Which female artists inspire you? "Patti Griffin and Jonatha Brooke are among my favorites. And I'm really into Bonnie Raitt right now. I tried to cover "I Can't Make You Love Me" for a couple of charities: the Hammer Museum and AMFAR. I listened to a couple of her records when I went to Asia for a few weeks. There was an opportunity to take a three-hour hike up this volcano. And the whole time I was hiking-starting at 3 a.m. and seeing the sun rise at 6 a.m. on the mountaintop-I was only listening to Bonnie.
I listened to a lot of Edith Piaf when I was growing up; my mom speaks French. There was a very weird "hall pass" with Piaf, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald-that type of music-because there was this idea that that music is more harmless than Madonna. But really, Billie singing about heroin-and Edith was probably singing about that or something of that nature even if was in a different language [laughs].
In terms of current artists, there's Sia and another new artist I love, Jessie Ware. She's English and has the most incredible gospel kind of voice. One of my friends is in this side project called JJAMZ, lead vocalist Z Berg from the Like. She's a frank person. I love her style. And I've always loved Fiona Apple and Alanis Morissette. Those are my heroes."
Why are they your heroes? "Fiona because she's a little batsh*t crazy and not afraid to show it. We're all a little bat-shit crazy: She just takes the words out of your mouth. That's the thing with songwriters. When they succeed it's because it's on the tip of everybody's tongue; everybody is feeling the same thing. And Alanis has always been one of my favorites because Jagged Little Pill was the most perfect female record ever made. There's a song for anyone on that record; I relate to all those songs. They're still so timeless."
Hearing any new trends? "Women in pop music have been ruling the game for a while. But I feel there's a stripped-down, 1970s vibe that's coming. How many more songs can we hear that sound like a monster truck rally? I enjoy some of it, but radio is starting to sound a bit the same. Like I'm excited for "Begin Again" by Taylor Swift. That's my song right now. It's so genius, so perfect. I feel there's going to be a bit more heart, hopefully. I don't mind the dubstep stuff but there's no emotional connection. I just want to actually hear a song that has no "swell" even for just one minute. Can you imagine?"
You've said you want to take time off to recharge. How much time? "It's a bit of a different game because we have some new [corporate] parents. So I have to respect that. But I'm also an adult and what I'm not going to do is hurry up to fail, to shoot myself in the foot. I need to live so I have something worth singing about. That's always been the case for me."
So at this point are you even thinking about the next album? "I have lots of songs and ideas. I know exactly the record I want to make next. I know the artwork, the coloring and the tone, but I'm not in the studio yet. So it's a little like painting the baby's room blue before knowing it's actually a boy. I have to let the music take shape first. I even know what type of tour I'm doing next. I'll be very pleased if the vision I have in my head becomes a reality. But I have to honor the music. I won't try and duplicate what I did last time. That would be silly. It's not of any interest for me to try and outdo myself at every corner. "
Looking back, what was the best and the worst thing to come out of the last two years? "The best thing was being able to see my vision realized, the thing I stood by for so long that was constantly knocked. Not all of my songs are important because they're not. Some are just fun, bar-hopping songs. But I know "Firework" is important. I know those nuggets are really why I've written all the other songs and gone through all this other stuff. I see the effect it has on people. I love that I'm able to dream up things and make them reality, whether it's pink cotton candy clouds floating across the audience or that I get to donate a quarter of a million dollars to MusiCares.
The worst was it being a test of my sanity. You just have to always keep one foot out and be aware of all the people you're putting around you, their intentions and motives. I try to never let my intuition be muddled. I keep all the same people I've had around me. I love my family, and my sister is a ball-buster. She's my warden. She and my best friend, Shannon, are why I have lived through this year. It's a bit of an estrogen fest with me. I keep a lot of females around me. But I love that. I love a woman who can be friends with a woman and isn't afraid of another woman. I believe in sisterhood."
Courtesy of Billboard Magazine