Katy Perry doesn't have much to hide, and she's not exactly short on opinions. In hours of interviews for her latest Rolling Stone cover story (conducted during tour stops in New York, New Jersey and Montreal), she held herself back on precisely one subject: her now-defunct romance with John Mayer. ("I don't want to be rude to him and or what that was, because it always comes to bite me in the ass and I don't want to do that anymore.") But she had plenty to say about every other aspect of her life and work, which left plenty of Katycat treats that didn't quite fit into the cover story.
Discovering her signature, glammed-up look wasn't a big deal.
"Just someone decided to pay for hair and makeup," she says. "That's all. I was like, ‘This is cool. My eyes look even more anime now. Great.' It wasn't that deep; it was just kind of experimenting."
She's really into transcendental meditation.
"It's something that's with you for your whole life. You learn your mantra, it never leaves you, and it's the deepest rest your brain gets. For people that are so creative and have this kind of creative faucet that never turns off – it just continues and continues – it can be a little exhausting. And, you know, with the continual responsibility of having 127 people on the road, and always being the point person for everything, my subconscious is going even when I'm sleeping. I'm dreaming about whatever I'm creating next, or relationships, or blah, blah, blah. So I'm never really off. And meditation is actually the one time I get to really reset."
She'd like to experiment musically in the future.
"I think I have a lot of different personalities inside of me concerning music, and I love a lot of different things, and I like to try things, and I'm inspired by a lot of different things, and I feel like I don't ever want to be just one genre, you know? I want to maybe break the ideas of what boundaries pop stars should be in, you know? I want to do an acoustic record and do a tour that's all theaters and just have my acoustic guitar and my Telecaster and people would be like, 'What the fuck?' I'm waiting to play that ace in a couple of years and it will be so exciting. Because I know I've had that up my sleeve for so long. I don't have to prove anything to anyone because I know who I am."
She's not completely obsessed with topping the charts.
"I'm not trying to ever duplicate what I did on Teenage Dream, because I could never. Prism is more about showing the variety I have as an artist, rather than always having a determined goal to go to Number One or whatever. I mean, it's always nice, but that's not always going to happen. And I don't want to have to conform to try and do that. Like, I don't want to have to play something I'm not to get that Number One or whatever. That's not music. That's math. And I don't want to be that."
"I want to break the ideas of what pop stars should be"
She's learned one central lesson from her divorce.
"Now I know – first and foremost, self-love, and then give love away. Back then it was mostly just me giving love away with no self-love. I went through my 'return of Saturn,' is what they call it. It's this kind of astrological thing they talk about, when the planet Saturn comes to teach you lessons, and either you reject them or accept them. And I accepted those lessons that I needed to learn. And if you reject them, it's your midlife crisis that comes around at 50."
She's tried dating non-famous guys.
"I've done that before. It's not that they have to be famous, although there's a level of understanding when they're in the same business, you know? They understand what it means when you're tired from a show or the tour's exhausting you or if an interview went wrong — they know all the ins and outs, so you can just walk in to the house with a certain face and they understand, you know? Rather than, like, having to explain everything and that takes two, three hours. And what I really like is someone that understands music, because I love music. So anybody that understands the power of music, I'm usually instantly attracted to."
She's touring so hard right now because she sees it as "taking advantage of an opportunity that is presenting itself."
"I just feel like people don't always come out to see live shows but people want to see my show. And it's sold out. People are responsive. It's being offered to me and I don't know if that will always be the case. It's exciting times to be able to sell out arenas in a time where people are blacking out arenas. You know what I'm saying? So be grateful for the opportunity now, because it may not always be that way. I may not always be here. So do it while you can."
She doesn't write songs on tour – but she does start lyrics.
"I write lyrics in my phone all the time, but when I tour, I tour. When I write, I write. I separate it. But I have so many ideas that I kinda jot them down and then [a member of her management team] will transcribe all of it and put it in a binder and I'll go through it all and I'll just highlight what still resonates with me and what makes sense, you know? So I'll be on tour for a year and I'll just kind of collect these notes."
She gets a lot of fashion cues from Tumblr.
"With Tumblr, it's almost like when you go to a city, you have to know where to go to find the good stuff? And so I just started following these kind of random, actually these transvestite girls that were really cool. And then I started following this clothing stuff. And that's where I get a lot of my style influence stuff, and that's a lot of what the new video is influenced by. "This Is How We Do" is like, straight from the pages of Tumblr. Although the kids, the Tumblr kids – like, the Tumblr rats – if they were to hear that actually coming out of my mouth, they would despise it."
