Photograph by Danny Clinch for RollingStone.com Ladies and gentlemen, the…
- Posted on Mar 30th 2011 2:00PM by Contessa Gayles
Gino DePinto, AOL
Tuning her guitar with an iPhone app and strumming between the Q&A, the 21-year-old Louisiana native discussed her latest album, 'Masquerade,' childhood dreams of diva-dom, playing gigs with Lady Gaga back when she was Stefani Germanotta and her fantasy of rocking out onstage with Prince.
How did you get started in music?
I can't remember a time when music wasn't a huge part of my life. I was singing as soon as I could talk and annoying my mom in the grocery store. I grew up in the diva age of Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey, so I was like, "I'm going to be a diva!" Then I started playing guitar and writing songs and it's been a long process since then.
Where did you grow up?
I'm originally from south Louisiana, but I've kind of been all over the place. I went to high school in Philly and I moved to New York when I was 17. I've been in L.A. for the past three years and now I'm here [New York City].
Music took you to Los Angeles, right?
Yes. I signed a publishing deal with Universal and the division I was signed with is based out there. They asked me to come out and write with people, so I did.
Gino DePinto, AOL
I had. Before I signed the publishing deal, I started writing with this guy Rob Fusari. He's a big writer and producer now. At the time, he had written 'Bootylicious' and he was working with a friend of mine, who I guess everyone knows now as Lady Gaga. He was like, "I'm working with this girl that you know." We started writing a ton of songs together and we wrote with different people. That was the first time I had done anything like that. After that, I signed a production deal and worked with more people and more people.
I wrote with so many people, but for this album I wanted to go back to writing alone. Pretty much all the songs on my latest record I wrote by myself. It's an interesting thing -- it's a totally different perspective to go from writing with all these different writers and then doing it yourself again.
How did you get to know Lady Gaga?
I knew her from New York. We played shows together at the Bitter End back in the day -- we were both little babies.
Was writing 'Masquerade' on your own liberating?
Yes, because I had pretty much done solely co-writing for a couple of years at that point. I would have writer's block, but then I was like, "Oh! I can totally do this myself. I don't need to be in a room with somebody else." I still do it. I love to co-write and I think there's a ton of value in it, but it was a cool, validating thing for me to be like, "These are actually my best songs and I wrote them myself." And I was real sad [during the writing]. It's embarrassing when you're real sad and you're like, "I just have so many feelings!"
What kind of sound are you going for with this album?
That's always a hard thing to say. It's kind of an indie-pop thing, if you will, but I want to write songs that are honest and authentic. I think it all comes from the song. My producer Dan Romer and I, we came together and had a similar vision. This album is what I've always wanted to do but have never been able to realize before.
Gino DePinto, AOL
That's another hard one because there are so many different artists. Anyone that I listen to and that I love is going to be an influence. That's like 1,000 things. I try to not make music that is derivative like, "I'm taking this influence and I'm going to do this." I try to absorb everything and hopefully it comes out in a cool way.
What is your process for composing your music?
It feels foreign to me to make songs with a beat on a computer. I write on acoustic guitar, piano or ukulele. It feels better to play something while I'm writing. It feels like the most natural thing to do.
You are currently a Top Eight finalist in a competition to be on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. How did Rolling Stone catch wind of your music?
An A&R person from Atlantic who's a partner in the contest found me. Dan Romer, who produced my record, knew this A&R guy and said, "Listen to this record," and the guy loved it. I got a frantic phone call like, "You have to enter this contest!" I was like, "OK!"
Are you feeling any pressure?
I'm very excited about all the things that have been happening. We've been having a blast. The week before I went to SXSW we had photo shoots and a showcase and we were recording songs. I thought, "I should feel more nervous than I do," but I'm just doing this and I'm here.
Have you checked out your competition for the contest?
Yeah, everybody has a unique thing that they're doing and they're all great.
Gino DePinto, AOL
No, but I assume its going to look like a Rolling Stone cover! No, we haven't shot it yet. I don't know, maybe my face on Snookie's body!
You did a cover of Beyonce's 'Single Ladies.' What other contemporary artists are you listening to?
Beyonce is amazing and she's a great talent. I just got to see Janelle Monae at SXSW and it was actually the Rolling Stone show, and it changed my life. It was one of the best things any of us had ever seen. I feel like she's an alien from another planet. She's insane in the best way ever. I really like the band Dawes and Arcade Fire. I just got the new Lykke Li record and that was really great. I'm a big fan of Laura Veirs.
You wrote your new album solo, but do you have a list of people you'd love to collaborate with?
I don't have any such list, but I feel like the craziest thing that could happen would be to play a show with Prince. That would be the most insane thing. I could die after that.
Do you perform with a full band?
I do. I definitely prefer to play with a band. I like to rock. I like to play loud rock music. It's fun.
What's the significance of you face-paint look?
My album is called 'Masquerade' and I wanted to have some sort of visual element to represent that when I played live and when I did photo shoots.
You have a really cool video for 'Satellite.' How did that come about?
It was filmed in L.A. and directed by Molly Green and James Leffler, who are people on a budget doing great stuff. Have you seen the 'Take Away Shows'? It's a French company that does these incredible, live, interestingly shot videos. We did a live video for every song on the record, either me walking down the street or me playing in weird lighting. We did one where there are all these forks and knives hanging around my head, and all this fun stuff.