Leaving her hotel In Stockholm, Sweden (09/30)
"Who’s your favorite Gaga?” is a question that will be asked more and more as the pop star’s career progresses. The singer, born Stefani Germanotta, has a gift for churning out iconic moments. At this point, it takes more than one hand to count all of them—an especially impressive feat considering her discography is only four studio albums deep. There’s “Poker Face” Gaga; meat dress Gaga; Kermit the Frog-coat Gaga; Alexander McQueen Gaga; leather-and-fishnets Born This Way Gaga; Artpop Gaga; and, most recently, old glamour Gaga, who coincides with the release of Cheek to Cheek, her collaborative album of jazz standards with Tony Bennett.
Over her decade-plus career, Gaga has not only proven herself to be a fearless master of reinvention, she’s bridged the worlds of music and high fashion, introducing avant concepts and niche designers to the masses (one of whom, her former stylist Nicola Formichetti, went on to become artistic director of Diesel). Ahead of her 53rd ArtRave show, Lady Gaga phoned in from Denmark to talk about getting back to her roots with Cheek to Cheek, her relationship with Alexander McQueen, and her off-duty style.
Were you nervous about alienating some of your younger fans with this release?
No, I wasn’t. Little Monsters are very open-minded. They have a thirst for new things. I started singing jazz when I was 13 and I discovered it before then. My mom used to play Billie Holiday on Sundays, I found Ella Fitzgerald—who’s my absolute favorite jazz singer—and my father listened to Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett. So part of me knew in my heart that many of my fans would fall in love with jazz the same way I did, because we’re very similar. I’m also not afraid of anything. At the end of the day, it’s much more important to me to put out this great music into the world.
Where do you think pop music is headed right now?
It’s really hard to say where it will go, but I will say that I’m loving watching people gravitate toward the likes of Sam Smith and people who have these rich, beautiful organic voices. I’m excited that this album is coming out now because I think people are ready for an organic type of music. I feel that culture is excited to hear something more natural.
Where are you right now with your clothing? It seems like you’ve been channeling Norma Desmond from Sunset Boulevard and Cher with your hair. Did you have a particular muse in mind?
I’m always inspired by the greats. I look back at Ginger Rogers, and even though I might not be dressing like her, she’s been a big inspiration for me—as well as Ella Fitzgerald. Ella didn’t care how she looked. She wasn’t worried about anyone thinking she’s beautiful. She was worried about giving the most honest, authentic performance that she could.
When I was choosing what kind of hair I wanted to wear while singing this album, I remembered how I wore my hair when I was 13 when I sang standards for the first time. I’m an Italian girl, so when I get out of the shower, my hair curls up and I get out my diffuser and put spray in it. Because I’m returning to my roots with jazz, I thought I’d also return to my hair roots.
I feel very supportive and blessed that Cher has been so supportive of me borrowing her wigs. That shows the mark of a real artist.
What’s your off-duty Gaga style?
I’m usually naked with my face mask on, running around my hotel room on my cell phone, working my tits off and burning sage.
September 30th, 2014: Leaving her hotel in Stockholm, Sweden
After this I was thinking… Tumblr who?
From the moment that Lady Gaga entered the pop sphere (and ultimately flipped it on its head), her energetic dance anthems, soulful ballads, and eccentric outfits have left us wanting more. Within the span of five quick years, she has managed to rule the pop charts, successfully enrapturing and enlivening a generation of little monsters along the way. Today marks a new chapter in her epic musical catalog with the release of Cheek to Cheek, a delightful album of jazz standards performed and recorded with the eternally suave Tony Bennett. Comprised of 12 covers from the Great American Songbook, it marks a new era for the ever-evolving artist. We caught up with “Lady” (as she introduced herself) to talk about her most recent stylistic shift, documented in the selfie portraits that she sent exclusively to Yahoo Style.
Earlier this year it was all about ArtPop and now Cheek to Cheek, which is totally different. Congrats! How is it going?
Thank you! I’m having a magical time. I’m actually on my way to Belgium now to meet Tony and perform with him at the Grand Place. I’m so excited.
How has the fashion differed with the new album?
I tend to reflect my fashion with my mood. During ArtPop my mood was kind of a mess. It was erratic. I was shape shifting on a daily basis trying to find my happiness. With Cheek to Cheek, it’s totally different. I’m in a serene place. I feel I’m my peaceful, young musician self. I’ve been enjoying dressing up, and you know, feeling like a lady. I had been working with Tony for two years recording, and [when we started] I was quite blond, but I found the sexuality of it all to be quite distracting. It was unnatural in a way. So I began to experiment with the hair that I had back in high school. It was dark and curly. More natural. Something about jazz makes me not care about the way I look.
We caught your performance during New York Fashion Week, didn’t your sister make that dress?
