Play (Lists)

Linda Perry: “A Series Of Gut Feelings”

by Keith Valcourt

As the leader of nineties pop rockers 4 Non Blondes Linda Perry broke down barriers in the male dominates music business and created one of the decade’s most catchy songs: “What’s Up?”   Perry released one stellar album with the band before going out on her own.  Two solo albums followed and then Perry, longing for something else creatively. Shifter her talents into producing. 

As a producer she has created hits for everyone from Gwen Stefani to Pink and Christina Aguilera. She worked with every important female artist in the last two decades including Adele, Alicia Keyes, Courtney Love and KT Tunstall.  I caught up with Perry in Los Angeles recently where she was working with her latest discovery the ethereal singer Willa Amia.  In this exclusive interview, we talked about her past, present and future as well as the inequalities female musicians still face.  

Q: When you started out with 4 Non-Blondes how hard was it for an all-female group to break out?

A: I never considered that an issue. If we struggled, we would work harder. You don’t go into this with pre-judgment of the establishment. You enter with pure creative intention. All the bullshit comes later. 

Q: Did you face discrimination or unfair criticism because you were a female rocker? 

A: Just occasional jealousy from bands because we were so good. Oh, there was one moment when we sold out a big venue in Germany and Whitesnake was staying in the same hotel and played a much smaller Venue. When walking through the lobby they yelled out “lesbians!” I approached and said, “which pussy said that?” And they all cowered like the big pussies they were (except for one, who was embarrassed that his bandmates said that).

Q: Has the playing field evened up these days? Meaning, are women seen on the same terms as men in rock and roll?

A: I don’t think so – I mean let’s face it, will it ever? The problem isn’t just the music business it’s everywhere…

 Q:  What do awards mean to you?

A: Honestly, I don’t give much weight to awards.  Never have. Never will. Unless I get an award for best mommy and that, I would cherish forever. 

Q:  Was your transition from performer to producer planned and what made you want to make the shift?

A:  I wasn’t happy with being an artist.  A series of gut feelings landed me where I am now. And I’m still going. I’m not where I should be yet. 

Q: As a producer how do you decide who to work with?

A:  Feelings. I need them. Real feelings.  Does the artist have them and does their music make me feel them? 

Q: You discovered your latest protegee Willa Amai when she was just twelve.  How many years do you think it takes an artist to find their own voice?

A:  I don’t know.  With Willa I find her to be extremely fast.  The way she absorbs information.  She is very in touch with who she is as a human. The way she takes in information emotionally.  And creatively puts it out there is unique to me.  I feel Willa is moving at a very fast pace.  We are going to start releasing music soon. 

Q: As you develop an artist what is your role?

A: When Willa and I work it’s me changing tempos and changing keys.  Helping her with her arrangement.  IT’s not writing her songs.  Its not telling her how to feel. Or telling her how to follow.  We have been teaching her to lead.  That will take more time because leaders take a little longer to get there. Because you must lead through all the mess. 

Q: Can help her avoid that mess?

A:  A great mentor can help be a guide.  Support her vision.  Not ours.  Help her understand how the business works on top off it.  It’s not like, “Don’t worry we’ll do it all.”  We inform her, perhaps too much.  But I want her to have that information.

Q:  Did you have a mentor coming up?

A:  Oh God no. We totally stumbled around.  Everyone finds their own way.  I’m not saying what we’re going is the right thing.  But it feels like it is the right thing with her. It’s very organic.  Nothing is being pushed.  If it happens?  Great.  If not, there is not disappointment. Luckily, she has had more highs than lows.

Q: Are you working on an album?

A:  Yes.  It’s very simple because she is fifteen years old. We’re not going to come out with a huge sounding record.  We’re going to come with a record that feels true to who she is right now.  That way she can keep growing.  And she has somewhere to go.  At the pace she is going another record will be being created by the time the first one is released.       

Q:  What is your advice to younger female artists coming up today?

A:  If you ever find yourself questioning the intentions of your manager, label, band or what you are doing and where you are going, then stop!  That is your gut saying this is not right. Listen and follow that instinct always. Don’t get caught up in labels just be the best at what you do.  life is unpredictable, it’s not always going to be because you’re a girl… 

Keith Valcourt

Keith Valcourt is a Los Angeles based music and entertainment writer. He has interviewed thousands of celebrities in the worlds of music, film, TV and comedy for dozens of outlets including: L.A. Times, Washington Times, LFP Publishing,, LaArtsOnline and more. Much More

More to explore