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Interview: Katy Perry - Hot N Bold

KATY Perry is, apparently, a baseball fan, to judge by the way she sums up her musical career and recent spate of success. "I always say that I was in the dugout for five years," the California-born singer/songwriter says, "but I knew one day I was going to have the opportunity to step up to the plate. And I was going to try my best, my hardest, to hit a home run.

"I did, and I'm very happy about that, of course."

Perry has rounded the bases a few times since the June release of her album, One of the Boys. The former Christian-music artist's secular-rock debut has gone gold, notching worldwide sales of more than a million on the strength of two chart-topping hits: the eyebrow-raising I Kissed a Girl and follow-up, Hot N Cold.

One of the Boys has also been a go-to album for television shows such as The Hills and Fight Girls, as well as recent films The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants 2 and Baby Mama. And Perry's penchant for flamboyant fashion and girl-power attire – she calls herself "a glamour ninja" – has drawn almost as much attention as her music.

It's been a long time coming, after five years and three label deals, but 24-year-old Perry says that she tries hard to keep her perspective grounded amid the hoopla.

"The best revenge is always success, but the word 'revenge' isn't necessarily in my vocabulary," she says. "There's no 'I told you so!' There's just the obvious of, 'OK, I have two Number Ones and they're my first two singles, so ...'"

So?

"Well, I guess there's a bit of a 'suck it' in the long run," Perry concedes with a giggle, "but I really do want to be more gracious about it than that."

Grace, of the religious kind, was a big part of Perry's upbringing in Santa Barbara, where she was born Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson. Her parents were pastors, each born again after a wild youth – her mother dated Jimi Hendrix, her father made and dealt LSD with Timothy Leary – and they incorporated Perry, the middle of their three children, into their ministry. She dutifully attended Christian schools and camps and sang in their Pentecostal-leaning church, but at the same time she was what she calls "the black sheep of the family".

"To this day I still am," Perry says. "They're used to my kind of dark sense of humour and my thick layer of sarcasm, which is slapped on everything. Even though I've had a strict Christian upbringing, they've always known that about me. And I'm sure it became more fully-fledged when I left the nest."

Perry's first album, Katy Hudson (2001), was made up of Christian gospel music, but by then the 17-year-old was already moving away from her religious roots.

"It was a gradual thing, not like a super 'OK, done with that, next!' kind of thing," recalls Perry, whose interest in pop was particularly stoked by hearing Queen's hit Killer Queen. "I changed a lot between the ages of 15 to 23, and the things that I thought when I was 15 and 16 didn't make sense when I was 21 and 22, just because my perspective had changed. I'd seen more of the world. I'd lived more life and met more different types of people.

"When I started out in my gospel music my perspective then was a bit enclosed and very strict, and everything I had in my life at that time was very church-related. I didn't know there was another world that existed beyond that. So when I left home and saw all of that, it was like, 'Omigosh, I fell down the rabbit hole and there's this whole Alice in Wonderland right there!'

"My motto from then on was to live life to the fullest, because at the end you're dead."

Perry has certainly run the gamut of the music industry, working on One of the Boys for Island Def Jam and Columbia and collaborating with hit-making producers such as Glen Ballard and the Matrix team before settling in at Capitol Records in 2007, with yet another batch of producers helping to steer One of the Boys to fruition.

"It was super-discouraging," Perry admits. "I got so close on records that I would bring a copy of it and the artwork and I would show it to my friends and say, 'Can you believe it? It's finally happening!' And two weeks later I'd get the call that it wasn't happening."

An album filled with witty attitude and gleeful man-bashing, One of the Boys was preceded by a digital EP led by the track Ur So Gay. That caused a stir, but not nearly so much as I Kissed a Girl, an unapologetic ode to "curiosity" and celebrating "the beauty of women". A ubiquitous radio smash last summer, while Perry was wowing crowds on the Vans Warped Tour, it has been hammered both for being homophobic and for promoting homosexuality, as well as for being "lezploitational," whatever that is. Perry's mother was quoted by the tabloids, out of context, as calling her daughter's music "disgusting". The song also annoyed singer/songwriter Jill Sobule, who had scored a more modest hit with a song of the same name in 1995, but it inspired Cobra Starship to cover Perry's song as I Kissed a Boy and was featured on Fall Out Boy's Welcome to the New Administration mix tape.

"I'm not trying to turn the world bisexual," says Perry, who really has kissed a girl but who recently came out of a relationship with Gym Class Heroes singer Travis McCoy.

She adds, however, that she's happy that people care enough to, well, care about what the song has to say.

"The way my mind works is not the normal, vanilla, bland idea," the singer/songwriter says. "I've always been kind of unfiltered my whole life, not only in my songwriting but my friendships, my relationships. I think I just kind of say things, sometimes, that people have thought but never really had the balls to say.

"I think sometimes people are just surprised that there is a girl that's in pop music that's just saying it like it is, because you're so used to these more controlled pop girls and Disney people.

"I think that, being a songwriter, you've got to tell good stories, and I tell all the colours of the rainbow, not just the pink ones."

Perry's future is more red-hot than pink. She's confident that One of the Boys has more life in its cycle, especially as she is about to embark on her first headlining tour, dubbed "Hello Katy". She's also contemplating other singles from the album, beginning with the breakup track Thinking of You.

"It's probably the song on the record that means the most to me," Perry says. "I think it's me at my most vulnerable, I guess. The singles so far have only (shown], like, the middle-finger-to-the-boyfriend side of me or the more aggressive sides of me, and really I am a woman – I feel a range of emotions."

&#149 Katy Perry will appear at T in the Park, 9 July, www.tinthepark.com

 
 
 

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