Alternative rock sweetheart Christina Perri is hitting the road to promote her latest album, Head or Heart, which was released to rave reviews earlier this week. We chatted with the tattooed babe about trusting her gut and about what’s keeping her from picking up her guitar to start on her third album.
Playboy.com: It must feel so surreal that your album Head or Heart is finally out!
Perri: Definitely, but at the same time I’m on tour so it almost feels like, “Oh right, that came out!” It took me a year and 78 days to make that album so I heard it for that long, but the fact that the whole world is just hearing it now is what’s crazy for me.
Playboy.com: You said you were touring right now. Were you able to add most of the songs to the set list?
Perri: I sure wanted to add them all—I love this album so much it’s terrifying. I wanted to put all of the songs on our set list, but obviously I still had to play some music from the first record, too, because this tour is sort of a bridge. I had nine tours with my first album, Lovestrong, so by the end of this one I’ll be playing more from the new album. But for now some of the audience won’t even have heard the new album yet, so I think I did a very good, delicate mix of the two.
Playboy.com: I just had a chance to listen to it today and it is really wonderful. Putting so much passion and intimacy into your album and then having such a strong response from your audience must feel pretty great.
Perri: Thank you, it does. It feels even more wonderful than people might think. What I recall the most about recording this album is the way I had to trust my gut. I find it so funny that the album is called Head or Heart, because in matters of love I’ll always have an issue with trusting my head or my heart, but when it comes to my career I have no issues with trusting my stomach. I’m the only one standing there making these choices, so I did a lot of crying and being unsure and then just going for it! I think the coolest part is that all of the really emotional, scary bits that I went through in the past year or so feel worth it because people liked the result in my music. It feels a little bit like, “Oh good, I’m glad I drank so many chocolate milkshakes and cried myself to sleep.” It was worth it!
Playboy.com: For those who haven’t had a chance to hear it yet, can you explain the differences between your first and second albums?
Perri: I’d say they’re a little different in every way because I’m three years older than I was when I recorded my first album. I think my songwriting definitely got better—that’s my opinion. [laughs] But dynamically, I think I got better at a little bit of everything. Lovestrong was a breakup album for sure, but this album is more than one particular dynamic. It’s me falling in love, being in love, songs about trying to exist on this planet, one song I’ve written to the younger version of me, moving to L.A. from my hometown and the courage that took… Lovestrong was all real instruments and that alone makes it sound different from Head or Heart. The sonics and music for Head or Heart are all next level, too, because I wasn’t afraid to use programming and all that stuff to make it sound really big. I wanted to put it in my car and turn it all the way up!
Playboy.com: We were just listening to your old album and you can hear that confidence you speak of in your voice and how it carries.
Perri: Well, my voice is totally different, I had vocal cord surgery! They’re brand new pipes! I had a nodule on my vocal cord, and now it’s a whole new voice. I’m singing every background vocal on album two and I wasn’t on one, so it’s way different.
Playboy.com: In your “Human” music video you had to cover all of your tattoos. That must’ve been so strange to see yourself in the mirror without them.
Perri: It was absolutely ridiculous. I couldn’t believe it. It took about four hours to cover my tattoos since I have about 70. Anytime I’d walk by a mirror I just couldn’t recognize myself. I look so young without them and to me, when I see the video, I look so naked. More naked than actually being naked, if that makes any sense.
Playboy.com: Definitely. Seventy tattoos they tell such a story, so being rid of all of them must’ve been a weird experience.
Perri: It was, but it was awesome. I remember that I had this funny feeling at the end of the day—I was so uncomfortable and wanted the makeup to come off. Before doing the shoot I was kind of praying that I’d have that feeling, so it was good to think, “I think I sort of like myself tattooed!” [laughs] Realizing that I would get every single one again felt pretty cool.
Playboy.com: A few months ago you had the chance to partner with the nonprofit organization To Write Love on Her Arms, a group that helps those with issues like addiction, depression, self-injury and suicide. Why was that partnership important to you?
Perri: Out of all the awesome charities that I’ve had the chance to work with and learn about, I really felt kindred to this one. It is the organization that I wish I knew about when I was 15. As a female Leo, I’m Italian, I’m a songwriter, I am incredibly emotional. At 15 years old I was so emotional and I didn’t know that there were other people out there like me. What I love about To Write Love on Her Arms is the fact that it’s not focused on just getting help like most charities, but it’s a community of people where you can be honest. Sometimes at 15 you don’t want to tell your parents what’s going on, or you don’t want to tell your friends. If you know like-minded people exist in your town you can find friends like you so you don’t feel so alone. That ultimately doesn’t lead you to crying and making sad songs—i.e. me—so I definitely love this charity and I continue to work with them. I wrote the last song of my album, “I Believe,” for the event I worked on with them and I wrote it to a younger version of me, too. It’s all affirmations. I like being connected with emotional kids because I can understand where they’re coming from.
Playboy.com: You wrote this album a while ago. Are you working on anything new now or are you just concentrating on touring?
Perri: Oh my God, girl, I can’t even think about it! I have guitars on my bus and I just keep looking at them thinking, “Nuh-uh, nope!” I am just so tired. I usually write songs when I’m either at an emotional 11 or zero, and I’m not really hitting those highs and lows right now because everything is going so well. I don’t have a boyfriend who’s driving me mad, I don’t have someone I’m running after that’s making me go insane, I don’t have anything I’m upset about because I’m just working all day long. It’ll come, believe me! But I don’t know how to write when I’m not emotional. But it makes sense because I’m also exhausted. If I have a free moment I’m napping! [laughs] I’m not that fun right now.
Playboy.com: What’s your...
Favorite food: Cheeseburgers.
Favorite Drink: Coffee.
Embarrassing Moment: When I was onstage one time, I thought my guitar strap fell off so I lifted my leg up like a flamingo to rest my guitar on and I played the entire set like a flamingo. No one could figure out what I was doing and they were looking at me so strangely but all that really had happened was I had stood up and the guitar strap was just falling back in place. I was in Paris and just mortified. I kept thinking about how ridiculous I looked. And in fact, everyone got it on video and I was right! I did look ridiculous. My tech even came out to check on me and was so confused.
First memory of Playboy: My dad is a barber in Philly and he and my mom work together. There was a separate men’s and women’s section. So when I had my first job there, washing hair, my dad had a stack of Playboy Magazines in his room, and when he wasn’t looking I’d sneak one away to read it in the bathroom.