A conversation with Christina Perri

Courtesy of Amazon.com

Recently, the song “Jar of Hearts” has become stuck in the heads of many a pop music listener. The writer of that song, Christina Perri, took time to answer a few questions about her fast rise since her song was used on So You Think You Can Dance. Perri is currently touring the United States and will make a stop in Salt Lake at the Avalon on May 1.

Tell us about your early life and your influences. How did they lead you to music?

I grew up in Philadelphia and started singing pretty much right when I was born, I think. I was always singing in plays and at the church. I was always performing for my family, Christmas carols and stuff. So, I started doing that from a young age. I did theater growing up– little theater camps, stuff like that. It wasn’t until I fell in love, when I was 15,  that I started writing my own music and playing guitar. I got super inspired by love and needed an outlet of some kind. Instead of writing a diary, I would write little love songs. So, I taught myself how to play the guitar and the piano. I had taken piano lessons when I was really little. I just picked up where I left off and just went for it and haven’t stopped.

What is your creative process like?

It’s very different for each song, but the common thing is that I can never fully remember exactly how I wrote it. There must be this little element of magic that happens, because I can’t really remember [writing] all of my best songs. But I do know, for me, anywhere I am, the song kind of comes, and I have to be ready for it. I can be driving in my car or on an airplane or in my house. There’s no, “OK, today I’m going to sit down and write a song.” That’s never happened for me ever. I kind of believe in this thing that comes through me and I’ve just got to grab it or it’s going to just go on to someone else. I don’t really remember it fully. I must be half here, half not, and it just comes out of me.

When did you get involved with the music industry?

When I was 14, my brother signed a record deal. He was 16 and he was in a band called Silvertide. I followed them everywhere. I was like a little puppy dog. I got my first taste of this life through my big brother.
I ended up doing a bunch of other things and getting distracted, never fully devoting myself to a career in music. That didn’t happen until December of 2009. I was in super-limbo-land and decided to write a bunch of songs. I was home in Philly and I could have easily stayed. Going for your dream is really scary. Definitely the easier thing would be to stay in Philly with people I knew, who loved me and where I had a place to live for free.
Instead, I made this conscious decision to go back to LA in 2010, even though it was really scary. I had no idea what was going to happen. I feel like something changed cosmically for me, and I started seeing all of these doors that I didn’t see before. All of a sudden, I found myself on the right path. In February, I met my manager and on June 30, my whole life changed.

What happened on June 30?

That was when “Jar of Hearts” was on So You Think You Can Dance. It was on at like 6 p.m., and I didn’t exist. I didn’t have this record label. I was just this independent songwriter who had this song on the show. By the end of that week, I had sold over 200,000 singles on iTunes and I existed in the music business.

What advice would you give musicians trying to make the same jumps you made?

It’s so simple for me. I couldn’t believe more firmly in the simple concept of not giving up. I definitely should have given up. I should have given up like 15 to 20 times. And right when I felt like it was the absolute hardest for me, I pushed a little bit more and my dream was literally standing right there, and I grabbed it and it happened. I know it might sound crazy, but it is so worth getting out of your comfort zone and going and doing the scariest thing that you can possibly think of for your career. If you dream of being a musician, but it scares you, that’s the best sign ever; that’s probably what you should do.

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