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The Journal Gazette

  • Associated Press Linda Perry is the ninth female to be nominated for non-classical producer of the year Grammy Award, and first in 15 years. The Grammys air Sunday night on CBS.

Sunday, February 10, 2019 1:00 am

Perry not looking back

Grammy nominee sees women getting more recognition

MESFIN FEKADU | Associated Press

Grammy Award Nominees

The Grammy Awards air tonight on CBS. Here are the nominees in the top four general categories:

Record of the year

“I Like It,” Cardi B, Bad Bunny and J Balvin

“The Joke,” Brandi Carlile

“This is America,” Childish Gambino

“God's Plan,” Drake

“Shallow,” Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper

“All the Stars,” Kendrick Lamar & SZA

“Rockstar,” Post Malone featuring 21 Savage

“The Middle,” Zedd, Maren Morris and Grey

Album of the year

“Invasion of Privacy,” Cardi B

“By the Way, I Forgive You,” Brandi Carlile

“Scorpion,” Drake

“H.E.R.,” H.E.R.

“Beerbongs & Bentleys,” Post Malone

“Dirty Computer,” Janelle MonŠe

“Golden Hour,” Kacey Musgraves

“Black Panther: The Album, Music From and Inspired By,” Various artists

Song of the year

“All the Stars,” Kendrick Lamar and SZA

“Boo'd Up,” Ella Mai

“God's Plan,” Drake

“In My Blood,” Shawn Mendes

“The Joke,” Brandi Carlile

“The Middle,” Zedd, Maren Morris and Grey

“Shallow,” Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper

“This is America,” Childish Gambino

Best new artist

Chloe X Halle

Luke Combs

Greta Van Fleet

H.E.R.

Dua Lipa

Margo Price

Bebe Rexha

Jorja Smith

NEW YORK – Linda Perry didn't originally set out to be a music producer, but the singer who was focused on writing lyrics would hear noises in her head.

She couldn't describe it, but she knew what she wanted a song to sound like, and maybe more importantly, what she didn't want the song to sound like.

“When 4 Non Blondes was recording that first record, all I knew is that I didn't like the way it sounded. I couldn't vocalize what it was because I wasn't experienced enough,” she said of her band, which released its debut album in 1992. “Then I kept trying to tell the producer, 'I don't like the way my voice sounds. I don't like the way the guitar sounds. It all sounds too clean.' He would constantly say, 'Can't you just go be a singer? Don't worry, let me do this.'”

That didn't sit well with her.

So the ambitious musician took matters into her own hands – heading to the studio to rework a little song called “What's Up?” to her liking.

“We had one reel of tape,” she said. “We had no more money for budget. So I went in there with the engineer and I don't know anything about what I'm doing. I just started dialing in sounds, moving microphones, doing drum sounds. I just was a natural. I took total charge. The engineer was like, 'Well, I thought you've never done this before.' I go, 'I haven't.' But I said, 'I hear what I want to hear.'”

That's when Linda Perry, the producer, was born.

“I was like, 'No one's ever going to tell me to go be a singer ever again.' I'm never going to allow that to ever happen,” she said.

Fast forward nearly 30 years, and Perry is one of the most respected creators in the music industry. “What's Up?,” the 4 Non Blondes' international hit now considered a classic, is regularly covered at concerts today; Perry has produced music for acts such as Alicia Keys, Adele, Gwen Stefani, James Blunt, Courtney Love and more; and she's launched multiple record labels and even had a TV show focused on discovering musicians.

And the magic she created with Christina Aguilera and Pink in the early 2000s came at pivotal moments in their young careers as the bubble gum pop stars tried to expand from the sound of their debut albums. They were extremely successful, thanks in part to Perry.

Perry, 53, hit a new height this year when she earned her first nomination for non-classical producer of the year at the Grammy Awards – becoming just the ninth female to earn a nomination in the category in the organization's 61-year history, and the first woman nominated for the prize in 15†years. The last woman up for the award was Lauren Christy when the production trio The Matrix, behind hits for Avril Lavinge, was nominated at the 2004 Grammys. The last time solo females were nominated was 20†years ago when both Lauryn Hill and Sheryl Crow were producer of the year contenders at the 1999 Grammy Awards.

“I kind of knew I would get the (nomination) because I just did a good body of work, and why wouldn't I? But then it crosses your mind like, 'Oh, wait a minute, women haven't ... aren't ... it's not really a thing for women to get nominated for this,'” Perry said. “It's a flip-flop of emotions.”

Perry's competition includes two-time producer of the year winner Pharrell Williams; Kanye West, who produced five albums last year including two of his own; Larry Klein, who also produced five albums last year from the jazz, pop and folk genres; and Boi-1da, who co-produced Drake's “God's Plan” and worked on songs for Eminem and Kendrick Lamar.

If Perry wins, she would be the first woman to do so. But the Songwriter Hall of Famer isn't concerned with making history or rectifying what happened in the past – she wants to focus on what's happening right now, and the future.

“We're never going to go backward from here – believe me,” she said. “It's going to happen again next year because I'm going to be nominated next year because my body of work is (expletive) awesome. ... There is going to be a crime happening if I'm not nominated next year.”

“It's not in the 'why?' anymore,” she added. “We've spent so many years in the 'why.' I just want to be in the now. Right now there are some (expletive) amazing things going on and women are leading the way.”