Lana Del Rey: She’s Human Too

Text Ain Aziz

Pushing all shards of negative notions aside, Lana Del Rey in the flesh could probably be the most amicable and down-to-earth artist JUICE ever had the chance to talk to. Following the gargantuan success of Born To Die and with its follow-up The Paradise Edition quietly waiting to climb up music charts worldwide, one would think that this 26-year-old musician would by now be a snotty by-product of fame and massive adoration. She was recently in Singapore for the opening of Mulberry’s flagship store, and it was then that we discovered that beyond all the commercial sheen, this enigmatic one actually brimmed with tough soul and sheer authenticity. It’s been a rocky road for Lana, but she keeps it cool as she talks to us about her life, her music and how it is to be in under her skin.

Let’s start with the basics – how did you come up with the moniker “Lana Del Rey”?
I think when I was younger I wasn’t the person I was supposed to be, and I had a vision of myself that was as beautiful as I wanted my music to be. When I heard other people’s music and their names, I felt like I identified more with them than the way that I was with my given name and talent. I generally don’t deny my creative impulses, and the name was just one of the creative impulses I had.

So did you expect Born To Die to do as well as it did?
When I made that record, I brought it to a lot of different record labels and I think they weren’t really interested in it because it was sort of… weird. And also it wasn’t party music, it was more downbeat. So the people who got involved with it kind of got with it as a passion project. My photographer was my sister, my little brother was helping me and I was making my own movies from videos I took from YouTube. So no, I didn’t expect the success at all. And I think the attention came with such a hard, negative spin, it never really felt like it was something I could sit back and enjoy. But I mean, it’s not like I never really felt like this is not wonderful, it’s more like, “I have no idea what’s going to happen now.” [Laughs]

You’ve mentioned before that you had a vision to make your life a work of art. How has that been for you so far?
Well, I have to say the despite all the negative stuff that has come along with being creative, I have gotten such a blessing to be able to bring the picture I have in my mind’s eye and then bringing it to life through film. It’s actually a rare thing to happen. Or to wake up and remember something that happened a long time ago, and have it come with a melody and then record it and have it sound exactly how things used to look. It’s exciting!

On the topic of your videos, some of them are pretty controversial. Do you actually want your work to be debated?
That’s a really good question. I think I wanted respect more than I really wanted anything else. I considered myself a writer because writing was my passion. I’ve lived a pretty quiet life for the last 10 years and I do have younger siblings living in my house, so I don’t welcome controversy as much as I welcome creative collaborations with amazing people. To be honest, when I write my records it seemed more like I was trying to capture a moment in time. ‘Ride’ is a little bit different though, because I think that that actually would seem really f**king weird to people, but the rest of it, I just think that they don’t seem that controversial

As a performer and artist, what do you make of fellow performers who are out there for controversy’s sake?
I think the same way that things naturally come to me, like doing things slowly and to involve a lot of film, controversy just some as naturally to them. Maybe they’re not going for controversy, maybe that just what comes out when they work. I’m a really hopeful person, but I don’t know when I do things the way they come out is always really blue. It’s just one of those weird grooves that’s just innately in you, like the way I eat spaghetti every day since I was seven! [laughs] It’s just a funny, natural, weird thing.

Looking back, this whole year’s been pretty intense for you with all the limelight. Was there any particular instance that stood out or anything that surprised you?
Well, nothing used to surprise me, and now everything surprises me because everything seems to come out from left field. The thing that I know now is the same thing that I thought then, which was to have a really rich, internal world and to make that world more real than your outside world because reality will never meet your expectations. I find that you need to live in your own internal world first and then manifest from the inside out.

So having said that, who is Lana as a person, really?
Well, although I love music, it’s not my first passion. When I decided to stop drinking 10 years ago, my passion was working with homeless outreach programmes and drug and alcohol rehabilitations. I was in New York for 10 years and that was my job – that was what I did for real. So, I’d say that although I like music, it doesn’t really feel as much like my true calling as like being one-on-one with people and expressing specific information about what I know, like, “You don’t know what your social security number is? I know where you can go to get your number back”, and help people start to build a life for themselves. And then, once they have got their basic living sorted, only then you can start thinking about bringing art back into it. I mean, I don’t talk about it a lot because no one really wants to know, and obviously it doesn’t really overlap with what I actually do, which is singing. But when I’m writing music, I’m always reflecting back on the past.

Ride with Lana at www.lanadelrey.com