Katy Perry: A rare interview with the pop star from her Christian music phase

Sunday 21st June 2009

In 2001 Mike Rimmer met up with a young singer Katy Hudson. Six years later, as KATY PERRY the singer was stirring up considerable controversy.

The first time I meet Katy Perry, it's 2001 and she's 16 years old. She's also wired! She's the new kid on a new Christian record label, Red Hill, and her publicist Beth Blinn is making a fuss about her, telling me that I am going to enjoy the interview later in the week. In the hustle and bustle of the "meet'n'greet", she seems a little overawed by what is happening but she also strikes me as being a little cheeky.

Of course, back then she was plain old Katy Hudson with a self-titled debut album, blonde hair and a collection of Christian songs. These days, of course, she's got a reputation for being more than cheeky. Her debut mainstream single "UR So Gay" was released in November 2007 and was a calculated attempt to give her a controversial image. Both church groups and gay rights organisations objected to the song. In her defence, Perry said the song was about a specific ex-boyfriend and seems indifferent to the fuss saying, "I'm not the type of person who walks around calling everything gay. That song is about a specific guy that I used to date and specific issues that he had. The song is about my ex wearing guyliner and taking emo pictures of himself in the bathroom mirror. People have to read the context of the song and decide for themselves."

That other queen of controversy, Madonna, gave Perry an early piece of publicity when she name dropped Katy on some high profile talk shows on American TV and radio. The buzz about Perry built in the early months and the summer release of her huge breakthrough single "I Kissed A Girl" happened in May 2008. Ultimately the song became a smash hit across the world topping the UK charts for what seemed like most of the summer.

Again, the song was controversial and she was accused of promoting homosexuality and toying with lesbianism simply to shock and gain publicity. It was definitely a far cry from the teenager I met when her debut album was released. Back then Kate Hudson hadn't yet changed her name to avoid confusion with the actress and was a fairly typical teenage Christian artist with a precocious personality and plenty of talent. But also, back then her faith was obviously important to her. She began our interview by telling me, "I was one of those kids going to camp and every time there was an alter call I was there. I'm a pastor's kid so I grew up knowing about Christ and Christianity and stuff like that. I didn't actually make it my own until I was going through a process when I was 13. It's becoming a more personalised faith to me daily because I actually realised that my parents weren't my salvation and they weren't the ones that were going to be judged and just because they're Christians and pastors doesn't make me shiny and new. Salvation is for everyone but you have to make it a personal choice. I came to a realisation that I'm believing because I'm believing not because it's been thrown in my face all of these years. So basically I just have adopted it as my own faith and grown out of the mode of letting it be a family tradition. I knew that God had been knocking on the door for quite awhile and God was the only one that truly understands me completely because I'm such an outcast and a kooky little, funky person."

The Katy Perry I'm watching on Later With Jools Holland in 2008 is a very different person to the Kate Hudson I met in America. Obviously she's older and it's more than just the change in hair colour! She is self assured and backed by a young, tight band. The Daily Mail carries a report that her parents don't approve of the music she is now making and the content of her worldwide hit single. There are many Christians who would also agree with the sentiment expressed in the news story. Perry's mother was supposed to have called her music "shameful and disgusting." But then, perhaps you can't believe everything you read in the papers! Perry later told MTV her mother was misquoted. Her parents continue to support her pop career and attend live performances.

Back in 2001, we talk about the pressures of being a preacher's kid. She laughs and says, "You mean being polished, shiny and new with a little red ribbon on your head? I'm not really into the whole pastor's kids thing. I think a lot of pastor's kids, my age especially, use that, twist it and make an excuse so they can be brats. I think it's just lame, I think they just need to stand and be who they are. I heard a saying that 'people will influence a person daily, hundreds of times' and that made me think wow! I could influence a person by just doing something, being aware of something or being somewhere. Being a pastor's kid isn't hard, it'll be hard if I get into trouble. I never really went through a rebellious phase like taking a lot of drugs or anything like that. I never went out and got drunk, messed around with guys. Your testimony can just be 'Thank you God that I've never been there.'"

For those who have followed Katy since her debut album, it seems that her rebellion perhaps came later as she fell in with the mainstream rock crowd as she tried to get her music career off the ground. There are Christian artists who cross over into the mainstream like Switchfoot, P.O.D. and Amy Grant who don't compromise their behaviour for the sake of fame or a career. Their creative choices fall in line with their faith. For Perry, it seems that she has been willing to make compromises with her image and song content in order to create CD sales and create a notorious image. As I've watched from a distance the choices she's made, I have sometimes been disappointed.

Like many young artists in the volatile music scene of the 21st century, nothing is ever simple when it comes to pursuing music. Shortly after Katy's CCM launch the independent label Red Hill went out of business leaving her debut album dead in the water. Leaving Christian music behind, Perry moved to Los Angeles and began working on an album for Island Def Jam with producer/writer Glen Ballard who had been responsible for the worldwide success of Alanis Morisette. However, as is the way of such things, the album was never released and Perry was dropped. Columbia Records teamed her up with the production team The Matrix and she recorded an album's worth of songs with them, acting as their lead singer. Once again the album was shelved although it was later released after Perry had broken through with her solo success. The partnership did mean that she began to get more attention and led to her current deal with Capitol Music.

