Linda Perry II Rolling Stone

Linda Perry: My Life in 15 Songs

[edited version]

I started getting a reputation through my work with Christina and everybody. The word started getting around that I was very therapeutic in my process. You don’t come work with me and I pull out a song. The song gets written after we hang. I have to understand who you are and what you’re about. I feel like people really enjoyed it, especially the girls. A lot of these women, like Gwen, had never worked with a woman producer before.

Jimmy [Iovine] really wanted Gwen to go solo. He thinks everything I touch turns to gold. From my take of it, Gwen was very reluctant — she was not ready to go be Gwen Stefani. When she showed up, you could just tell she was, “Oh, I don’t know if I wanna be here.” She was literally a kid with their foot halfway out the door and halfway in. I felt agonized for her. We talked for a while and then I said, “Why don’t you go? Let’s come back tomorrow and let’s see how you feel. Don’t worry about it.” She left, and I was up all night long. I wanted her to show up the next day and be inspired.

Gwen is the nicest, funniest, dorkiest person. Stunning, totally talented, has great ideas. She can’t just write a song. She has to have the full vision — what the video is, what the look is, what the story is. It all has to come together. For “What You Waiting For?” I had the chorus but I didn’t have the verse yet. She walked in the next day and I said, “Well, I came up with this.” I played it and she just lit on fire. She’s like, “What the fuck, dude?”

We took turns coming up with ideas for the verses. She wanted to do something where there was a bunch of different characters, so I set up six microphones and labeled them, and at every line I told her which microphone to go to. Different microphones give you different sounds and they make you be a different character. We did the whole song like that. It was really fun. Jimmy Iovine showed up later and said, “Well, there’s our first single.”