Christina Perri is pop music's queen of romance. Her seething 2010 breakout single "Jar of Hearts," which hit No. 17 on the Hot 100, dove into love's bitter lows. "A Thousand Years," which has sold 3.6 million copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan, after being featured in the Twilight Saga films, touched on its dramatic highs. But on "Human," the lead single from her sophomore LP "Head or Heart," released April 1, she sings of a different kind of relationship: with herself.
"It's about self-forgiveness," says Perri, 27, perched on a stool at Nashville's Cannery Ballroom a few hours before a show. It's something she had to practice during the grueling creation of "Head or Heart" - even with the help of A-list collaborators like fun.'s Jack Antonoff and producers Jake Gosling and John Hill. Here, Perri talks Katy Perry, her trademark tattoos and how music can be the most fickle lover of all.
You're known primarily for writing songs about relationships - especially ones that don't pan out so well. But "Human" seems like a reaction to the grind of the music industry.
Definitely. I remember writing a song at 6 p.m. on a Wednesday, and then having to do it again the next day at 6 p.m. It was difficult, and I had hit a wall. So instead of not writing songs, I wrote a song about feeling like I couldn't write one. Of course, people think it's about a guy.
It took time for "Human" to connect with radio - after 25 weeks, it finally reached the top 10 on the Adult Top 40 chart dated May 24. Did you ever lose faith in it as a single?
Nope. Slow and steady is how I roll. I made this analogy once that my songs are little babies, trying to go uphill in a snowstorm, and there's Kesha and Katy Perry on ski lifts in rad snow outfits, zooming up...but then, straight back down.
"Head or Heart" refers to not knowing which of your inner voices to follow. Are you indecisive?
I'm good at business decisions because I use my gut. That sounds gross - I can't have an album called "Gut," right? I'm Italian. Confident in business, but millions of difficulties in the love department.
That's ironic - thanks to Twilight, "A Thousand Years" has become a popular wedding song.
It's magical. I always say, "Thanks for inviting me to your wedding," because that's what it feels like.
You write so often about failed relationships. Do you ever worry what might happen if you meet a nice guy, settle down, have a few kids?
I do. But is that even possible for me? Hashtag forever alone? But all 27-year-old girls worry about that.
"Head or Heart" has upbeat moments - but your specialty is introspective ballads. Why?
Everyone needs a place to put their heavy stuff. If I wanted to write about getting drunk in a club, I could, but I tend to write about the heart. When people come to my shows, they have the freedom to feel something, and we're all just a big bowl of feels.
Does it drive you crazy that people pay so much attention to all of your tattoos?
Well, there's always a judgment that comes with it. But then they meet me. In real life, I'm such a dorky, happy person. I express myself in three ways: I talk a lot, I write songs and I get tattoos.