P!nk, Billboard's Woman of the Year honoree, highlights 'a positive, enormous and wonderful' 2013.
I was speaking recently with Ryan Tedder about you, and he said that you've "quietly become the biggest pop star in the world." Why do you think that is?
Isn't that funny? "Quietly." Because I keep my head to the dirt and I just f*cking pound the pavement. And I'm in a stable of show horses, of prized ponies, and I learn from the best. You can't compare anybody to the Tina Turners and the Chers and the Sades and the Janet Jacksons—yet. And to me, they're touring artists, they're lifelong legendary touring artists. Bette Midler—these are my gods. I'm not after having a radio hit, I'm after making people cry in concert.
But you had a radio hit with "Just Give Me a Reason," which is arguably your biggest hit yet. What did that feel like?
It felt awesome, because I wrote that song, I fought for that song, I fought to have Nate do that song, I fought for the entire thing. And it took many, many months to make that song happen. And I just didn't give up. When I f*cking want something I go after it.
Where was the pushback?
Everywhere. Nate wasn't sure that he wanted to be on a collaboration with a pop star. Their label is an independent label, they weren't sure. And I just kept telling them—well, I kind of tricked him into doing it, because we wrote the first verse the first day and basically the chorus, and then I went home and I was looking over the lyrics and thinking about the song, and it was never supposed to be a collaboration. We were just collaborating as writing partners. But I was like, "This song is a conversation between lovers." And he had to do it because he's my favorite voice right now, aside from probably Adele.
I went back in and wrote the second verse and I sort of pitched the song. And he was like, "Yeah, I don't know how my band's going to feel about it." And I was like, "Yeah, I get it. I wouldn't want to be on a song with a pop star either. But you can't deny that it's a conversation—you just put the vocals down as the scratch vocal and I'll get Gotye to sing it." And I knew that was a huge dig. And [so] he sang it and I knew, no matter what he said, no one was going to sing it better. It just took many, many months of convincing.
I'm used to that, though. People want to hang out with me, but I don't know how to explain it. I have a lot of singer/songwriter friends at barbecues and they'll always be the ones who get asked to sing a song. I'm never going to be asked to sing a song, because I'm a pop star. So I'm used to being shit on. I'm used to being the underdog. I'm used to being looked at as a corporation. And it's not until people hear me sing at that barbecue, or see [things like the Woman of the Year honor]. It's like every year I'm constantly having to reprove myself. I'm not complaining—it keeps me motivated. But it is sometimes a total, huge pain in the ass.
[Electro rapper] Peaches, she's like, "Why would I do a song with you?" I'm like, "Because I'm f*cking awesome. Just say yes!" And she's like, "OK . . ."
[It] took convincing. Steven Tyler [didn't] take convincing. Linda [Perry] didn't take convincing. But the rest of them all took convincing.
What's a typical songwriting session like for you?
It varies because I'm as good as my collaborator and I don't play music. Usually with a Billy [Mann] or a Butch, we'll come in and they'll tinker around on the piano or guitar until we hear something we like and we'll just go. "Crystal Ball" was one of my favorite sessions with Billy because we were just sitting there playing, and he's my brother so I can be like, "That sucks. Uh, don't go there." I can be really honest with him. I'll just start singing and it's just like poetry in motion, I guess. And five minutes later, 20 minutes later, I put the vocal down. There's a lot of wine involved, usually. Unless it's daytime.
Greg Kurstin comes with these brilliant tracks, crazy tracks—these musical compositions. And he's so f*cking brilliant that everything he plays you, you want to throw up in your mouth. "Blow Me [One Last Kiss]" was the first track he played me and I was like, "Stop." "You don't want to hear the rest?" "No." Next day, he played another one. "Stop." "You don't want to hear the rest?" "No." Day by day by day. "Blow Me" was first, and then it was either "Walk of Shame" or "Try" last, because I didn't actually write "Try." Every day it was different because he's so good. And he's so witty and funny and awesome and lovely. I'm so lucky with the people I get to work with.
And touring—what's a typical day on the road?
Typical day is wake up, Papa takes Willow to breakfast, then we go to the park. It's basically all about Willow. I go to the gym. Then we play for a little while, then we go to yoga and Willow comes. We do family yoga here with the dancers and some of the band and some of the crew here. And then we do sound check and then we eat. Then I do hair, I get my makeup done. Then I do my vocal warmups, I do my physi warmup, I do my prayer with the band and crew and then we go onstage. Then we get on the bus, go to sleep. Willow gets a bed, I go to the bunk. Then we wake up and do it all over again.
