Christina Perri remembers the exact moment the first song on her upcoming new album came to her. She had just performed the final show of her 36-date support tour with her friend and mentor Jason Mraz — a triumphant, emotional night at The Hollywood Bowl — and, after 63 days of touring, returned to a house in Los Angeles that her team had moved her into while she was on the road. “I get home to this new place, with all my stuff unpacked, and I had no idea what to do with myself,” she says. “I had been on the road for 27 months, doing nine back-to-back tours. I was like, ‘Well, clearly I can’t make another album because that was crazy. I can’t even imagine doing that again.’ I didn’t know who I was. Everything stopped.”
But on October 16th, 2012, inspiration struck, unleashing a flood of songs, including those that will appear on her as-yet-untitled album, which is due from Atlantic Records in Spring 2014. The first single is “Human” — a sweeping, uplifting ballad that Perri calls “the song of all songs for me.”
“We had already recorded the whole album,” she says. “This was just something I wrote to pull myself together after six hours in the studio at the end of the album-writing process when the label asked for one more song. I had written 70 songs and we had narrowed it down to 14. I didn’t think I could write anymore and I was just angry, which is really just a cover for fear and sadness, so eventually I started to cry and I didn’t really stop for hours. But out of that came the feeling, ‘I’m only human,’ and the rest just happened.”
“’Human’ is more specific than what I usually write, but it turned out to be the most relatable song on the album,” Perri says. “I don’t know one human being who hasn’t had this feeling of trying to forgive yourself when something you loved, worked hard for, and believed in completely falls apart and you have to try again. It’s about that moment where you recognize that you’re only human.”
Sonically, the modern, programmed sounds on “Human,” which was produced by Martin Johnson (Avril Lavigne, Gavin DeGraw), give listeners a hint of what’s to come on the album, which found Perri working with such producers as Jake Gosling (Ed Sheeran, One Direction), John Hill (P!nk, Mayer Hawthorne, Santigold), and Butch Walker (Taylor Swift, Panic! At The Disco). “I chose ’Human’ for the first single because it has new elements, but I believe in my heart that every single person who likes my music is going to like this as well,” she says. “I feel like it’s the best song to set up what people are going to hear on the album. It’s a delicate way of welcoming them into my 2.0.”
Perri 1.0 began in July 2010 when the then-24-year-old struggling songwriter and café manager was catapulted into the public eye with a defiant break-up anthem called “Jar of Hearts.” After it was featured on the TV show So You Think Can Dance, the song landed Perri a deal with Atlantic Records and went on to become a 3x-platinum smash. Her debut album, lovestrong., entered the Billboard album chart at No. 4 and earned the Philadelphia native a devoted fan following throughout North America, Australia, Asia, and Europe, where she toured throughout 2011 and 2012. Perri followed lovestrong. with the 4x-platinum hit single “A Thousand Years,” which was featured on the soundtrack to The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 and 2.
Other highlights of her journey over the past three years include singing “Jar of Hearts” every night on the road. “The whole audience sings and it’s beyond comprehension how special that feels, like the song isn’t really mine now, they have ownership of it, too,” she says. Then there are the Tweets and videos she receives of couples getting married to “A Thousand Years.” She was able to meet one bride and groom who tied the knot to the song when she was staying at the same hotel while on vacation. “There was a wedding every day at six and I just happened to be watching from the balcony,” she recalls. “Everyone stood up when the bride appeared and all I heard was the opening lines to the song. I asked to meet them afterward to thank them for that moment they just gave me. The bride came running out and she’s like, ‘I picked your song before I picked him!’” Another unforgettable experience was meeting her idol Paul McCartney at a recording studio in Hollywood. “I didn’t know it but we were sharing a bathroom,” she says. “I’m in there and I hear someone singing, ‘When I find myself in times of trouble.’ I didn’t know you could pee and cry at the same time.”
But perhaps the most meaningful gift of all was touring with Mraz. “I think I have a manifesting problem because I dreamed that up when I was 17,” she says. “I wrote him letters; thank god I never sent them, and imagined meeting him a million and a half times, but to duet with him on ‘Distance,’ tour with him, and be his friend is, like, next level. My whole band would come out during his encore and sing ‘I Won’t Give Up’ with him and his band. That four minutes onstage every night is something I will never, ever forget.”
Perri is looking to make more memories when she releases her new album next year. “It’s the most connected I’ve ever felt to anything I’ve made in my life,” she says. “I know what these songs have done for me while I was writing them. Each had a huge part in helping me continue on in my life and feel better. I hope that a girl in Oklahoma listens to ‘Human’ and forgives herself for something.”