Hearing interviews with Perry, she has always had the ability to surprise and shock. She is entertaining, makes you laugh and tells stories. But there is always the feeling that her publicists are hovering close by, hoping that Perry doesn't "go off on one." In 2001 when talking about getting into music when she was younger, she says, "Nobody in my family can hold a pitch really it's so funny, they really try but they really can't. I don't really know where it came from, I think it was just because I was bored and wanted to get into something. Plus because I'm an only child I needed to get attention, but I just love where it's grown to, the whole music side of everything where it's going and developing."

Perry isn't an only child and has a brother and a sister though it's probably easy to observe when considering the antics surrounding her pop career that she is definitely still trying to get attention and a lot of the songs and performances that have followed come from that.

She sums herself up by saying, "I'm basically an honest, normal, person going through life, going through my relationship with Christ. I'm just trying to be honest and blatant with who I am and letting God take control. People will see that through me. I think a lot of people my age, we're looking for something real. I think everyone's tired of everyone slapping a bow on Christianity and saying, 'Hey I've got a new cool band,' and then they say, 'This is actually just about Jesus,' and they whisper it. They don't want any of that anymore, they want somebody to step in their face and say, 'Hey what's up, don't be stupid, Jesus Christ is the only way.' My whole deal is I don't know much, I can't quote Scripture off the wall. I don't know references but I've grown up knowing that God gives this great gift called salvation which we all need because we can't breathe on our own, we need hope in our lives and God is basically it. Everyone says, 'That's kind of cheese-bally' and it is, but you know what? I don't care."

Ironically, when you think of what is to come in the years that follow our conversation, she concludes by saying, "I am who I am and I'm not really going to let anybody change me."

But in the end she did and a triple platinum album might have followed but is Katy Perry gaining the world and losing her soul? Only time will tell. CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
About Mike Rimmer
Mike RimmerMike Rimmer is a broadcaster and journalist based in Birmingham.


Reader Comments

Posted by TK @ 03:23 on Feb 13 2012

She just needs people to pray for her, just like you and just like me =)

Father show her Your love and the truth that she seems to not quite have discovered yet. You love and value us and we ask that You show us to love and cherish as well . Thanks for the hope we always have in You. You're not limited.

Posted by guest @ 05:36 on Jan 20 2011

I believe in Jesus Christ, but I don't think it should even take a Christian to realize how bad her "music" is. There's no art, and it's all too corny.

In any case, I think she went the same route as Lady Gaga. She sold herself off for worldly fame. Honestly, the way the media promotes sex and hard drugs, it makes sense.

Reply by kendal in nj @ 03:32 on Apr 28 2011

can't you see ? she didnt sell her soul to the devil or the world even though in one interview she said that she did, she says this because she knows the scriptures , and knows what everyone will say, so she sarcastically said that .so let us not look at her with hate or disappointment but rather with love and open hearts, after all who are we to judge , when we are all missing the mark and it is not our place to do so.

for it is said in the bible
Matthew 7:2–5

2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

[report abuse]

Posted by Sarah in London @ 23:58 on Dec 13 2009

I don't think anyone needs to "be changed" or be in the rock music world in order to change. People change all the time. She was and is so young, you know. People seem to forget that. She is young. She is reinventing herself and reinventing maybe her relationship with God, too. She does things her own way, and to me that counts for something.

Clearly her relationship with God has changed over the years, which is normal for a young woman like her. You see and feel different things during puberty and young adulthood. Things that you were convinced of as a teenager, may suddenly become less true to you when you grow up. Then maybe you come back to it later. Either way she has a right to change and chose her own path and road to God, without being told that she's only doing it for attention. She's always believed in her own way and she still does - she doesn't need to explain herself to anyone but the Lord. Her way of believing may have changed but she's never denied God.

There are many Christians with different ideas about homosexuality or sexuality in general. Some focus on sin, other focus on love. Many Christians are progressive about sexuality and so her being this way doesn't automatically mean she's forsaken the Lord or his Word. Maybe she's just started looking at Him differently. If it's the wrong path, she'll come back. But she's never left the Light.

Everyone believes in a different way. Everyone talks to Him in a different way. Let's leave the judging up to him and trust that she has a good heart and God will show her the way. She's open to Him so he will not let her get lost.

Posted by David in Stratford upon Avon, United Ki @ 11:16 on Jun 27 2009

I guess we should just pray for her.

Posted by jooleepoolee in Wolves @ 15:17 on Jun 22 2009

Well who knows, sometimes you find that some stars come back to what they know, many reggae artists like Chevele Franklin and Mr Vegas have turned to Christ. So maybe in time Miss Perry(Hudson) will too. 'I Kissed A Girl' was a dancefloor killer with a mega catchy tune but the lyrics were just not my cup of tea. I hated hearing young girls (8-10years) singing the lyrics and dancing to it etc, surely that's not what Miss Perry wanted for her young fans...I'm hoping not anyway. In fact I was alarmed when my young god-daughter (11years) said to me 'Is Katy Perry a lesbian' - how do you answer that? Maybe its just the society we live in or the times we are running head first into.I'm just praying and hoping that we can produce young, gifted and talented Christian artists who won't sell out for stardom and who can be cool, kooky and funky & still tell the world about JC (Jesus Christ to all those over 40! LOL). Thanks for this Mike.

Posted by Iceis in California @ 15:10 on Jun 21 2009

hmm i guess only time will tell. But, for now Katy it still going strong and we love her for that

The opinions expressed in the Reader Comments are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms.

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