10:16 AM, Thursday, 9/10/2020 By: Sarah Pittman
After going through two label deals “that yielded no fruit, nothing happened,” singer/songwriter LP was just about ready to say goodbye to her career as an artist and concentrate on writing songs for other acts – until she started playing the ukulele.
“I was a little bit soul crushed from the artist experience. The writer experience felt like, ‘Cool. I don’t have to be looked at, [have] the right image for these people.’ I could start writing all different kinds of songs,” the alternative pop/rock singer said.
“When you’re a new artist you’re constantly searching for that breakthrough single. And it’s a lot of pressure. … The ukulele made me feel fun again, basically. I started writing these whistle melodies on the ukulele. And that’s when I wrote ‘Into the Wild’ and ‘Forever For Now.’”
She soon signed a deal with Warner Bros. Records and “Into The Wild” became a break-through song thanks to being featured in a 2011 Citibank commercial. The tune was released as a single in 2012 and included on her third full-length studio album, 2014’s Forever For Now.
LP points to the support of her managers, two of which she’s been working with since late 2010, for encouraging her to keep pursuing her own music. She says, “They were managing Rihanna for 10 years before that. They had taken Rihanna from basically zero to a superstar. … So their belief in me kind of made me feel like things were possible.”
While LP’s songwriting chops are undeniable – having written songs for Backstreet Boys, Christina Aguilera, Leona Lewis, Cher, Celine Dion and Rihanna (single “Cheers (Drink To That)” in 2010) – with her powerful vocals and uber-cool androgynous style, LP was always meant to be her own artist. Her voice has been compared to Cyndi Lauper, Gwen Stefani and Chrissie Hynde, but her sound, with her signature vibrato, is distinctly LP.
Her career took another twist when she was called into Warner Bros. to play her new material, including “Lost On You” and “Strange,” and eventually ended up being dropped from the label, which turned out to be a blessing. LP explains, “I got signed to Vagrant for those same songs. And then BMG bought Vagrant. When I started putting these songs out all these labels around the world were asking if they could license the music through BMG. … We wouldn’t even be talking now if I had remained on Warner Bros.”
Her 2015 single “Lost On You” broke in Greece and went on to hit No. 1 in 18 countries, as well as being certified gold in Belgium and Switzerland, four-times platinum in France and diamond-certified in Mexico and France.
The success of the single internationally translated to LP’s touring career, with a larger fanbase initially developing overseas. In 2017, for example, she was playing 550-capacity venues in the U.S. like Denver’s Bluebird Theatre compared to rooms as big as the 3,495-capacity Gran Teatro Geox in Padova, Italy.
“She’s very much a unifier of diversity,” manager Nick Bobetsky says. “When you look at her different fans around the world and different regions … gay, straight, young hipsters, older people … [it’s] a very diverse community of people that are happy hearing her message of love and unity.”
WME’s Brian Edelman saw something special in LP’s live show ever since catching her performing at Soho House in West Hollywood in front of a crowd of 20 or 30 people.
“Everyone’s jaws were on the floor. There’s no one like her. … I’ve been in the live business for 20-plus years and there are artists who can get better through touring and experience, but for the most part the great live artists just have it innately. And they are comfortable in their own skin. They’re not afraid to perform.
“She sounds better live than she does on record. So many artists work to sound as good live as they do on record, but her live show presence is so good and she’s had that since day one. … She was truly born with a gift.”
Screenshot/Wesley SwitzerLP plays her debut livestream show on Veeps Aug. 1.
When WME first started booking dates with LP, Edelman notes that she took “whatever tour we could get. It was working but on a small level, a few hundred tickets [per show].” Along with headlining smaller rooms, between 2014-2016 she also played support slots for Rodriguez, O.A.R. / Phillip Phillips, and Bryan Ferry. After selling out 500-seaters in 2017 in North America, Edelman says “the next year we did a tour in 1,000-seaters, it sold out, the following year we did a tour in the 2,000-seaters and the whole thing sold out. This was after grinding forever.”
Her biggest markets include Russia and Mexico, which Edelman notes “just came online in the last year and a half – fans down there are just rabid.”
Highlights from LP’s 2019 tour included selling 24,000 tickets in 11 cities in Russia; 19,000 tickets sold across four Ukrainian cities; 12,000 tickets in three Turkish cities; 8,700 tickets sold in Mexico City; and a run of dates in Central America that sold more than 3,000 tickets, according to data from the artist’s team.
Before COVID-19 hit, LP was gearing up for her biggest tour yet, with headline dates in the 3,000 to 8,000-capacity range, along with festival appearances at all of the Lollapaloozas in South America, as well as U.S. fests including Chicago’s Lolla, Austin City Limits and Boston Calling. Her 2020 routing also featured gigs in Europe, Central America, Mexico and Australia.
The North American tour has been pushed back multiple times to fall 2021, now set to kick off at the 2,700-capacity SOMA in San Diego Sept. 10 and conclude at the 5,900-cap Greek Theatre in Los Angeles. Rescheduled dates are on the books for South America this fall, Russia in December, Australia in April, and Europe in June and July.
Fans are patiently waiting for LP’s return, with Bobetsky pointing out that although refunds were offered, 80% of fans chose to hold onto their tickets. Edelman says, “So now we just hope and pray, whether it’s therapeutics or a vaccine, that these dates can actually happen, otherwise we’ll end up moving them again until we can actually come back.”
In the meantime, LP has been staying busy writing music for her follow-up to 2018’s Heart to Mouth and keeping her fanbase engaged with the release of her first live album in May; dropping the single “The One That You Love” in July (which was streamed 1 million times in the first three days) and playing her debut livestream performance on Veeps on Aug. 1.
The livestream concert grossed “well into the six figures,” Bobetsky says. “This more than doubled her U.S. show gross average historically, if not crossed the triple [mark]. We did sell tickets globally, so it’s a little bit of a goofy comparison. But it was just cool to see at what level these things can function.”
The team is considering planning another livestream, with more music to come from LP’s upcoming album due out on SOTA Records in early 2021. “Her socials have been growing by a hundred thousand a month,” Bobetsky says. “The opportunity with COVID right now is that you do have a captive audience who is really hungry for content.”
He adds, “What’s really exciting is she’s now created such a meaningful footprint in so many parts of the world, including the U.S, which … was always kind of following international momentum. Looking at her consumption numbers across the DSP and her ticket sales … she’s a true global artist that’s now resonating pretty much everywhere.”