In July 2010, a struggling singer-songwriter and musician named Christina Perri had a life-changing moment when she was asked to perform a song she had written, a defiant break-up anthem called “Jar of Hearts,” on the Fox show So You Think You Can Dance. The raw, emotional quality of her performance connected with viewers and catapulted the 24-year-old Philadelphia native into the public eye. “Jar of Hearts” went on to sell a million downloads and land Perri, who was then supporting herself as a café manager in Beverly Hills, a deal with Atlantic Records.
“Jar of Hearts” is just one of 12 brutally honest gems that Perri unveils on her debut album lovestrong., a title she says reflects how her heart feels today. “I looked at the album as a whole piece and the two themes that stood out were love and strength,” she says. “It really titled itself. Writing about love is just who I am. I’ve tried to write about other things, but ultimately this is what comes out of me.”
Perri lays herself bare on lovestrong., using her soaring, bittersweet voice and expressive piano playing to sketch out her stories. Some, like “Penguin” and “Arms,” are happy and hopeful, some, like “Bang Bang Bang” and “Mine,” are fun and playful, and others, like “The Lonely” and “Jar of Hearts,” are downright wrenching. The common thread? “They’re all songs I felt I needed to give away,” she says. “I have been writing songs since I was 15, so I reached into my arsenal and picked the ones I felt others should hear. My intention for my music is pretty simple: I want to make people feel less broken and alone.”
Perri sets lovestrong.’s hopeful tone with the second single “Arms,” a towering acoustic-guitar driven tune that builds to an urgent crescendo as its tale of the fight between the heart and the mind unfolds. “Your heart wants to be loved, but your head is telling you that you shouldn’t be with that person,” Perri says. “The song is about that struggle and finally giving in and letting love win.”
It didn’t really register how emotionally raw the album was going to be until Perri’s 20th day in the recording studio. “In the vocal booth, I had to go back to the place and time that made me feel so vulnerable and rip open old wounds to sing each song, sometimes two songs in a day,” she says. “Emotionally, it was the hardest 33 days of my life, but it was worth it because the result is that this album is 100 percent me. It’s heartfelt, real, bold, honest, vulnerable, hopeful, strong, poetic, bluesy, gritty, pretty, and simple.”
Produced by Joe Chiccareli (White Stripes, Tori Amos) and mixed by Michael Brauer (Coldplay, Regina Spektor), lovestrong. boasts a bold creative vision that is very much in keeping with Perri’s spirited personality. A petite, tattooed ball of energy with an engaging smile, she has always embraced life to the fullest. Her adventures have included touring the world as an assistant to a rock band, spending a year at a prestigious university, producing popular music videos, making olive oil in Italy, and even serving as a fashionista barrista in Beverly Hills.
On June 30th, 2010, Perri got word that “Jar of Hearts” was going to air on So You Think You Can Dance as a backdrop to a memorable piece choreographed by Stacey Tookey. Viewers began downloading the song from iTunes in droves, sending “Jar of Hearts” into the Top 10 on the iTunes Pop chart and into the Top 15 on the Overall chart overnight. Impressed, SYTYCD’s producers invited Perri to play the song live on the show two weeks later. After Perri performed the song on July 15th, “Jar of Hearts” landed at No. 25 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, at No. 1 on Amazon’s digital singles chart, and sold 200,000 downloads in three weeks. “While all of this was happening, I barely slept,” Perri says, “because I was afraid it was just a dream; that I’d wake up and none of it would be real. One minute I didn’t exist in the music world and the next minute I did.”
Perri had actually been preparing for her big moment since she was a child. The daughter of hairdressers (whom she describes as “not musical, though my mom can whistle in many octaves”), Perri first sang in public at her Holy Communion at age six. Piano lessons began at age 8, but her piano teacher “fired” her (as she puts it), because “I would change the endings to the songs when I didn’t like the way they were written.” Eventually, Perri picked up a guitar and taught herself to play. She was in London working as a gofer for her brother’s band Silvertide when she got word that she had been accepted to Philadelphia’s prestigious University of the Arts with a sizeable scholarship. She attended for a year, but took a leave of absence to visit her father’s extensive family in Italy. “I was 19 and I needed to soul search,” she says. “I was still writing music, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life.”
Still searching, Perri moved to Los Angeles with a suitcase and a guitar and recommitted herself to being a singer and a songwriter. She posted YouTube videos of herself performing her own songs, as well as covers, and shared her struggles in her uniquely humorous way. A video of one of her original compositions, “Tragedy” (which is included on lovestrong.), caught the attention of Bill Silva Management, who signed on to represent her. And so began Perri’s charmed odyssey. She will hit the road for spring tour with James Blunt as she awaits the May 10th release of lovestrong.
“Every day something happens that blows my mind,” she says. “Being able to wake up and play music is more than I’ve ever dreamed my life could be. I’m looking forward to sharing my experiences, my hope, my strength, my guts, and my heart with the world.”