She's not into fame.
"I never wanted to be famous. That's a byproduct of what I do. Fame is truly a byproduct of the dream that I had. People want to be recognized for their work, but nobody wants to be famous for nothing. Fame is, I think, disgusting. And it's really hard to separate your public life from your personal life. Useless fame is disgusting. I think if you've got a talent or something to offer, a creative thing to offer to the world, then I think that's beautiful. But that famous for nothing thing is kind of gross. It's a bummer. And, you know, I only ever just wanted to make music and be on stage and play, and offer up my perception of how I view the world, through the songs that I write. But then there's a lot of different things that come with it, and I call them trade-offs. I can't necessarily go downstairs and, like, touch the tree, but I can do a lot of other things."
"Fame is, I think, disgusting."
She wants to still be doing this at Madonna's age.
"Yeah, for sure. In a different way, maybe. I mean, she does what she does, great. I'm probably going to do it differently. Like, I want to have an acoustic record by then. But I can only be 29 now."
She knows careers can be fleeting these days.
"I feel like I've had a pretty long run, considering our kind of fast-paced world we live in, where a lot of things come and go. It's been seven or eight years of a lot of touring, putting out three records and we're still here, folks. You look at someone like Dolly Parton, who's had 27 records, or some crazy-ass number. Or Aretha Franklin, who has been around forever. Time just compounds, now. We're going at such a fast pace that things don't last as long. But back when there was no Internet, it was like, people could have careers for a decade. I'll be interested to see who has had a career for a decade ten years from now. Time is the truth-teller of all things, and when anybody has a misconception of me, I'm just like, I don't have to prove anything to you now. I'm just going to let time be the truth-teller. We'll see. We'll see!"
She's happy about her upcoming 30th birthday.
"I hear it's great times, in your 30s. And also, as humans, we're living three times our life expectancy, so as everyone would say, 30 is the new 20. Age is very much an attitude in my world, and I still feel very young. I feel like I'm 22. If you asked me how I felt, I would feel 22. I think I'm very youthful, and that's what keeps me going. To have that youthful sensibility, and that excitement about life, and discovering and absorbing. Learning information and being educated."
She's into museums.
"When we're on the road, not only do we go to theme parks, we go to museums. Because the best thing now that I've realized is instead of trading my status for, like, bottles at clubs, I can trade my status for incredibly curated tours at museums. Like, by the people that installed the whole thing. We went to the mummy exhibit in the British Museum, by the people that installed the mummies. It was incredible, just learning about all of that stuff. And it makes for really good Instagram pictures, too. Kids, museums have lots of artifacts in them that look funny, so go to them and get your best Instagram update."
She's figured out how to deal with not agreeing with all of her parents' fundamentalist religious views.
"It's a very agree-to-disagree situation, but these are my parents. These are the only parents I'll ever have. I'm their child. That's it. And if you don't agree to disagree, I think you'll live in a lot more pain. It takes a lot of eye rolling, on both sides. They were young once, too. I mean, my dad had to get off of drugs, because he would have died, so that's more wild than I am! But they're definitely excited by the fact that they had the power to create someone that does something like this. I think they're proud of it and excited and probably bewildered by it, too, you know? Like, there is no handbook for this kind of life. You just have to be observant, aware, and fucking hold on for dear life."
She never rebelled that forcefully against them, either.
"I guess my result so far has not lived up to the storybook narrative of what I should be. I should be bad, but I'm not. l'm, like, both good and bad girl. I'm just me. I'm just girl! There's no motive to be bad. I guess I'm a walking dichotomy of what people think I should be."
She does have her own spiritual beliefs.
"I believe in something bigger than myself. I don't believe in a guy that has a long beard and is sitting on a throne, but I believe that there is a greater energy, greater power, even if it's, like, more science than spirit. I believe that there is a greater power that could be looking after me. Maybe angels, but what are those angels? I don't know if they are exactly what we imagine them to be. Maybe they're just an energy."
She doesn't love the question "What would you do if your next album totally flopped?" "I'm not gonna give any energy to those words! But listen, if it's a true expression of myself, then it will be necessary for me to put it out there. If it's exactly what I need to present as an artist and it doesn't do well by the numbers, at least I'll have some pride in the fact that I needed to do this as an expression and, if it didn't translate, then so be it. At least I'm staying true to myself and my music."