Out of any of the crossover artists that came from Christian music, Katy Perry is one of the most popular. What kept most people from making the Christian music connection, however, was that she didn’t have a huge amount of success in the market, even though that debut album, which released 20 years ago this week, won rave reviews from critics. As part of our annual pilgrimage to Gospel Music Week in Nashville, I interviewed her for that debut project when she was 16 years old. A few years ago, I was contacted by a journalist looking for insight on her beginnings, so it made me dig out the old interview. Katy was kind, gracious, and had a lot of spunk, as you can tell in this interview.
It’s refreshing to be a suite. We’ve been out in public doing interviews.
Well, we want to refresh you. We don’t want this to be the “Average Joe” interview. We want this to be new, exciting, SPECIAL.
I listened to your CD last week. It’s really good. When they said it was a 16-year-old. . .
You were thinking, I know what you were thinking! You’re bad, you’re really mean! (louder) You’re really mean!
No, not that I don’t like that, because I do! I like pop music
(singing) I like pop music!
But it’s ROCK! (to a friend) She’s got a real deep soulful voice.
Well, it’s different! We’ve got things from the Beatles, Fiona Apple, Jennifer Knapp! This is like a melting pot of different things! It’s not exactly Debbie Gibson or Tiffany!
If you listen to the CD, you’d be shocked at how young she is!
Not that that’s an insult or anything.
Well, I made the CD when I was 15!
And you’re 16 now! (yeah) And you wrote all the songs? (yeah!) That’s impressive. One you wrote in eighth grade.
How’d you know that?
I know things!
(laughs) I’m impressed! It’s really important that I write. I think that somebody out there would like to see the views of a 16-year-old or be in my shoes at least
And be a Christian . . .
Yeah! and to love God, basically! I think it would tickle somebody’s ear. What was I going to say? I think it’s super important that I write because you have all these people who are my age in the industry that are saying, “I have lots to say and I’m really here for some reason, I’m saying a lot.” Well if you do have lots to say, write it! I mean, the least you can do is write it down on paper, get it out there some way. And I understand that record labels don’t necessarily like things. I really do respect singer/songwriters, because it’s original! It’s not a copy!
It comes straight from your heart
Right! I think even like us in the Christian industry, we should always be pushing the envelope, trying to be something a little bit better than the mainstream is! We shouldn’t be influenced by them, they should be influenced by us! I mean, come on! The whole time we’re influenced by them, we’re so far behind that the average person’s ear doesn’t even want to listen to it. I think we’re worth more than that, because obviously they’re not serving God, they’re not in it for the same motives that we’re in, they’re in it for the same motives that we’re in. They’re in it for something totally different, whatever reason they may be in it for, and we have the ultimate Creator. I mean, look around, dude! I live on the coast, Santa Barbara, California. I live five minutes from the ocean, I get inspired every time I go out there. We ought to be the best at what we do. Not second, but the best. God is our God! I go off sometimes!
Well, go off!
Don’t make me start! Don’t make me start! I am homeschooled. I am going to be going to a junior college, I’ve been moved back for two months and it’s insane. I really wish I could go to high school. I went there for a semester and I loved it! I just think well you know, I have to sacrifice some things. And everyone’s thinking, “oh, she has to sacrifice working and school, pity pity pity, I’m going to cry a little river for you!”
Well there’s the social aspect . . .
Yeah, but two, its just that I always want to keep my brain on and keep learning. I’m going to have kids one day and they’re going to need to know something other than music.
How involved are your parents in the music?
Totally involved! Mom was actually the first one to get me involved in this. Threw me off the edge because she’s like a total stage mom! Then I came back and realized this is what I want to do, not what my parents want to do. It’s likewise with my faith, forever with my parents. I just adopted it as my own. And basically, I’ve adopted my music as my own. Sure my mom would take me when I was 11 or so and we’d do weekend churches. I didn’t want to be there because I wanted to be eleven. I wanted to be what you do at eleven. But then I saw how affected and touched people. Then when I turned thirteen, I just got really focused. I just thought now I’m going to start writing. I’m going to start doing what i’m going to be doing. umm, I always lose my train of thought.
But they are very involved! They tell me to “Just go wherever you can go!” My mom comes when she can, but my dad pastors so she has to be there. I do keep people around who are good, solid accountability to me. I’m very particular about what I receive from people, I don’t listen to everybody. i listen to a few key people. Too many influences on you, you don’t know what to do. It’s like making the record, that was hard. Everyone was like, “Be that way” and I was like “God, just help me to know what I want to be!” Sure, you can always sit and listen to what people have to say, but most of it is bad for your ear.
Watch Katy return to her roots singing the Maranatha Music song “As the Deer” on last year’s American Music Awards below: