There's only one person, it seems, who doesn't find Lana Del Rey a confounding mystery. "I know everything about myself," Del Rey says in her first Rolling Stone cover story, on stands now. "I know why I do what I do." In many hours of interviews for the story, conducted just as she released her well-reviewed new album, Ultraviolence, she was more open than ever before about her life and music – at least until her mood shifted and she tried to shut the whole thing down. Culled from those discussions, here are some scattered clues to the most perplexing puzzle in pop.
Del Rey just turned 29 – not 28, as it's usually reported – but she denies responsibility for shaving off a year.
"People have said different ages," she says with impressive vagueness.
The directions she gave to Ultraviolence producer Dan Auerbach were pretty abstract:
"I would explain things to him in terms of colors and touchstone words," she says. "My word for the record was 'fire,' you know, blue fire, when a flame gets so hot it goes from red to blue. And I told him I wanted everything to sound like it was in the key of blue. And I think at first he was like, 'What the fuck?'"
She thrives on intense romantic relationships.
"It's been beautiful," she says. "But it's been confusing, because when that's your prerogative, things don't end in a traditional way. You don't have that traditional relationship where maybe you go out with couples at night, or you do normal things. It's more of an extension of the creative process. There's high-impact events that happen, or big adventures, or big fallouts. So it's inspiring, and it's not grounding, but it's what I need to keep going."
She likes older dudes.
"I sort of have an affinity for really good, strong, self-assured people," she says. "I would say I haven't met them as much in people who are in their 20s. So for me, I have nothing in common necessarily with somebody who's in their 20s – yet. That I know of, thus far. I'm really looking for an equal."
She never met Lady Gaga, although they were part of the same downtown scene.
"Her manager, Bob Leone, was a confidante of mine, and he gave me a two-month scholarship to a songwriting class and put me on a list of Monday night lineups at the Cutting Room. We played a couple of shows together, but never met."
As for the early leaked Del Rey song "So Legit," which comes off as a direct attack on Gaga ("Stefani, you suck")? "That was a misunderstanding," she says. Or maybe it was just not supposed to be heard by anyone? She just laughs.
Contrary to popular belief, she is happy sometimes.
"I mean, I'm happy when things aren't bad," she says. "I'm happy when things are just kind of calm. I love going to the ocean. I love driving. I love going to shows. Just being with people I really have fun with. I love the summer. I'm happy in the summer. Love hot, hot weather. I'm happy when I'm making a record, most of the time."
Her favorite Bruce Springsteen song is "I'm on Fire."
Which makes sense.
She'd like to get married and have kids someday.
"I hope so. I hope that's in my future. If I don't fuck everything up. I don't know."
She had stage fright from early on.
"That's why I really liked Cat Power, because I felt like I really understood her," she says. "She was a person who really meant a lot to me, just knowing that it was okay to start your performance with your back to the audience, at first, if you really couldn't face it. I mean, a lot of the time I just really felt like, 'I'm not really sure if I can do it.' But I mean, I've gotten better."
She has a George Costanza-like plan for the future.
"I'm really specific about why I'm doing something or writing something," she says. "But it always kind of gets translated in the opposite fashion. I haven't done it yet, but I've learned that everything I'm going to do is going to have the opposite reaction of what I meant. So I should do the opposite if I want a good reaction." She's surprised to learn that George tried this approach in an episode of Seinfeld. "Oh really? That's awesome. Me and George Costanza! Oh my God!"
She's seen the current Guns N' Roses lineup many times, in multiple countries – which is why she was once spotted hanging out with Axl Rose in L.A.
"I love Guns N' Roses," she says. "Axl is perfect. He's exactly what I thought he would be. He's an inspiration. He goes onstage for three-and-a-half hours every night, you know? He doesn't get tired. It's amazing. Stamina. Courtney Love is like that, too. I saw her at the Troubadour a few months ago. She's just still killing it."
She's baffled by some of the early reaction to her breakthrough song, "Video Games."
"I didn't understand how that arose any kind of feminist commentary, because all I was saying was, 'I'm so happy when you get home, and heaven is a place on earth with you. I've never been happier.' I didn't understand any reason why that sounded submissive, to me. In fact, I actually thought that at such a young age, I was blessed to find someone who made me so happy. And I just didn't understand why true love shouldn't be the end-all, be-all. I have everything else, you know? But obviously, in other songs, it takes a different turn. And it's just different experiences, really.
She's had some weird dreams lately.
"Modern dreams, dreaming in modern times. Really strange. I had a dream that I was waiting for someone to find me, and in the sky, where the stars were supposed to be, it was an Uber map. And I was watching this person get further and further away from me, where the constellations were supposed to be. And I woke up totally confused. "
Only one line in her lyrics has gotten a major reaction from her parents.
Perhaps not surprisingly, it's when she sang "My pussy tastes like Pepsi-Cola. "My Dad thought 'Cola' was funny," she says. "My mom didn't think it was that funny." The line came from something her Scottish ex-boyfriend said: "He was talking about American girls, his vision of American girls was that all their pussies tasted like Pepsi-Cola, and that they were such a dream. I thought that was the funniest fucking thing I'd ever heard. And I thought, 'Well …'"
She had long on-and-off relationship with a record-business exec, but he never signed her.
They met in her early twenties, while she was shopping her first, independent album to major labels. "He wasn't married," she explains. "It was a love affair. But, I mean, I saw him off and on for seven years, and I'm still close with him. He's someone who really influenced the way that I saw things, just in terms of not being able to have what I wanted. And just being close to a life that I really envisioned and loved. It wasn't a career thing, it was a lifestyle thing. I was passionate about him and what he did, and it was being close to what I loved, but not really having it. Which I felt was just symbolic for the way things had been for so many years, standing right next to something that was so beautiful, but never quite having it."
She's buddies with Juliette Lewis, who had publicly dissed her SNL performance.
"I was actually friends with her before that but she didn't know it was me on TV," she says. "I had been more blonde before or something. She called me and was like, 'Oh, I'm so sorry.' But we got over it. Because the truth is, we're birds of a feather in a way. In the end, we thought it was really funny."
She's really into the singer-songwriter Father John Misty.
"Other than Cat Power, he's my greatest modern day inspiration. I just love him so much."
She likes the idea of Kanye West playing her wedding someday in exchange for playing his.
"That'd be amazing," she says. "I should've put that in a contract."