Yes, she hand smocked all that leather herself. I was less comfortable being blond, but that’s okay. It was not so much about showing off the breasts or the hair. It was form fitting. The silhouette, the shape the feel. Those are all the elements that are reflected in jazz.
You recently were asked about your style and said, “I’m a different expression of the same woman.” Are you channeling different women with these varied looks?
I feel like I carry the spirit of many fashionistas that came before me. I feel a very strong kinship to them. The history of art and the history of fashion are very important to me. My fashion is something that people are going to pay attention to. They are going to talk about it. I feel very deeply for Isabella Blow. For Alexander McQueen. His fearlessness is something that I think about a lot. With this album, I am channeling his rebelliousness. Because if you think about it jazz is the most rebellious form of music. It’s totally different from my previous message where there was an intention behind each look. Jazz brings out the fighter in me. The type of clothes that I’ve been wearing is less form fitting. Other days I’ll wear something more corseted and glamorous. Right now I’m wearing a leather jacket that my sister made me withCheek to Cheek painted on the back and piercings and bleached brows.
Let’s talk about the outfits. What do you do with all of those glorious clothes? Do you have an archive? It must be incredible!
I do. I have a huge archive in Los Angeles. It’s 40,00 square feet. I have every single outfit. All those pieces mean so much to me. I’ve kept every single one.
I don’t wear fashion, I am fashion. I don’t mean that to sound arrogant or rude or anything like that but you know when you just love something so much it just hurts. Like when the topstitching is just perfect. The beading is exquisite. It’s like a love affair. Those clothes are so special. I have another relationship with fashion that goes beyond just wearing clothes.
Not only are you fashion but also beauty. Any beauty tips to share?
I think that I am the most beautiful when I’m feeling happy. Keeping your heart peaceful. You should never wear anything you don’t want to wear. Whether you are a man or a woman you should dress and present yourself like the god or goddess that you are…
You asked.. She answered. Here are the ten questions choosen for Gaga’s #CheektoCheek Q&A!
Zilla asks, “What is the one thing that you would like monsters to take away from the C2C experience?”
I would love simply to just introduce you to jazz, if you’ve not experienced it before. I fell in love with Jazz at a young age, and monsters and I are so similar; our life stories, outlook on the world, view of love and community—I thought perhaps you would have the same feeling that I felt when I first heard Billie Holiday as my mom played her in the kitchen. I want you to feel fearless to take any approach in life, and be yourself no matter what happens. That’s what I like about Jazz, although the recordings are forever, its different everytime Tony and Me sing together with our players. Improvisation is key to being great at jazz. I think also to be great at life. Anyway that was a long answer, but you know how I ramble on!
Kyle asks, “Hi Gaga! How has working with Tony on Cheek to Cheek influenced how you will write/record/produce your future albums?”
I think so. Which will only be a positive thing. Jazz is the most complicated musically to master, very unlike classical music or rock n’ roll, it requires broad understanding of how to paint with the colors of music, and quickly. For example if Tony sings a note differently during a performance, I have to then move around him to compliment his choice, same for the instruments, they are constantly speaking to each other, and just like human conversation is never the same. I think now that I’m studying jazz again, that sense of freedom, joy, and spontaneity will work its way into my growth as an artist. Also, the composers on this album—Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Duke Ellington, George Gershwin etc…they are in my opinion the greatest of all American song writers. Like with “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye,” I hope to write lyrics as meaningful and beautiful as these in the future. I stand by all the music I’ve made, but I’m growing up and with Bobby (my manager). I have more time to creatively grow up. I think this is all a perfect storm.
MonsterofSpain asks, “What can we expect from the ‘Cheek to Cheek’ tour? Will it be in theaters or arenas?”
Tony loves to play theatres, and to be honest after singing with him I understand why. While theatres are not as great for perhaps for big parties like our monster artRave, the sound quality in theatres is just exquisite, and you can then hear all the subtle nuances in the music. I also sing much quieter on many of these songs and it helps to be able to hear myself over your wild monster screams! But I know we are planning to play a mixture of different sized venues, to accommodate demand and spread Jazz as far and wide as possible. Just wanted to give you my opinion on what rooms Jazz music sounds best in ‘acoustically.’
revingtonrebels asks, “What happened to ‘Paradise’ - will we get to hear it?”
I hope so! It’s almost finished, Its my first jazz composition so I was nervous to put it on the album although Tony loves it so much. I just didn’t want to rush it, wanted to spend some more time and keep sinking back into my jazz roots so it can be the best it can be. I will tell you, it’s inspired by my father’s sister and him, and the phrases as they are traded, are meant to be their words to each other right before she died. She died very young, but she wrote a poem about Heaven right before it happened. That’s why the song is called “Paradise.”
