Winning over the rooms, night after night 

When I finally catch up with the delightfully crass L.P., it’s more than halfway through the current leg of her cross-country tour, and the powerhouse vocalist (and crack rhythm guitar player) is enjoying some well-deserved R & R.

Her girlfriend flew out to meet her for Austin, Texas’ annual South By Southwest recording industry showcase – where L.P. and her band played a string of well-received dates at Coyote Ugly’s of all places (“We won over the room each night. All the girls were jigglin’ their shit,” she offers with an audible grin) – and now the two have repaired to New Orleans, where she’ll headline a rock venue later in the evening. For now, however, she’s relishing the downtime in digs far more opulent that what she normally deals with on the road.

“We rented this little bed and breakfast for really cheap,” she gushes, “but it’s f**kin’ beautiful! It’s like if you had the coolest apartment in Manhattan, or somethin’. It’s got a balcony, a big kitchen, a huge living room... a big bedroom. It’s awesome.”

As if that weren’t enough, the place seems tailor-made for a person of her profession.

“It’s surrounded by little jazz clubs,” she continues. “Some girl that comes to see me all the time is a jazz singer. She recommended it, and I think we got a break on the price ‘cause I’m a musician. The owner knows I’m flat broke!”

This brief anecdote is a telling one, and actually offers plenty of pertinent info about the songwriter.

For one thing, she an out lesbian in a field where that’s still (strangely) more than a bit taboo.

For another, she spends most of her time on the road, playing wherever she can, and is slowly building a devoted following of diehard fans – the kind who’re more than happy to put in a good word for you at a swank inn.

And finally, despite the fact that her latest record sounds like a million bucks, she apparently hasn’t got a pot to piss in.

Such is life for a struggling rock musician – even one as talented and connected as she.

A classically-trained vocalist who studied opera for years (her mother was a respected opera singer herself), she learned early on that she had a set of pipes to rival most anyone you’ll meet – male or female – and certainly most rock singers in bar bands. That training has served her well, as she maintains an amazing control over both her vocal power and phrasing. No slouch when it comes to self-improvement, she continues to take professional voice lessons in how to properly sing rock music – a sign she plans to be in this field for the long haul.

Her current band has been with her since Christmas of 2002, and is featured on her latest CD, Suburban Sprawl And Alcohol, an impressive – if uneven – release that at times feels more like a collection of great radio singles than a cohesive album.

Given that said tunes run the gamut from hyper, No Doubt-style pop-rock to the kind of lush, dreamy AOR one expects from Aimee Mann, it’s no surprise L.P. gets a lot of guff from cigar-chomping record biz toadies who wish she’d pick one approach and stick with it.

The refreshingly blunt New Yorker remains insouciantly unfazed.

“I get all kinds of shit from managers and label guys who tell me I’m all over the place and they don’t know how to market me. I just tell ‘em to get out of my face. That’s just lazy and ignorant, and I don’t have time for that bullshit.”

The one thing she does have time for are her fans – some of which know her strictly for her own work, and some who found her through her longstanding association with alt.rock darlings Cracker. She belted out a couple of unforgettable backing vocal parts on that group’s great 1998 release Gentlemen’s Blues that are often mistakenly attributed to another soulful shouter from the Big Apple – Joan Osborne – and L.P. occasionally opens for (and sits in with) the cult group on tour.

“The only thing I’ve discovered for myself that’s real,” she enthuses, “is being on the road and playing shows...Talking to people after the show and selling records to people by yourself, and accumulating those fans on your own.”

She says that although her career is just starting to take off, she’s determined to build up a loyal fanbase the old-fashioned way: through relentless touring and shooting straight with her audience.

“Any time I’ve ever fallen back for some reason and needed somebody to catch me, I’ve pretty much broken my ass,” she admits. “But with this band, I’ve finally got the right bunch of people who want to stick with this for the right reasons, and we’re making it work.”

“I always wanted to be part of a real band and not be propped up by a buncha studio guys. I hate that shit.”

L.P. headlines a triple bill of female-led indie-rock at The Jinx Friday night.

Hot Pink Interior and The Finks open.


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Jim Reed

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