Say hello to Katy Perry. She’s young and sassy, and she freely admits to being a boy-crazy clotheshorse with an appetite for all things girly. Then why is it, you may ask, that this zany Santa Barbara native decided to title her debut album (out Tuesday, June 17) One of the Boys? Well, that’s because Perry has mastered the art of playing both sides-guys love her, girls want to be her, and the fact that she’s exploding on the Billboard charts proves that it’s all working. Currently, the first single off the album (a follow-up to last year’s “UR So Gay,” from Perry’s earlier EP), “I Kissed a Girl” has reached the top five and been put in heavy rotation by basic cable monolith VH-1. More importantly, “I Kissed a Girl” has been stuck in the heads of nearly all Independent staffers who have heard its infectious hook, catchy bass line, and brazenly cheeky subject matter. (Sample lyric: “I kissed a girl just to try it / I hope my boyfriend don’t mind it”-all sung in a sexy-sweet voice that calls to mind both Gwen Stefani and Ashlee Simpson.)
Not necessarily what you’d expect from a girl who spent most of her school years at Santa Barbara Christian and was raised by two traveling pastors. Next up for this bubbly enigma are two months on the Vans Warped Tour, where she’ll be traveling cross-country in the company of big name punk rock acts like Rise Against, The Horrorpops, The Vandals, and Pennywise.
“I’m excited and scared,” Perry confessed about the tour. “The ratio of guys to girls is insane. I’m like trying to bring on as many girls as possible to the Warped Tour just so that I can have someone to lean on-and someone to crush on other guys with.” And with a self-described weakness for rocker guys who steal her jeans, borrow her eyeliner, and are emotional messes, one wonders if Perry will make it through the first week on the road.
“Ummmmm: It’s going to be a lot of self-control and keeping my eye on the prize,” she laughed. “But I have a boy that’s going to be on the tour [and] I think we really like each other, so we’ll see how that works.” Said “boy” is none other than Gym Class Heroes frontman Travis McCoy. Perry refused to acknowledge McCoy as her boyfriend by name, but she did state ever so coyly, that “it’s all over the fuckin’ Internet, so it doesn’t matter.”
Between her hit single and her gossip-fueling relationship, it seems Perry has already reached full-blown pop star status. But the Santa Barbara-raised youngster asserts that her road to fame has not been easy. Prior to recording and releasing One of the Boys, Perry was just another pretty girl struggling to make it in the industry. In fact, back in 2004, a then just 20-year-old Perry was poised to explode onto the mainstream. She was working with such notables as Glen Ballard (Alanis Morisette, Christina Aguilera, Dave Matthews) and writing team The Matrix (Avril Lavigne, Liz Phair). Blender magazine named her “The Next Big Thing” in their October 2004 issue, and she had songs recorded and ready for her debut album. But label deals fell through, and eventually the project was scrapped completely. In fact, it wasn’t until just last year, when Capitol Music head of state and Virgin Records CEO Jason Flom spotted Perry, that she scored her current record deal.
“It’s been super up-and-down,” she said of her career thus far. “It’s been five years in the making, [and] it’s been so the emotional rollercoaster as far as the hold I was going to have. This happened, that happened, and it never happened. My friends thought I was crazy. And then finally, just since fall, stuff has started to line up, and my friends don’t think it’s crazy anymore.”
The struggle is a common one, but it has also made Perry a lot more grateful for the way things are shaping up now. In conversation, the singer is simultaneously humbled and gleeful about everything going on around her. She even cops to kind of loosing her cool upon first hearing herself on the air.
“I was on my way, running an errand in Hollywood, and I turn on my radio and I heard them play the Catch of the Day on KROQ,” she recalled giddily. “And it was a song from my EP [called] “UR So Gay.” I literally almost ran into the center divider. I was like, ‘Not only am I hearing my song for the first time, but I’m hearing my song on KROQ,’ which is so cool. And I just heard that KJEE added the song, too, and I’m like, ‘Yeah, hometown hero, let’s go!’”
With her parents recently relocated to San Diego and a sister still living in S.B., Perry herself is firmly rooted in the West Coast music hub of Los Angeles. But the L.A. connection certainly doesn’t mean she won’t still lay claim to her hometown roots. Over the course of our interview, Perry fondly recollected such now defunct Santa Barbara music venues as the Living Room (where Perry held her 13th birthday party) and the Coach House, where she’s pretty sure she snuck in before she was legal. “[I’m] like a rainbow from Santa Barbara,” she laughed. “Santa Barbara is my ‘hood. I mean, it’s not much of a ‘hood, but it is definitely like my ‘hood. I claim Santa Barbara like I claim my family-I’m going to be married and buried there.”
And as for what Mom and Dad think of their daughter’s now very public musical confessions of girl-on-girl make outs-and her recent interview with Penthouse magazine-Perry asserts that all is well on the home front.
“My parents are cool. They’re just happy I’m not strung out or posing naked:” she explained. “As far as that kind of press, I always used to think I never wanted to do that type of thing-and I haven’t done it-but every one of those magazines has a music section. They just took stock photos that everybody’s using and asked for an interview. : It’s kind of like, I don’t think I’d ever pose on the front cover for any of those magazines, but my content is always in those type of magazines, whether I like it or not, because the world is talking about it.”
And with all the hype surrounding Perry’s persona, and a number of critics panning the life out of her brazenly cheeky-and super-produced-debut, one has to wonder how much of One of the Boys is actually Perry, and how much of it is simply the music biz trying to cash in on a pretty face and a big personality.
“There are all kinds of different shades [to the album],” she explained. “Honestly, it’s like a ‘Dear diary,’ and there are 12 chapters, and it’s not just about one thing. And the thing of it is-I hope that people will realize that it’s not one of those records where I went for two singles and then I put in a bunch of bad filler tracks. I worked my hardest on every song and picked the best 12 songs out of 65 songs that I wrote for this record over five years. So much blood, sweat, and tears have gone into it, and I’m definitely okay with people having their own opinion, whatever it is.”