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Pink: ‘Stage is where I live’

Singer says performances are ‘messy, gritty, authentic’ and her forte

By Mikael Wood, Los Angeles Times
Published: October 14, 2023, 5:43am

Pink is on the phone between tour dates, two stadium gigs in her hometown of Philadelphia behind her and one coming up in a few days in Nashville, Tenn., which brings a question to mind: Would she ever make a country record?

“Oh, I’ve made country records,” the singer replies, pointing to duets with Chris Stapleton, Keith Urban and Kenny Chesney, the last of which went to No. 1 on country radio in 2016. But what about an album-length immersion — maybe a Dolly-and-Porter-Waggoner-style set with Stapleton?

“Nah,” she says with a laugh. “I don’t do whole albums of anything.”

That much is true: One of pop music’s biggest voices, Pink, 44, has been making eclectic (if reliably hit-filled) LPs since 2000, veering among slick R&B jams, crunchy pop-rock bangers, rootsy acoustic numbers and sweeping power ballads with a message of self-empowerment that somehow never feels sappy. Her latest, “Trustfall,” extends the streak: After “ Kids in Love,” a campfire-ish tune featuring Swedish folk duo First Aid Kit, Pink moves directly into the roller-disco-ready “Never Gonna Not Dance Again,” which she cut with the veteran Top 40 maestro Max Martin.

What holds it all together is Pink’s singing — as technically assured as it is bleeding with emotion — and her friendly yet unvarnished personality. It’s a combination that has helped the singer (born Alecia Moore) land 36 songs on Billboard’s Hot 100, including “Get the Party Started,” “Who Knew,” “So What,” “Raise Your Glass,” “Try,” “What About Us “ and “Just Give Me a Reason.”

Pink, who’s married to former motocross racer Carey Hart — with whom she has a 12-year-old daughter, Willow, and a 6-year-old son, Jameson — is on the road in North America through November. These are excerpts from our conversation.

This year has been huge for live music. Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Morgan Wallen, Metallica: So many acts are out playing to people who seem totally amped to finally be back at a concert. But touring has been the centerpiece of your career for ages. How’d you learn that was the lane for you?

My manager, Roger Davies, taught me that. He manages, or managed, Tina Turner, Cher, Janet Jackson, Sade, Joe Cocker and myself, and they’re all live acts. I’ve been pounding the pavement for 25 years because that’s the arena I belong in. Or that’s the stadium I belong in, I should say.

You think you’re a better live performer than a record-maker?

One hundred percent. Because live is messy. It’s life, it’s gritty, it’s authentic — it’s unrehearsed. I mean, we rehearse to a certain extent for safety. But you never know what’s gonna happen. And I’m never in my head. The second I step h, I’m in my heart, I’m in my body. There’s no other place that I operate — as a Virgo, as a mother, as the most responsible person I know — like the stage. It’s where I live.

Does it ever feel hard to live up to the reputation you’ve built as a performer?

It’s a gift. I love setting the bar higher and higher and higher. But I come from a Broadway, theatrical, rock ‘n’ roll background. So, for me, you can do all that s—, and maybe people expect it. But you gotta be able to break it down and make it about the music. It’s about the lyrics and the song. That’s why I have a rock band and why I always have an acoustic section in the show.

What do you do now to stay in shape that you didn’t have to do 15 years ago?

Every morning I wake up and say thank you to my body. I didn’t used to do that. I do yoga, I do high-intensity interval training, I do circuits. And I do cold plunges after the show.

A cold plunge sounds awful.

Oh, it’s horrible. What’s not horrible is how good you feel after. It’s anti-inflammatory, it’s good for stress. But, yeah, it sucks. And I just bought one.

Do you ever get scared when you’re soaring above the audience?

Absolutely. That’s why I started doing it — because I’m afraid of heights, and I don’t want to be afraid. I’ve been in some situations that don’t feel good. I wonder every night if my bungees are gonna work. But it’s a cool way to go if they don’t.

