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Linda Perry Teams With FJØRA, Blumhouse for Haunting 'What's Up' Cover

Linda Perry and Fjora

Perry chats with The Advocate about her love of horror, mentoring young artists, and just what they might do to catch the attention of Blumhouse. 

It's the middle of September, and while most artists are still determining how best to get back to work since the entertainment industry all but shuttered last March, mega-producer Linda Perry is back in the studio. She starts to discuss her latest project, a collaboration with Blumhouse, in which she reworked her hit 4 Non Blondes song "What's Up" into a haunting version with emerging artist FJORA, while still fielding questions from those in the studio that day.

"That's rare. You guys get a little rare take of me talking to my guys," Perry tells The Advocate. She adds that recording has been tough these past several months, yet there she is, making art while many are still figuring it out.

One of the most sought-after producers in the music industry, Perry has worked with or written songs for P!nk, Christina Aguilera, Miley Cyrus, Gwen Stefani, the Dixie Chicks, and Dolly Parton, to name just a few. But the out writer, performer, and producer who burst onto the national scene in the early '90s with 4 Non Blondes and the chart-topper "What's Up," often referred to as "What's Going On?" because of its famous interrogative lyric, is also an important mentor to young artists.

When Blumhouse came calling for Perry to reimagine "What's Up" for a series of four original horror films -- The Lie, Blackbox, Nocturne, and Evil Eye -- which drop on Amazon Prime in October, it was the perfect merging of Perry's love of the horror movie genre and the opportunity to amplify a new voice.

"Luckily, Blumhouse has great fucking taste and approached me. They came in with this great idea to turn this very 'What's going on?' rebellious song into this deeper, darker, sinister place," Perry says. "As soon as I heard 'Blumhouse,' I was in."

"I'm a big fan, and I am a true horror flick watcher. Because, honestly, the type of films that they make are more thriller/mental, and those, to me, are the best ones when you're dealing more with an emotional and a mental scare, than with the gore," Perry says of the production company that made Get Out, Paranormal Activity, and The Invisible Man.

"Blumhouse has a wonderful way to create mental stimulation that makes your pulse move at the pace it's supposed to be during every hit that they're wanting you to be scared. Your pulse races," she says.

Besides helping to create the contemporary American songbook through her prolific work these past few decades, Perry travels around the world talking to young people about songwriting and producing. On those travels, she mentors "a lot of girls about being an engineer-producer." It was at a workshop in Canada with 10 young women artists, songwriters, and producers that Perry met FJORA.

"She was the last one that walked through the door. I loved her personality right away. She was very confident, very direct. She knew what she wanted. I was like, 'OK, play me some songs,' Perry says. "She did, and I listened to probably seven of her songs. I was just like, 'Holy shit. Where the fuck have you been?'"

Perry and FJORA exchanged contact information, and Perry said she'd keep her eye out for a project with the young powerhouse. When the Blumhouse project came up, she knew she wanted FJORA to interpret a new eerie version of "What's Up," a song that's been covered countless times throughout the years, including by Lady Gaga (live), Evan Rachel Wood, and Juliette Lewis.

"FJORA's going to knock this out," Perry says was her reaction to the project. "Because her sound is very cinematic trailer already. That is her sound. She's not trying to be that. She is that."

With an ear to always creating the best art possible, Perry says she picked the right person to interpret the song in FJORA.

"The best thing that any leader can do is to put the right people in place," Perry says. "You can't have ego around that. So to me, it was just easy to get FJORA, because she was just going to be better than I was."

Perry's mentoring doesn't stop there. One of the most revered producers in the business, she did it all while being unapologetically out and herself.

"I've been out my whole life and I managed to survive and I managed to get far in this business. I've managed to gain respect, credibility, and continue fighting for my dreams, and by being who I am," she says.

She encourages young LGBTQ+ folks to believe in themselves and to be who they are, but she's also pragmatic about the state of the world.

"Don't expect the red carpet to fucking come out and celebrate the fact that you're out. Because the reality of the world is every time we walk straight five steps, some moron shows up and takes us back a hundred. And so it's a long haul to be who you are," she says.

That said, she has advice for young artists to be proactive -- something she saw in FJORA -- in making their art and getting it out in the world.

"Kids that are seeking cinematic careers -- I get a lot of questions from people since we're in cinema right now --what you could do is pick out one of your favorite Blumhouse films and you could score a scene so that you'd get practice," Perry says.

"We don't just have to wait for someone to call or someone to call you. You can do these things and get your chops together. Then, who knows, you send it to Blumhouse and go, 'Hey, I scored this. I scored Get Out and here's this one scene.'"

Watch the trailer for the Amazon Prime/Blumhouse project featuring "What's Up" below.

The Lie and Blackbox are out October 6, and Nocturne and Evil Eye drop October 13.

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