What are some causes that are important to you?
No Kid Hungry is kind of my No. 1 right now. In the last year or so I've gotten involved with them. I just watched [the documentary on hunger in America] "A Place at the Table" last night. Tom Colicchio is one of the executive producers of it. He's the host of "Top Chef" and also the chef of Craft restaurants. I cried the whole way through it. They basically work to bring meals through schools in America because one in four children are hungry in this country. Which is crazy to me.
Animal rights is always a big one, but that's more of a lifestyle than a cause. And anything women and children. Lately I've been going on Twitter and seeing individuals that need help and sort of anonymously helping. There's something wonderful about doing that and not telling anybody. And not telling the people that you're helping where it's coming from. It's so fun. They'll tweet something, or someone else will tweet it, and I'll just find it. It's really cool.
There was one kid, Calvin in Australia—it's like my favorite thing that's happened this whole year on tour. While I'm doing vocal warmups, I'm reading my "@s" on Twitter, because vocal warmups are incredibly boring. And there was this mom that wrote to me [on Twitter], "My son Calvin is 11. Down's syndrome, just beat cancer. We're here tonight, your music got him through chemo."
She didn't know that I'd seen this, so during the show I get into my harness for "So What," and I fly out and I know that I stop right over the wheelchair section. That's my first stop—of 50. So I'm thinking, "Well, he's probably in a wheelchair. He's probably out there." So I yell, "I'm coming for you, Calvin!" I go out and I stopped, and the mom stands up, and starts pointing at her son, and he's like "Ah!" I literally get chills. She's bawling, I start bawling.
I was walking on air, literally and figuratively, because I was flying. It was the most wonderful, heartwarming moment that I've had in so long, outside of my own daughter. That was awesome, and I guess the radio picked up on it and they gave him more tickets to more shows. That was just so cool.
Is 2014 a blank slate right now?
No, 2014 is Carey's Supercross. 2013 was my year where he came with me while I toured, so next year is when I go with him. Road mama.
Does that involve as much touring?
The Supercross season is super gnarly. And it's not pampered like my life. So when you see me at a Supercross you know that I love my husband. When you don't see me you know that I don't. It's every weekend for more than half the year—it's gnarly. And he flies, like, Southwest, which is bullshit. [laughs] I'm like, "Wait, can we get a tour bus on the budget?"
So you're looking forward to that?
Well, Willow will start a little toddler program, and I'll cook a lot. We'll have fun. She's two-and-a-half now. It's nuts. She's so much fun. She has made everyone very happy this year—the whole crew. She's with Chef Robbie right now. They're best friends and they fight like brother and sister. He says the most inappropriate shit around her, I want to smack him across the face. But then he cooks me the best salmon and I've totally forgiven him. It's really fun, the relationships she's formed. It's cute.
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What other ways has she shaped you?
I don't even know what to say about that. She just changed everything. I didn't used to think about ever stopping. And now I'm like, "I can't wait to find her school. What's she going to be like when she's 8? How many Xanax am I going to be on? I hope I'm making that wine by then so it's free." [laughs] But she's wonderful. It's really awesome.
Do you want to have a brood?
I do. I could just as easily have her. We could travel the world together forever. But my brother is everything to me. So I want her to have family beyond her Papa and me. For that reason, I mostly want another one for her to have a lifelong friend.
I have a stepbrother and a stepsister, but they're much older. And Carey was an only child for 12 years and then his brother came when he was 12, and he died several years ago. Family is the most important thing. And my best friend Grant has, like, four brothers and sisters. I love it—it's like holidays, the chaos, the f*cking fighting, the mom always having a kid around. For sure. I want to adopt, I want to have more—just, yes. [laughs]
The last time we spoke, you said that this tour was you facing your fear of heights, and you like to tackle some of your biggest fears head-on. So what's the next fear you'd like to face?
God, I don't know. I'm really tired. [laughs] I don't want to do anything about my fear of sharks—I'm going to leave that one. I don't know that I have any more fears, really. I'm not afraid of getting older. I'm not afraid of stopping "P!nk." I'm not afraid of being a mom anymore. So I don't know. I'm at a place where I'm just living, fully living, and I know who my friends are and I love them. And the future looks bright. It's very exciting. I'd like my husband to not be in pain anymore, and that's it. I'm actually quite boring.