A few years ago, you could take a walk down to Bleecker Street and catch a show at a small venue called The Bitter End featuring back to back performances from two of Manhattan’s most up-and-coming artists: Stefani Germanotta and Lelia Broussard.
One would ultimately ask Cher to hold her meat purse and get blasted by Bette Midler for coming out on stage dressed as a mermaid in a wheelchair, while the other would be a final contender to be the first unsigned artist to grace the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.
On August 2nd, Rolling Stone will announce which unsigned artist will be the first to make the magazine’s cover – and the contest has narrowed its way down to two finalists. Will alt-rock quartet The Sheepdogs win or will the quirky Lelia flash her signature facial-warpaint on the most esteemed music journal in the biz?
If anyone is close to stealing Florence Welch’s crown as queen of the indie chanteuses, it’s Lelia Broussard. Ever since her most recent album, Masquerade, came out in November of last year, Lelia has exploded onto the scene. No, really. I challenge you to find a coffee shop, book store, or Forever 21 that doesn’t have her song “Satellite” (written about “a sad robot in love”) on constant loop.
On August 24th, Lelia will be performing a very special one-stop show at the Highline Ballroom in New York. I caught up with Lelia to talk about what to expect from the show, how the Rolling Stone contest has impacted her life, which one of the Spice Girls she most identifies with, and more.
If you win the Rolling Stone competition, what would your ideal cover look like? Any specific photo-shoot themes or photographers you’re envisioning working with?
I can’t give it away! But I like the classic looking covers they do.
What has been the most rewarding part of being involved in this Rolling Stone competition? What has been the biggest change since it launched?
Playing Bonnaroo was really incredible. Biggest change is my new DIVA attitude … just kidding.
You wrote your first song about your orthodontist when you were very young. Why was he so terrible that it birthed this form of self-expression in you?
He told me boys wouldn’t want to look at me if I got my braces off a few months early. Quite the douche.
Tell me about the hipster bitch who inspired “Hipster Bitch”?
Haha! She’s actually a really cool lady. But I met her in a not so fun situation for me.
You’ve become known for wearing lots of eclectic face paint during your shows. What does the face paint represent to you and why has it become such a trademark part of your live sets?
My album is called Masquerade and I wanted to sort of create a visual element to go along with that. I also love David Bowie and glam rock, so it’s definitely partly inspired by that.
What’s the most bizarre gift a fan has ever given you?
Assorted screws, nuts, bolts, and a smelly T-shirt. No joke.
As an unsigned artist, what do you think the benefits of not being tied down to a major record label are? What are the downsides?
There are a whole lot of options for independent artists now. I’ve been doing it myself for quite awhile. It’s nice to have total control of everything you’re doing. But the downside is not having enough money. Also that there are not enough hours in the day to do everything you need. It really all depends on what your goals are and what the deal is like. Signing to a major label is certainly not the be-all-end-all.
What is your favorite song to perform live and why?
“Something True” is a fun one. I usually come out in the crowd with my band and we do a little bit of a different arrangement than what’s on the record.
If you were a Spice Girl, would you be Posh, Ginger, Baby, Scary, or Sporty? Why?
Sporty, because she can sing.
You have found a lot of success through the Internet. Between tons of plays on MySpace and an insane amount of views on YouTube, you’ve become quite the viral indie phenomenon. What’s the best advice you have for a new artist that’s trying to get their stuff out there?
Good music will promote itself.
You’ve divided the past few years between Los Angeles and New York. So here comes the tough question: do you consider yourself more of an East Coast or West Coast girl now?
I moved to LA about three years ago but have recently moved back to New York. I love it here so much. New York is more my speed.
Have you begun the process of writing and/or recording a follow-up album to Masquerade yet?
I’m always working on new music! The winner of the Rolling Stone contest will release an EP so I’m all ready for that.
What surprises can your fans look forward to at your New York show at the Highline Ballroom on August 24th? Are you planning on announcing a full tour in the near future?
Lots of rock! My good friends Greg Holden and Allison Weiss are opening for me that night so we’ll all do something together, I’m sure. But I definitely will be announcing a fall tour soon! Stay tuned!