Katy Perry is halfway through her third album, the follow-up to “Teenage Dream,” which spawned five Hot 100 No. 1 singles. She has yet to feel any pressure.
“When I put myself on a timeline, when I tell the record company when I want to release the album, that’s when the race starts,” Perry said during a session Thursday at ASCAP’s I Create Music Expo. “That’s when I put pressure on myself.”
So far she has collaborated with many of the producers and songwriters behind “Teenage Dream,” among them Max Martin, Dr. Luke and Greg Wells.
Wells, she says, “allows me to vomit words. Not that I can’t find that with other but he just lets me [makes retching sound]. Max and Luke push me the most. As a team we have certain strengths. With Max, it’s melody choices, Luke is production and I’m topline and melody.”
She has also written new songs with Sia and continues to work with Bonnie McKee, her collaborator on “California Gurls” and “Teenage Dream.”
Working with Bonnie McKee "is like an emotional abuse session," she said. "Bonnie and I argue (like) we’re in the ring fighting for the best lyric. We presented ‘Teenage Dream’ three times (before it was recorded).”
At a recent session, Perry went in with a melody and verse to work with Greg Kurstin and McKee. “She came in from a yoga class and said, 'I want to write a song called 'Double Rainbow.'' So we have a song called ‘Double Rainbow.’”
Perry spent an hour taking questions from ASCAP executive VP, membership, Randy Grimmett, who had the singer-songwriter detail her career from her beginnings as a 13-year-old learning to play guitar to working in the Christian music world and then the ups and downs of her career prior to her chart success and arena tours.
She began many of her anecdotes with “want to hear something really depressing” – or words to that effect – to draw a complete picture of what she went through as struggling artist. She detailed negative and positive experiences working with Glen Ballard (pro) and the Matrix trio (con), Island Def Jam (bad) and Capitol (positive and improving with the new management team), and regularly reinforced the idea that she loves to collaborate with other writers.
A few other tidbits Perry said:
On the music and artists who have had the greatest influence on her, Perry rattled off Queen’s “Killer Queen,” the Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds,” Alanis Morissette’s “Jagged Little Pill,” No Doubt, Patty Griffin and Jonatha Brooke.
Dave Stewart, with whom she wrote “I’m Still Breathing,” was the first collaborator to give her the freedom to write whatever she wanted.
Once she goes on tour, she stops writing. “I don’t get into a studio when I’m touring.”
Her favorites that she saw at Coachella last weekend? Purity Ring, M83 and Sia.
Career highlight? “Firework,” she said, is “the most important song I’ve written.” Performing it with an autistic girl accompanying her on piano and vocal harmony at a fundraiser was “the most important performance of my career so far.”
She does not like the use of aliases by songwriters and producers. “I wouldn’t meet Dr. Luke for six months because I knew he wasn’t really a doctor. What’s wrong with your first and last name? Why do they have to be from outer space?”