Your daughter has done aerial stuff with you. But are your kids ever like, “Mommy, don’t do it!”

Maybe my son a little bit, but he’s just little. They’ve got Carey Hart blood in them. I mean, he’s worse.

Would you ever do a Vegas residency?

When I do Vegas, it’ll be the best show Vegas ever saw.

Why haven’t you done it yet?

My kids are still young enough to join me on the road. Vegas is something I can do when they don’t want to be with me anymore. Willow’s getting close.

Did you see the Taylor Swift or Beyoncé tour?

No, and I’m so bummed that I didn’t. They’re powerhouse women. And I’m so stoked that we’re all doing this. It used to only be guy bands like Aerosmith and Coldplay and the Rolling Stones, and now it’s all women. It’s awesome.

When you do see someone else’s show, do you look at it as a fan? As competition? As a fact-finding mission?

Look, any artist out there selling tickets with their name on it is a hard-working motherf—. I’m not one of those people looking at a Super Bowl halftime show waiting to hate it. That’s bulls—, it’s inhumane. That person, whether I liked it or not, worked their ass off to be up there and to be doing this.

What I judge a performer on — because I’m not gonna say I don’t — is: Do I feel like I got to know you? Did I get a little piece of your soul? I walk around the world with this desperate need for connection. Like, don’t ask me how I am and then think you’re gonna keep walking. I’m gonna tell you some s— you did not want to know. So that’s No. 1. No. 2 is: Did you sound good? Are you singing live?

The idea of not singing live — in your mind it’s a con of some kind?

I just prefer a different kind of thing. I like my Janis Joplins and my Tina Turners. I wanna hear your voice even if you’re hoarse. Like Dave Matthews. Oh my God, I went to a show of his in London — just him and a guitar in this tiny little bar. And I was not a Dave Matthews fan until that moment. But I was like, “Holy s—, I get it. You’re really good.” Or Ed Sheeran standing up in a stadium with a guitar. What an accomplishment! Who goes to a stadium show to see a guy with a guitar?

You spend any time with Tina Turner?

Not enough. I went to see her when she was 69 years old, and she was running around in Christian Louboutins, dancing her ass off. Then she takes an intermission and I got to go back and sit in her dressing room and talk with her. She was such a magical person — just otherworldly. When she came back out, she did her acoustic section and dedicated the rest of the show to me. I was looking around to make sure every single person in there heard it.

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You’ve said you were taken advantage of early in your career by previous managers who locked you into a bad deal. Do you think things have improved since then for young women in the record business?

Anytime a light is shined on a cancer, it’s a good thing. I think women are less afraid to ask for what they deserve. There’s safety in numbers knowing that you can call people out now and not have your life completely ruined. That’s all progress.

I have this dream of sitting down with Cher, Bette (Midler), Sade, Janet [Jackson], Stevie Nicks, and then people from my generation — myself, Beyoncé, Taylor — and then the younger contingent — Halsey, Tate McRae, Doja Cat — and just having a forum and talking about the three generations and what it was like for the top echelon and for the middle children and for the babies. Wouldn’t that be an interesting conversation! I have so many questions.

Were you surprised at all by Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner’s recent comments about how he thought women and Black artists weren’t as articulate as the white men he interviewed in his new book?

No, I’m not surprised. Misogyny and racism are so prevalent today. But they’re the dinosaurs, and they’re on their way out. I don’t know how successfully they passed down their poison.

That’s quite a phrase.

I think about that stuff. Not to get off on a tangent, but me and this other mom were talking last night about how there are these really specific moments in your child’s life where they need your guidance. And depending on the guidance they get from you, it really shapes their character. If you get it right, you have the chance of raising a very kind, open-minded individual. And if you get it wrong, that’s passing down the poison.

With my son, this was a seminal moment: He’s like, “Mom, everyone calls me a girl,” and I’m like, “That’s because you have long hair, buddy, and people are still hung up on these really old-fashioned societal norms.” I told him people call me “sir” all the time, especially from behind and especially at airports.

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