Jelen Breaks Free With Linda Perry

Having parted company with Maverick after his 2004 debut, "Give It All Away," singer/songwriter Ben Jelen has teamed with in-demand songwriter/producer Linda Perry for a new album, dubbed "East."

Having parted company with Maverick after his 2004 debut, "Give It All Away," singer/songwriter Ben Jelen has teamed with in-demand songwriter/producer Linda Perry for a new album, dubbed "East." No release date or label has yet been decided for the project.

Jelen, who signed to Maverick when he was only 22, cold-called Perry to see if she would produce his sophomore set. "He was very persistent and kept calling me and my manager," Perry tells Billboard.com of her first impression of Jelen. "He sounded like a girl. It was all polished-sounding, coming from this pretty boy -- this scruffy dirty stoner-looking guy."

But it didn't take long for Perry to change her mind. She agreed to work with the artist after he played some songs for her. "All of a sudden, all these quirky unpolished songs came out of him. It was like, 'Oh my God, if I've ever missed a case in judging a personality, this is it,'" Perry says. "He came out and had some barbecue with me and some friends that same day and then suddenly I'm like, 'Ben, its time for us to go record now.'"

Jelen admits he was not happy with his debut, and that his "only requirement for my next record would be to have only a single producer instead of a collection of them. Linda just had this cool vibe in the studio -- she pushed me to do things that I'd never done before on record."

The 11-track "East" was further informed by the fact that during its creation, both Perry's father and Jelen's young sister passed away. "You can feel this connection between us, that we're both going through this horrible heartache," Perry says. "And in the middle of all that, it created something magical on tape."

Jelen says he felt pressure to be "an MTV star" during his Maverick tenure. "I'm excited to find a place where they sign you based on the music you make and not based on the way you look," the photogenic songwriter says. "So now I feel really freed from all that pressure. I can't wait to play more shows [and] to get out as my own person again."

The artist is in the midst of planning a short tour for the spring. While Perry will not join him on the road, she hopes "East" will speak volumes for their collaboration.

"Ben is going to be big. If he doesn't sell a million records, so be it," Perry says. "My involvement with him will not stop until everybody knows who he is."