The Christina Perri of Head or Heart is not exactly the Christina Perri of Lovestrong, and that decision was intentional. Sort of. After touring for two years and enduring vocal cord surgery, the Phildelphia-born singer/songwriter became a better musician with a different voice. When it came time to record the dreaded sophomore album, Perri knew she wanted to prove she’d grown as an artist. “I remember I thought, ‘If I do anything like my first album, I’m going to stay the same.’ So, I told the truth. I chose producers who I knew would challenge me. I wanted to do something outside my comfort zone.” Unlike her debut album, Head or Heart, (released April) isn’t a breakup album. “There are four songs on this album that are just about myself. They’re about growing older and about learning to exist on the planet and being okay with who I am,” Perri says. “I also wrote about falling in love which was rad because I didn’t know I could write happy shit.”
Perri’s personal style this go round has also changed considerably. Her edgy look has become more refined as her songs have become more introspective. “Regardless of the music, I was evolving, but also parallel to the music. It makes sense that my look is a little bit different,” she says. “My hair is different, my style is different, my music is grown up. I wouldn’t ever want to be stuck. I remember having a conscious thought like, ‘I wonder if Slash wants to wear a top hat?’ I made a decision and I went with it.”
In this installment of the Style Record series, Christina Perri talks tattoos, reinvention and dressing tomboy chic.
How would you describe your personal style?
Perri: Tomboy chic is what I’ve been calling it recently. I definitely grew up a tomboy. I really love snapback hats and leather jackets, but also I’ve really started to fall in love with fashion. So, now I’ll have a blouse that’s Marc Jacobs with my combat boots and my skinny jeans. I tend to do something really girly and comfy now.
So you’ve become more into fashion over time?
Perri: Definitely. I remember when I started a record deal I had like one cool black dress in the back of my closet. I did Jay Leno and I found out the morning of, and I pulled out this BCBG dress I’d never worn before and I was like, ‘Oh good thing I have one dress.’ I’d been a waitress my whole life. It was sort of like Cinderella. I wasn’t capable of really liking fashion until I started doing this professionally and getting dressed for events. I just love it. I’m obsessed with Christian Louboutin right now. I’ve been rocking his sneakers. To say that, given where I’ve come from, is insane.
Who are your style inspirations?
Perri: So many. I’d say Rihanna is number one. She looks amazing when she’s getting off an airplane or when she’s on a surfboard in the middle of the ocean or when she’s on stage. She just always looks super rad. She has a tomboy thing that happens too. I also really love Hayley Williams from Paramore. I also have a comfy, fun style, especially live. I can’t wear heels live. I want to run around in sneakers and wear a romper from Topshop because I’d fall on my face otherwise. I would. I also like Miley Cyrus. Clearly I wouldn’t wear the very—I don’t know how to say this—hip bone exposed leotards she’s been wearing, but I really love Chanel and Marc Jacobs. I drank the Miley Kool-Aid. I did.
Do you think you’re drawn to fashion risk takers?
Perri: Totally. But also, they always look like them. I definitely admire that.
Do you style your outfits according to your tattoos?
Perri: I sure do. They are my number one accessory. I have to literally not clash with my own arm. It’s so funny sometimes, because I’d really like to wear a really cute patterned T-shirt, but in my case, I think I clash. I sort of have a black and red vibe going on in my tattoos, so I tend to wear a lot of gray and a lot of black and white because I just match. I keep getting more tattoos, and I’ve gradually become this color, so I definitely think about them.
Do you think people expect you to have a certain style because of your tattoos?
Perri: My latest thing that freaks people out is dressing really really nice with them. I think most people expect me to rock a leather vest and they think I’m going to be like Joan Jett. My favorite type of collar is a button up collar with a little bow. It’s an English schoolboy collar or something—I don’t even know what to call it. But, I wear those all of the time. I know when I do interviews and promo everyone is just shocked that I can actually look nice. I like fucking with people, I really do.
You covered up your tattoos in the music video for “Human.” What inspired that choice?
Perri: That went totally with the treatment of the video. I wanted to be the physical opposite of myself in the beginning. Even though there’s a little bit of the CGI going on, I didn’t want to look like the Terminator. I had to be really subtle with the CGI, so I still needed to come across looking not human in the beginning. The tones are really dark blues, and I covered all of my tattoos. By the end of the video, the tattoos come back and the lights are brighter because I am human. It was a conceptual thing.
What was it like to have your tattoos covered up?
Perri: It was so crazy. It took three and half hours to cover them because I have like 70. I didn’t even look like me. That day I had a little personal victory. I realized I must really like myself, because I couldn’t wait for the makeup to come off. I thought maybe I might like it too much and be like, ‘Oh shit I hate myself. Why did I do this to my body?’ In reality, I was so excited when the makeup came off because I felt so uncomfortable.
When you release a new album do you have the impulse to reinvent yourself or your style?
Perri: At least for me, I had a whole different look for my first album. I had a blonde streak in my super dark brown hair and wore little frilly dresses with combat boots. I will say, it wasn’t overnight, it was pretty gradual. My blonde streak grew out and I didn’t feel the need to dye it back and I dyed my hair sort of a red color while I was working on the album because I wanted to. Not specifically because of the album, but because of what had happened to me in real life.
How would you describe your stage style?
Perri: I think my daily regular outfits are a tad more casual, and my dressed up outfits are a tad more dressed up. On stage, I always tell my stylist that I can’t even think that I’m wearing clothes. I can’t feel tight bands around my stomach or worry about ankles. I’m so engrossed in the music that I just want it to be comfortable. But at the same time, I want to look fun and hip in my own way.
You mentioned you like Marc Jacobs and Chanel. Would you say you mix high and low fashion?
Perri: When I shop for everyday it’s Nasty Gal. I can be all over the world and I can just get it online. I also do Wasteland in LA. It’s one of my favorite stores. I love Urban Outfitters and I love Topshop. Whenever I’m in London the bottom floor of Topshop is the best thing I get to do all day.
What is a an essential you can’t go on tour without?
Perri: I can’t go anywhere without my penguin pillow. That’s dorky, but everyone knows that.
Watch the video for Christina Perri’s “Human” below: