Gaga talks about moving on after her split with former manager Troy Carter, overcoming the "pain of fame," and more in a new interview with the Associated Press. Story by Mesfin Fekadu. Check it out!
NEW YORK (AP) — After hip surgery and parting ways with her longtime manager, Lady Gaga says things are looking up.
"I've very centered now. I meditate a lot. I'm happy. I am more sober than I've ever been," the singer said interview this week. "It's a very happy time in my life."
Last year, Gaga parted ways with longtime manager Troy Carter, who helped the pop star achieve multiplatinum status, dominate the pop charts and win multiple Grammy Awards. She said she was overworked and that greed led to their split.
"Part of what was making my sort of artistic experience so unpleasant was that I felt that I was not able to truly freely fly as an artist," she said. "In some ways my talents were not being used to their full potential."
Gaga says part of her happier state of mind comes from working with Tony Bennett on the album "Cheek to Cheek," out on Tuesday.
The 28-year-old is currently on an international tour that wraps Nov. 24 in Paris. Calling from Istanbul, she spoke with The Associated Press about being unhappy, letting go of her manager, her under-selling "ARTPOP" album and performing in Tel Aviv.
AP: Did your disagreements with management affect the making of "ARTPOP"?
Gaga: It certainly affected my mind during "ARTPOP." I would have to say that whole situation had less to do with creativity differences and more to do with me really needing some time from myself to be creative. My schedule was way too difficult, I was not able to keep up and my whole business became very focused on making as much money as possible as quickly as possible, which is really not where my heart is. My integrity as a musician is so much more important to me than money. ... While I was making "ARTPOP," I was very tired. I'm actually very proud of "ARTPOP." As much as it's had a lot of criticism, I think a lot of that had to with where I am in my career, I've been on top for a long time, I think it's the nature of this industry — we love to build them up to tear them down.
AP: You sound like you're in a good place. Is that spilling over to the new music you're creating?
Gaga: It is in the very super early stages. I'm always writing music. I was up all the other night here in Istanbul writing and they had a lovely piano in my room and I was so excited, especially when I get to pay a real stringed piano, not an electronic one, that always makes me happy. I've been writing some records that I really sort of surprised at myself. I have a lot of pain built over the past few years. It was very difficult being on the road for this "Born This Way Ball" without having a full, proper team around me. I was going through a lot of pain with my body that led to the hip surgery. I call it the "Pain of fame." ...Your life changes a lot and the people that around you, they change too. Money makes people crazy and they see your life change and all of the luxuries and the things that come with becoming a star and they think, "I've known her my whole life ... or I've been here this whole time, I deserve all of that too."
AP: Other singers have backed out of performing in Tel Aviv. How did you make the decision to perform there this week?
Gaga: I was very confident based on my relationships with lots of internal, political people. We're very lucky to have great relationships with the White House. They let us know it would be very safe while we were there, and I hope to share that with the world so that they know it is safe to be in Tel Aviv right now. But I have to say, and I don't mean this as a suggestion that anything bad would have happened, but I'm a gypsy and I live around the world, so in my mind when I was staying in Tel Aviv — I say this on my song "Gypsy" on "ARTPOP": "Be my home just for the day" — that would have been my home while I was there and it was. ... I felt a beautiful energy when I was there.
AP: U2 released its new album alongside Apple, and Jay Z and Beyonce also released recent albums in unconventional ways. What do you think about that and do you think of innovative ways to release music when readying a project?
Gaga: I think honestly what we need to be doing, and this is my opinion, is instead of trying to find ways to trick the world into focusing on the album for a brief moment, I think that artists need to speak more about how media treats the artists and making the distinction between the celebrity and the artist, because everything is all in one pool now isn't it? We're all the same and they're some pretty terrible celebrities out there, let's be honest, right? People famous for no reason. So, I think the more the media can help us to support the artist and support music in a way that's maybe less critical for journalists that are not as knowledgeable about music and help to just spread the music and see the music as gift to the world.
I really believe that once the press becomes more kind I think a lot of the things in the universe are going to change. It makes me scared when I hear that there's pro-ISIS (Islamic State in Syria) rallies in America because I think that social media has created this sort of negative undertone in the universe. People feel that they can say or do anything; it makes them feel a sort of comfort when really it's just giving hatred a petri dish to fester. I know that was sort of a random answer for a question about album marketing. I really believe it lies in the hearts in the people that are writing about the music. The more we honor and support the artist, the more the art will live on forever. Otherwise, it's going to continue to be what I think pop music is now, which is sort of this giant tabloid. It's become quite trashy in my opinion.
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Gaga took some time out while in Dubai to chat with Wall Street Journal's Marc Myers about Tony Bennett and rebelling with jazz.
How did Tony Bennett help you on your new duet album, "Cheek to Cheek?"
Tony encouraged me to let my sadness come through in my voice. When I started singing with him, I was going through a very hard time, emotionally. I was so down that when I'd sing, I'd begin to cry. You can't sing that way. It chokes you up. Tony taught me how to just breathe. You can still cry while you're singing, but you maintain your breath control and you're able to soar through it.
