Not just anyone’s music makes Paul McCartney dance.
Lindsay Pagano begins her story slowly, obviously relishing the drama of reliving the moment: “I was working on a song, and here comes this familiar accent from the back of the studio,” she says. “‘So I hear you’re going to be a star,’ he said. I turned around, and there he was.”
McCartney, who had been working in a studio across the hall, then asked to hear some music. “We put on this song I’d recorded called ‘Romeo,'” Pagano recalls, “and he just started dancing ’round and ’round.” She adds, leaning in slightly and smiling, “I want you to know that we all kept our cool — at least until he left.” Pretty professional behavior for a 13-year-old, albeit one recording her debut album — “Love & Faith & Inspiration,” due Sept. 4 from Warner Bros.
Now 15, the Philadelphia native seems to have charmed all the right people. The album’s producer/arranger/songwriter, Jude Cole — himself an established artist with a new album out — says he was considering touring when he heard the young artist for the first time. “I stopped in my tracks,” he says. “Lindsay has this soulful tone and perfect pitch — a real gift.”
Pagano’s first single — the gleeful but acoustically grounded “Everything U R” — will be serviced to top-40 radio Aug. 14, with a commercial single hitting retail a week earlier. With new albums from fellow teens Jessica Simpson and Mandy Moore flexing chart muscle, it seems the timing couldn’t be better for another promising pop princess. Still, Cole cautions, “I think Lindsay was born to sing at any time — if it were 1992 and we were at the height of grunge, she’d still be coming out with a record.”
Gary Briggs, Warner Bros. VP of artist relations/creative marketing, says, “It’s not female pop singers that have been overexposed — it’s a certain production style.”
The 11 tracks of “Love & Faith & Inspiration” coalesce in intriguing fashion: Although the melodies have a contemporary pop coating that will appeal to Pagano’s demographic, her vocals resonate with pew-inspired spirit, while Cole’s production adds a musical nuance — a hint of Motown or an acoustic guitar — to the mix.
“All of my influences are there — a little rock, urban undertones, a touch of pop,” Pagano says. The singer’s parents played in a cover band, exposing their daughter to artists ranging from Aretha Franklin and Etta James to the Jackson 5 and Aerosmith.
Despite the album’s often-playful themes of teenage discovery, most of the songs were penned by the 40-year-old Cole. “We would talk on the phone about the songs he was writing,” Pagano says, “and he was always interested in my viewpoint.”
“You’re Number One With a Bullet” meshes a ’70s-inspired bubble-gum lyric with a spray of toy flute and playful synth sounds, as well as a sky-tickling vocal from Pagano. “Romeo” — McCartney’s favorite — is more attitude-laden, while “Cryin’ Shame” and “Amazing High” suggest old-school R&B jams.
There’s also a tribute to McCartney, a remake of his 1984 solo hit “So Bad.” Pagano’s new friend even joined in on ad-libbed vocals. “In the world of pop, Paul McCartney is a biblical figure,” Cole says. “And he saw the potential in Lindsay. It was a magical story.”
“Everything U R” is being considered as the theme song to an upcoming show on the WB TV network, and AOL will feature the song’s lyric (“All I need is everything you are”) in an Internet campaign. Pagano will also hit the road on a promotional radio tour, and CD samplers consisting of several songs on the album will be distributed at concerts by the likes of ‘N Sync.
In all these efforts, those behind the singer hope that the message gets across that she’s not just another cookie-cutter teen queen. Cole says, “She displays the feeling behind her voice, not just gymnastics, and has a tone that separates her from anyone I’ve worked with — including myself.”
Pagano also hopes that her music will click with the public: “This is the only thing I can imagine doing. If not this, I’d probably be asking people if they wanted fries with their burger.”