Interviews

12/01/2015

Chatting to Ariana Grande about pop stress, being single and her brother Frankie.


We’re sat in the side room downstairs at Another Fancy London Hotel.  Ariana sits in front of me in a baggy sweater, no lippy, hair scraped back (obviously) in that pony tail. PR to the left of me, publicist/manager/pa to the right, here I am stuck in the middle while in the far corner it transpires that her childhood friend is waiting. She frequently tilts her head back and roars laughing at Ariana’s responses. Earlier I’d watched the obsessive fans - about 15 of them all aged about 15 - speculate about where she was in the freezing cold and previous wet downpour. Two of them tried and failed to sneak into the hotel, whereas Ariana spent the whole time with her back to a window out to the street. Should these teenage fans have walked past and jumped up, they could’ve got a glipse of that ponytail.




Your fans are so hardcore, it’s really cold outside, wet and windy.

I know, at the last station I went to, I took them into the garage so that I could take pics with them. I didn’t want them waiting any more in the cold like that and I tweet ‘y’all are so sweet but please don’t get sick waiting outside’

You tweet loads of your fans...

Of course, I love them, I have a very intimate relationship with them, I have a very strong friendship bond with them.  I really do. I see their DM’s all day, most of the time I’ll respond and I care about them a lot. There are so many times where I’ll recognise someone because of their user name. I mean of course I can’t remember 19 million people, but there are obviously a handful that are a lot more active and constantly online more than the others and I’ll remember a lot of their names and see a lot of their pictures and i’ll see them and i like care a lot about them, so it’s important.

It’s so amazing because you don’t have to.

No, I don’t but it’s important to me, I love them.

So we’re hear to talk about Love Me Harder. It’s one of my favourite songs on the album, my actual favourite song is Break Free, but both of those songs have this almost European, vaguely Swedish pop vibe to it.

Yeah. Well, Max Martin, Swedish Pop Moment. Working with Max obviously I feel the Swedish pop flavour will be very present. The great thing about working with him as well is that I get to make it my own, so that was a really cool thing.

The other thing that’s surprising is, I was reading the lyrics separately from listening to the song and you don’t notice just listening, but they’re quite sensual.

Yeah.

A bit racy I guess

It’s definitely a more… sensual song, for sure.

I guess people are saying, especially in terms of the whole album, that this is ‘more adult’.

This one, yeah. Well I’m more of an adult now!

Yeah, it feels a bit patronising to say you’re growing up. You are…

I literally am! I really am, so it’s kind of crazy. I’m an adult now. It’s weird. It’s great, it’s fun.

Is it weird for you though?

No. I’ve always been mentally more mature than my brother. My brother was always the little kid and I was always the responsible one, the more serious one of the two of us, even though I’m very silly and playful. Out of the two of us he would always make fun of me and say that I was like 95 years old. ‘ugh, you’re no fun’ while he was like the little glitterball running around the house. I guess I’m enjoying adulthood thus far, all 21 years of me.

The stereotype is that pop stars don’t have anything to worry about.

That is probably the least true thing I’ve ever heard in my life. Probably the least true, yeah. That’s definitely not true, we have a lot to worry about. Everybody who’s a working person has a lot to worry about, they have places to be, they have times that they need to be there by, they have work to fulfil, they have interviews to do, they have performances to do, they have sicknesses to overcome to that they can then get through the performance, things that they have to worry about, they have to try and avoid seeing rumours and seeing some of the bullshit that comes along with it, they have to avoid the negativity, they have to stay focused, they have to not let anything derail them, they have to sometimes throw on a smile when there are a thousand cameras when sometimes you don’t necessarily feel like smiling, you’re having a terrible day. You’ve got terrible news about a family member, you have to put on a happy face you have to go you have to be certain places at a certain time and if youdon’totherpeoplegetmad and it’s kinda crazy. There’s a lot going on at once, but every single person has a lot going on at once, it doesn’t matter what your occupation is. I do think that sometimes people will say ‘oh you have it so easy’ and I’m like ‘so must you!’. It’s the same thing, everybody looks at eachother like the grass is always greener on the other side, everyone’s got a full plate. We’re all so much more alike than we are different, it’s kinda crazy.

Of all the popstars I’ve met and written about, you seem really on it.

What do you mean? On it?

You’ve got such a positive attitude.

Oh thanks!

I think that’s why you have this connection with your fans because you have this real warmth in what you do, which is kind of lacking in some other people.

You’re cute! Thanks. That’s so nice of you.

