Lana Del Rey has arrived on these shores like a breath of gorgeous, sunkissed Californian air. Only she’s from New York. And, as she revealed in these out-takes from her interview with Esquire in our December issue, her favourite place is Glasgow. Some woman indeed.
Lana, you’re an international star already, but where’s your permanent home right now?
I don’t have one. I was in New York for six years, but I relocated to London because my managers were there, and then I have to work in California a lot because that’s where the producers are. But also when I have any time when I don’t have to sing or anything, I go to Glasgow. That’s where I’m happiest. I found this band that I love and I live with them out there.
Is that Kassidy? How did you meet up with them?
They reached out to me online and I heard their voices and I just thought they were extraordinary. They were real singers and I loved their songs. They came to London and we met up and we just loved each other from the feeling of them. I talk to them every day. I don’t know, I really love them. It’s funny, when you meet people who are nice people, who are just really nice to you, you forget what it’s like to have friends who are really sweet and then you’re like, “Oh! That’s how I should be spending their time!” So I don’t know, I just think they’re sweet.
Do you actually stay with them in Glasgow?
Aren’t they big hairy guys?
They’re not that hairy… They just have long hair. That’s rock’n’roll though! That’s how it’s supposed to be.
You’re from Lake Placid, New York. What’s that like?
It’s upstate. It’s one of the coldest spots in North America other than Minnesota, it’s in a national park so it’s surrounded by what they called The Forty-Sixers, 46 really high mountaintops. And it’s a village because there’s only about 2,000 people in it, but it’s beautiful – they had the Olympics there – but it’s pretty far removed from anything.
Did it affect you musically, or did that come later?
I was always singing when I was a baby, but I don’t think it was because of my environment necessarily. You know, if me and my family had been somewhere else then I would have been singing too. I wasn’t necessarily inspired by the landscape or anything like that, but I did like to sing, and I wanted to go to the city so I was excited when I got there.
At what age did you go?
I started sort of travelling there when I was 17, I moved there when I was 18.
Were you singing at the time?
I didn’t think I was going to be a singer, I was singing in choirs at school things like that, and just writing things for myself. When I got to New York my friends told me: if you’re not singing and you want to be singing, don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’re going to get closer to it by doing something else. So I made a decision that I would try and be a writer and a singer. I went to open-mic nights, and things happened really quickly. People would ask me to sing for them at their shows, and then I entered a song-writing contest, and got a record deal on that back of that.
What would you have done if that hadn’t worked? An accountant?
I’m terrible with numbers.
You started life as Lizzy Grant - how did you come up with the name Lana Del Rey?
“Lizzy Grant” didn’t sound like what the music was, not even from the beginning. And so when my first record came out, I just decided to pick something that sounded sonically more like what the music was going to be like. Sometimes having a certain name just gives you something to build towards. We thought that Lana Del Rey sounded exotic and beautiful and maybe like you’re not really sure what it means, which sort of summed up the music. And I speak Spanish so I liked Del Rey, and I like California so there’s a Del Rey reference. It could have been anything really but that’s just what we came up with.
Were there any musical people in your family, or did you spring from nowhere?
My dad’s a very good singer, my mom’s a good singer too. My dad and my uncle write country songs and me and my mom sing in the choir at church, so everybody sings in my family!
What do your brother and sister think about what you're doing?
It doesn’t surprise anyone really. My sister’s actually an exquisite photographer in the city. She’s only 22 but she works for Lanvin. She takes all my pictures too and helps me take my videos. She’s in the art world and that’s really nice. And my little brother has just turned 18. They’re really happy about it.
You described your sound in the past in the “Hollywood sadcore” – how long did it take you to work out what you wanted your sound to be?
To be honest the “Hollywood sadcore” thing was a little bit of a joke, although I think it’s a pretty phrase. I didn’t really expect anyone to listen to any music so I was just saying whatever I wanted. I made my first record when I was 19, with David Kahne, and that was very exciting at the time because I was signed to a really small label and he’s really famous in America. He’s an amazing producer. The first record was very inspired by trying to see the light through the dark times, and also inspired by glamour, and the way that things are in the movies which seems epic and perfect.
Another phrase which you may not have expected to be picked up as much as it was is the “Gangster Nancy Sinatra” line. What’s the gangster influence?
First of all I didn’t even make up that, that was something an A&R man said and we thought it was funny. I put it on my Facebook page and everyone was like, “Who’s this girl trying to be the next gangster Nancy Sinatra?” To be honest, I’m not that familiar with Nancy’s discography, although I know everything that Frank did.
But I mean, it is a little bit gangster in that I’ve had so many good things happen and then lost it all so many times that I decided to just go down my own path regardless and do whatever I chose to do. And that way I think it makes the music kind of gangster, and not listening to anybody else, you’re in charge of your own life, and you’re running things. So that’s gangster.
How will you embrace your burgeoning fame?
It’s really not something that I want. It’s not something I’m going for today. It was when I was 16, but things change a lot and you get new things that are important to you. So I still don’t want to have to do anything I don’t want to do. Just like anybody else. I actually do believe in having icons and gods because I think it’s nice. I have my own, but I don’t think I would be very good for fame because I’m really quiet. So I hope that doesn’t happen.
We fear it might be too late.
I don’t think so. Just wait, it’ll be over as quickly as it started – you know how people are. They always find something to talk about and then before you know it they’ll just be on their merry way.
Do you have a melancholy streak to you?
I think so. I fight the dark side and I do a really good job at it. Definitely.
Things are looking pretty good however – you’re signed to Interscope and Polydor and your debut album is imminent. That’s exciting, no?
It is but we didn’t really have time to think about, I just move along. I really like everyone [at the labels], I know all the people really well and they don’t want to change everything, it’s not like you hear about. Everything’s the same, I’m still going to make my videos, even for the official videos, and everyone gets it and no one wants to change it. I feel like maybe the angels are shining on me for just a second.
Born To Die by Lana Del Rey (Polydor) is out on Monday lanadelrey.com