Special Interview: Lady Gaga (in 2008) Tells How She Got Started, And Discusses Her Songwriting
Ever since Stephania Gabriella Germanotta, better known by her stage name Lady Gaga, was four-years-old, she was enamored with music and would bang on the piano for hours, even though she didn’t know how to play. “My mom told me that I just basically hoisted myself up on a piano seat, and I used to always try to play,” she said. “I think I always had a strong pull to music.”
This passion grew exponentially and she was encouraged by her father, who used to play her records by Bruce Springsteen, Queen, David Bowie and Elton John, who became her artistic influences. Gaga is now ready to launch her highly-anticipated debut album, The Fame, which is due out on Interscope Records on Oct. 28. This album will continue the momentum which she built this summer, when Gaga broke through with her hit single “Just Dance,” which reached #1 in both Canada and Australia. And notably, Gaga is currently on tour opening for pop icons, the New Kids On The Block.
“I don’t know quite how to explain this - I am not really made for anything else,” Gaga said. “My brain doesn’t function in a way to permit me to have any other kind of life outside of music, art, fashion, and expression. I remember sitting in jazz clubs and being wide-eyed and so excited. I don’t know how to explain my passion for songwriting and performing. It’s just in my blood, and there was never a point where I wanted to do anything else.”
Gaga started to learn about being a performing artist when she attended New York University’s Tisch School for the Performing Arts, when she was only 13. Four years later, she was performing regularly in club on New York’s East Side. “That is where I learned theater - I did so many shows,” she recalled. “I would take myself on auditions and practice. Truthfully, I learned how to develop characters and communicate with the audience through monologues and really punctuated speech.”
At first, Gaga said it was difficult performing on the New York club circuit. Going to auditions for record labels was sometimes daunting, because she didn’t fit into one particular category. Some industry insiders would describe her as either “too poppy” or “too theatrical,” making it extremely difficult for her to break into either genre because she refused to be pigeonholed.
“I was really trying to follow their philosophy (of theatrical performers she admired like Queen and David Bowie),” said Gaga. “I started to understand how I could make music and perform in that way without being so watered down. I don’t have any interest in performing in [a typical, boring way]. I believe there is something in my performances that is more honest about who I am at heart."
During her adolescent years of performing in the clubs of New York, Gaga developed an affinity for songwriting by writing her first song at age 13. Whether sitting at the piano, jamming around in her comfortable clothes, or finishing housework, inspiration for her songwriting can strike anywhere for Gaga. “I love songwriting. It’s so funny - I will just jam around in my underwear or I could be washing my dishes. I wrote the song ‘Dirty Rich’ and several other songs just at the piano.” Gaga said that another song on the album she closely connects with is "Russian Roulette,” particularly for the lyrics.
"'Russian Roulette’ is an urban myth where you take a gun and you spin the cage,” she explained. “You basically shoot it into your head - you are gambling. If I pull the trigger and play this game with a lover, I am playing this sort of morbid game. That is the gamble of dating, love, lust and sex. It’s very animalistic and a very primitive relationship. Love can really f*ck you up. That makes it such a powerful and perfect pop song.”
Gaga said she would probably consider her flagship song on her upcoming album to be “Paparazzi,” where the hook goes, “I am your biggest fan, I’ll follow you until you love me, papa, paparazzi. Baby, there is no other superstar, you know that I’ll be your papa, paparazzi.”
“I would say that the paparazzi makes a good subject for very powerful pop song,” she said. “This song is about narcissism, and about finally meeting that person in your life you feel so strongly about, you just want to take their picture.”
Gaga said her songwriting also has been misinterpreted and panned in some early reviews, but her friend Perez Hilton perhaps articulated her message in a clearer way after he told her about his interpretation of her work. “I get tired of reading reviews about people who say my work is all about shallow b*llshit,” Gaga said. “I talked to one of my good friends, Perez Hilton, about my record. He said ‘don’t take this the wrong way, but you write really deep intelligent lyrics with shallow concepts.’ Perez is very intelligent and clearly listened to my record from beginning to end, and he is correct.”
Notably, Gaga is starting to co-write songs with other artists for their albums. She wrote the song “Full Service” with Donnie Wahlberg, for the latest New Kids On The Block album, which is called The Block.
Jason Blasco is a freelance journalist, and a publicist for Beatbakery.com's flagship production team called The Hook, featuring Stevie Knight & Courtez Banks. He can be reached at JBlasco7@hotmail.com.