them a sense of comfort, knowing I wouldn’t beat them up.”

She continues, “In the past, women took this bait to get where they wanted to go, because those are the conditions they were brought into – ‘If you want to be famous, honey, you have to suck some penis.'” In 2002, if they had 10 Linda, we’d be talking about a different story.”

Most recently, Perry has moved towards film and television – writing thematic music with Bono for the documentary Sean Penn’s Citizen Penn. She wrote and performed her first solo track in years on the 2021 Gen-X doc Kid 90. “On the record,” she says, “you don’t have to make songs for the radio and you don’t have to follow that many rules.” She is disappointed with the way pop songs are created these days. “A lot of music gets put together. They’ve got ProTools, the guy who beats, the lead writer, the friend who comes over to help with the tune. There’s a circus of people writing a song.”

She says anyone, regardless of their contribution, can be credited as a songwriter. “Even if you are stoned, it has nothing to do with the track, but you are out of your zen,” you should probably say, “It feels good to be here now.” Then they write this in — this guy is now a songwriter.” She moves to her piano and slides over the keys. “Seldom does someone sit here and go, ‘I’m going to write a song today.’ There is no quality. No, scratch that. There’s a lot of quality, but it’s hard to recognize.”

Occasionally, though, Berry will still be affected by a sound and will stop at nothing to record it, like the voice she once spotted in the background of a video call. “I heard Kate Hudson sing and I said, ‘Damn! I get her number and I call her right away and say, ‘I have a song for you.’ Perry convinced the actor to sing it and then he started ‘harassing’ her to make an album. When she was ready, we wrote 25 songs. It’s a great old school record you’d expect a girl from Almost would do Famous”.

It’s a bit like how Perry felt about Pink: the design caught on. “I am a person who goes with my intuition in all things,” she says. “And I don’t see anything as a failure. Everything is an experiment, everything is a risk. When you want things, you will do everything you can to get there. You will find a way.”

Well, hats off to that.