I was sobbing during my solo recording of Billy Strayhorn's "Lush Life," but I was able to sing it because Tony said, "You can do this, you've got this." When I was 14 in high school, my teacher gave it to me to sing because he thought I had the right vocal range. But I didn't understand what the lyrics meant. So I looked up Billy Strayhorn and then became obsessed with Duke Ellington. Now I know exactly what the song is about. I know the lonely women he wrote about in the song. I'm one of those women.
Why were you so down?
The pop industry is like a tabloid now. There's just no integrity and it's extremely controlled and manufactured. There's a lot of farce and not a lot of authenticity. So for me, singing the Songbook was freedom. Tony doesn't think I'm crazy. He thinks I'm old school. He really understands me. He helped me make it through one of the hardest times in my life so far. There are a lot of sharks in the pop-music industry. I was kind of damaged and faced all these challenges behind the scenes with people betraying me, and things like that. I became dissatisfied with the business. I'm so much more satisfied with music now. I said to myself, "I don't need to be a commercial singer anymore. I can just sing at a bar downtown and I'd be so much happier."
Jazz has a nasty reputation for not paying the bills. Are you fine with that?
Paying the bills is overrated. At the end of the day, the bills can't be a metaphor for your heart. I've made a lot of money doing what I do. I feel very blessed for all of the wonders. But there's no wonder, no money, no luxury, no jewel or diamond more sparkling than how I feel when I'm feeling impassioned and in the moment on stage singing with Tony.
Which female jazz singer do you listen to most?
Ella [Fitzgerald]. I've been listening to her since I was a little baby girl. There's something about the way she phrases. She's very conversational and I feel she's singing directly to me. Ella is the best. She's like a fortress of wisdom. I box when I listen to Ella. It's a good way to stay in shape, and her rhythm and swing are that strong.
Aren't Songbook standards a little confining and formulaic for an artist like you?
No way. It's actually like painting with watercolors. You just let the jazz improvisation bleed. And it's more beautiful than pop today. I think about John Coltrane and Charlie Parker —I'm such a massive jazz fan. This album actually felt more rebellious for me than pop.
What's so special about jazz?
Jazz is almost like meditation. You have to go into a state where you're highly sensitive about what everybody's doing, how they're improvising and how they're maneuvering so that you can slither through like a serpent. Also, with jazz, all of the players are important. It's not about just one star in front of the stage. With Tony, we still put art in front, and jazz made me feel free. I can do this album because I'm an artist. When you're an artist, the wider your palette, the more joy you have.
Did recording the new album put you in a different frame of mind?
Yes, I feel happier. I was starting to think there was no elegance left in this industry, no charm. I thought there was no gravity, no authenticity. And then I worked with Tony. When I walked into the studio, everyone stood up for me and he was always dressed so beautifully and told me I looked lovely. I've never been treated that way. It was Tony's kindness that made all that jaded, aggravated and cynical part of me that had grown over the years dissipate. Now there's just beautiful.
How did you master the swing thing?
I don't know that I'm the master of anything. But I think that when you begin to master jazz, you feel excited. Learning the Songbook, it's almost like technique. Knowing all the words and how songs were written, you internalize it. Then the music becomes like this rigid metronome, with boundaries. But when you sing, you leave the metronome in the corner. You know it's there but you kind of swing around it. Improvising still allows you to do justice to what the composer wrote and it allows the music to grow and stay interesting.
So you're leveraging the structure of Songbook standards?
Everyone has done the same songs differently over the years. For me, I didn't want to imitate anyone on the album. I didn't want to try and redo other versions or phrase the same way as other singers. I wouldn't be doing justice to what jazz is all about. The whole point is to bring it forward. I'm myself with Tony. I don't try to be someone else, like Lady Jazz. He knows me deeper than anyone I've worked with. This album isn't Broadway. We might be singing Rodgers and Hart, but there isn't a curtain in the chorus. This is jazz. It has to be sung in a particular way and the only way to do it was by giving Tony all of me. I'm just so happy he opened his arms and accepted it.
Did you find the real you during the recording process?
I did. But you know who I found? I found the Italian girl who was 18 years old and was ready for anything. I found the fighter. I found her again. In this business, you go through all these obstacles and challenges and become like a hardened shell. I had to break through all of that to be able to be authentic when I was singing. Sometimes you have to dig really deep.
Some may think your interest in jazz is just a fling, that it's just a phase. True?
Not at all. I'm planning to release one jazz album a year. I think I will continue to do that forever. I enjoy it so much. I want to spread it to all of my fans.
"Puff in, puff out!" It's been a while since we wrote about anything related to ARTPOP, so here we go.
French wunderkind, Madeon, spoke a little bit about the conception of his track and #ShouldaBeenASingle, "Mary Jane Holland" on Twitter in a candid exchange of auras between him and PopJustice's Peter Robinson. The 20 year-old shed light on what fans have been curious about ever since a concept demo sung by somebody who isn't Gaga re-surfaced earlier this year after originally leaking in 2012.
Gaga and Tony deliver their take on the 1941 eden ahbez classic, "Nature Boy". The track is a change of pace from the previous offerings released as teasers for Cheek to Cheek, out September 23rd. This time Tony and Gaga slow it down a bit. Check it out below!
Take a look at some of Gaga's tweets about the origin of the song, and some information on how she and Tony recorded it! Check out the rest!