Koala asks, “Did C2C really heal your soulf? If so, can you explain more about it?”
Cheek To Cheek and Tony both did. I used to lay sad listening to music, jazz and pop like Whitney Houston. I didn’t know why I was so sad. But I realized then that my life had become a money making machine, and I knew I had the talent within me to evolve more, show more of my abilities. I have studied many different genres of music for a very long time. My schedule was too hard, I became too tired, and then your talent suffers and you stop growing. Tony helped me to me make some important life decisions and so did the music. It reminded me why I started to begin with. So now, everyone around me has the same goal. To make great records, foster and nourish my raw talent, keep me healthy so I can push myself to become greater, and of course to spread that music as far and wide as possible. We’re a team again. Together, hand in hand supporting each other.
Wixson asks, Was there anything you’ve wanted to prove with Cheek To Cheek?
No actually, I think Tony was more concerned people knew I could sing than I was! He said that to me everyday, “With this album I want the world to hear how natural and beautiful you sing.” For me, I was just so HAPPY to be singing like that again. Every song you hear on the album is me in a state of utter bliss, even when the songs were sad and I was emotional. I love deeply all my previous albums, and don’t think they are unauthentic because they were auto-tuned and electronic. That was the point of them: to make art of artifice. I just didn’t like when I started to get treated like a brand, like there was nothing more I can do—when there is SO much more I can do. The only thing that was important for me to ‘prove’ I guess, I prefer the word ‘show,’ is that I’m an honest Jazz singer, not a pop singer doing jazz for a one-off. Especially since I’ve been singing Jazz longer than I’ve been singing pop. I wanted to do proper justice to the records. I was more worried what Tony thought of how I sounded more than anyone else.
Leo asks, “if you could stand on stage with any other jazz icon, alive or dead, who would it be and why? Your duet with Ella was beautiful, by the way :)”
Ella all the way! I’m obsessed with her. Her voice is just so interesting and beautiful, and tragic, she was a fortress! And her scatting is the best in the business. Also Duke Ellington, or Louis Armstrong, they are my favorites too.
Ambrosia Doves asks, “what is the number #1 piece of advice Tony Bennett gave to you that you will take with you throughout your career as you embark on new albums and other projects? Has working with such a legend in the jazz realm impacted your life in a certain way? Is there a particular instrument of jazz that you are especially drawn to when you hear it? For me, it’s the saxophone.”
He passed on some advice to me that his best friend Duke Ellington gave him. “#1 Don’t Quit. #2 Listen to #1.” I’m drawn to jazz instrumentation in general. I don’t know if I can choose because its when they all play together that the music become more complex. But I do love the trumpet + piano. With Brian solo’s on Bang Bang and he laments the loss of our friend, my ex, as I lament the loss as well. We haven’t heard from him in years. That trumpet solo is so honest and painful. He is a magnificent trumpeter.
BornSimon asks, “how does it make you feel to have Cher’s seal of approval over your mind-blowing rendition of Bang Bang? And how did you feel when you received that (well-deserved, to say the least) standing ovation?”
It really means a lot to me that Cher supported me, as that has not always been the case. I believe in artists supporting one another, that is how you keep music and art alive. Once we start tearing each other down we become like clowns to the public, and the meaning behind our work fades into a noisy cloud. It’s not to say an artist isn’t in the right to defend their work, or have opinions about other artists, I just think Cher is a true example of someone to look up to. She has it all, had it all, will continue to and is satisfied with the blessings of her life. That is how I wish to be. Grateful. Tony and I have been overwhelmed with the rave reviews and standing ovations over this project. Especially after the last year, for me, I sort of assumed the worst. But the music really spoke for itself. It’s been really nice, and I’m happy to see you all happy. I hated when I saw you being bullied for being a fans of mine at that time, thanks for sticking by me. At the artRave I see the success of the album, in your eyes, and that’s where the truth is. People just like to tear you down when you have a lot, but I can always sew that couture dress back together, with the help of all my monsters. Love you.
amenART asks, “How easy has it been balancing Cheek to Cheek and ARTPOP recently and can we expect any more Jazz albums (and hopefully some more pop ones too???)”
I love balancing the two, I basically have multiple personalities anyway (haha! Shocking reveal!) so that rebellious and extreme side of me loves to go back and forth, I never get bored. I’m always doing what I love and I get to have both. Somedays I feel quiet, others I need to rage. Those parts of me will always be there its my two-toned soul.
This will not be my last jazz album, and ARTPOP was not my last pop album. I have MANY years ahead of me to make music and I feel stronger than ever, like I did when I first moved to Hollywood to make it. I’m a fighter again. Put me in the ring. Ring the bell, I’m ready life!
Nothing else matters.
Gaga listing her singles. Denmark. (09.28)