How to write songs for Rihanna and The Kooks, and make it big on your own – by LP

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Having written for the likes of Rihanna, Christina Aguilera, Rita Ora, The Kooks, Spoon and many more as well as carving out a career as a multi-platinum-selling solo artist, LP has spoken out about what it takes to make it as a songwriter for others and an artist on your own terms.

Over the years, LP (real name Laura Pergolizzi) has sold thousands of records and racked up hundreds of millions of Youtube views, with the title track from her most recent album ‘Lost On You’ becoming the seventh ‘Most Shazamed Song in the World’ and hitting No.6 on Spotify’s Viral Chart. Ahead of her UK tour, the American alt-rock star told us the secrets to success with writing for Cher and The Backstreet Boys, and using that knowledge for her own solo career.

How did you get into the world of songwriting?

“It really came from being an artist. When I first got into the major label system, they were like ‘hey you’re great – now write with a million people so we can get songs’. That was something I hadn’t done before, and the songwriters I was working with had worked on some massive numbers – like ‘True Colours’. One of the guys wrote ‘Livin On A Prayer’. So many iconic songwriters – from old successful veterans to young, up and coming people.

“I kinda took to it, even though it was a little bit stressful. It was like going into the first day of school every day. Unfortunately after three years I yielded no fruit at all and no record came out, but I’d amassed 140 songs at the end of that time. One of them went to The Backstreet Boys. I was like ‘really?’ I didn’t know that it was a possibility, I was just wowed that I was able to do it on command. I got dropped but I got offered a publishing deal and that’s when I thought I was going to be a songwriter rather than an artist. I didn’t know what to think, but I was just happy to still being paid and to write songs. That’s the art part of the thing that I love. I started getting bigger cuts then eventually came back round to myself. I was writing songs that I felt were only for me.

“I was playing one night a week doing covers with a live band at this little club in Hollywood. A lot of big singers were in there and people just started coming to see me. I found myself back in the swing of being an artist and got signed to Warner Bros in 2011.”

Do you enter a different mindset when you know you’re writing a song for someone else?

“I try to approach from the same place. Sometimes the genre just won’t make sense, but I’m just trying to write the best song I can. I kinda prefer it when I write for other people when I’m in a room with them, but it’s not always necessary.”

What was your role in ‘Cheers (Drink To That)’ by Rihanna?

“That was actually a writing camp for Rihanna. I was really in songwriter mode back then. It was me, this woman that I write with and this production company called The Runners. We wrote that for Rihanna with her in mind. We write it all together and I sang the demo.”

How does it feel when these songs take on a life of their own in someone else’s hands?

“I absolutely love it. I find it really satisfying and interesting,”

What advice would you give to young people who are looking to move into songwriting? 

“Honestly, I would say ‘volume’. Just write as many songs as you can. No matter what, if you write a song that’s great that everyone expects to be a hit, then everyone’s going to be expecting another one from you. If you write a song that no one notices, you’re going to want to write one that someone will. I found that you need to get out of the mindset of ‘this is the song, this is the one’. Even if it is ‘the one’, you’re going to need another one.

“If you try to be as prolific as you can, then you find your own true voice. You keep discovering and you get better at trimming the fat in songs. Keep writing and don’t get discouraged. What I learned from being in circles with these wildly successful songwriters, is that their main hit catalogue could be 10 songs or less – but you can be sure that there’s hundreds if not thousands of songs in their archives.”

Anyone you’re itching to write a song for? 

“I’d love to do something with Bruno Mars because I love his voice and the playful and intelligent way he delivers a song. I’m kinda more into working with rock bands. I have a song on the new Kooks record and sing some back-up as well. I’ve also worked with Spoon and Charlotte OC. I only want to write a song with the people who want to write a song with me.”

What do you think it is about your latest record ‘Lost On You’ that has really captured people’s imaginations?

“Some of the songs are viscerally connected to heartbreak. I went through it pretty hard and I think a lot of people can relate. It coincided with me being more adept at telling the hard, cold truth in a song.”

How would you describe the sound of the record to anyone who might not have heard it?

“It’s very ‘classic’ with a natural tendency towards groove and space.”

What can fans expect from your upcoming tour?

“I really strive to make it ‘an experience’. Like the album on steroids. It’s more ‘rock’ than the record. I feel like I’m a classic rock n’ roll singer in a way and it gets pretty lively.”

LP on tour

LP’s upcoming tour dates are below, with tickets available here.

November 25 – Dublin Academy
November 27 – Birmingham Academy 2

November 28 – London Forum
December 1 – Cardiff Y-Plas     
December 2 – Manchester Academy
December 3 – Leeds Stylus
December 5 – Glasgow QMU