In terms of what we’re talking about I wanted to skip back a little bit about and talk about your brother. Obviously I’m writing for Gay Times…

Yeah, no, I got so excited when I heard that you were my last interview today. They were like ‘okay, your last interview of the day is gay times’ and was like GAY TIMES?! [she reaches over and grabs my sequined converse trainer which I have dangling with my legs crossed] As in a gay magazine? I was like OH MY GOD, I’m so happy. So Yeah, Gay Times. Frankie. Gay Times.

That’s kind of what I was getting at in terms of your positivity, in that you stood up for him.

Oh, always.

And that instagram comment.

You can talk shit about me all you want, I will not let it, I kinda won’t see it, I try not to give in to my ego in that way, I won’t care. But if you talk shit about my brother, I might actually throw a stiletto at you. [I, and the gallery to my left, laugh] I might throw a sensible black YSL shoe at you.

HAVE you ever thrown a shoe at someone?

No, I’m just kidding. I have never but that’s when all of my Kabbalah practise flies out the window and the loud abrasive Italian comes out and I start yelling. You can’t talk shit about Frankie to me. You just can’t, I love him too much.

And that was what was so great about the response, that it was - for want of a better word - quite sassy.

Of course! I mean here’s the thing, I have mixed feelings about the word sassy, because when people show passion or strength or are defending something that they believe in or that they love, people are like ‘oh, sassy’, and I’m like ‘NO! it’s just the truth!’ [there is a bit of table/thigh slapping here] People really need an awakening when it comes to what they say about people. Or the little things that they let slip…

That’s one of the massive problems of the internet is that it’s all anonymous, people chat shit because they’re not responsible for what they’re saying because they hide behind these profiles as nameless...

I forget what they said, I think they were like GAY! or something…

I think it was just ‘homo’

They said homo, that’s what they said? Homo - and I was like YES [really slams table] the fiercest, happiest, most successful, most adored, loved homo you will ever meet! Like, no, he’s so loved and so precious, that has nothing to do with anything, just stop it. Yes indeed! Thank you for reconfirming his sexuality. He knows! You know! We know, who cares?

Exactly.

I couldn’t help myself. There have been so many times when I’ve wanted to literally rip peoples’ heads off on my brother’s instagram page. Can’t help it.

This is the other thing, there’s a really long heritage and link between pop stars and the gay community, and it’s almost as if, if you’re a female singing electro pop you automatically become a gay icon, whereas with you, you’re actually sticking up for us, on our side.

I cannot tell you how passionately I feel about equality. Of all sorts, obviously as far as the LGTB, all of that world, everything, the gay community, transgender community, any… but also just men and women and people of different ethnicities, there’s so many things. I don’t think ‘oh, there’s a feminist problem, or there’s a problem with people being homophobic - there’s just a people problem. Of course those are all relevant, but there’s a people problem, there’s a world problem. There’s too much intolerance, too much hatred based on shit that should never be relevant, you know what I mean? I’m such a equality advocate, equality of all sorts.

Totally, I have the conversation all the time and people are so quick to focus on the differences, when actually..

We’re all the same! We all want the same things, we all want to be loved, we all want to be accepted, we all want to be happy, we all want to be successful, we all want to be healthy. And that’s it.

Human is the word.

We’re human. But yeah, I get so riled up at these things, I get soo riled up.

It’s good, thats the thing,

Italian.

I’ve got such a strong image now of you throwing stuff….[yeah] I wanted to talk about Break Your Heart Right Back - I’m not bothered about who its about, I think it’s strange this obsession with knowing as if every single song has to be autobiographical, I wanted to move the conversation on a bit and it makes me think, why aren’t there more songs about that situation.

Right!?

There must be loads of girls that have fallen in love with gay guys, just as there must be guys who’ve dated girls and then not been sure about their sexuality… it’s a very obvious - not obvious

Apparent

Yes apparent phenomenon. It obviously happens. alot

Of course. Yeah. Most of the good ones are gay! [laughs]

Err, not really. I’m single, I’m struggling with that.

Oh really? [slurps the starbucks melting drink on the table infront of us]

I mean I’ve only recently become single so I’m in a very recent, can’t-really-go-on-dates headspace.

Yeah. I’m sorry. Watch First Wives Club, that’ll get you out of it. First Wives Club, followed by To Wong Fu, followed by Showgirls. You’ll be fine after that.

OMG SHOWGIRLS. That’s my career film.

That’s your goal? Your career goal is to be Nomi Malone and to come out with nipple tassles and give it a can-can moment? That’s perfect. That’s your halloween costume. Be Nomi Malone for halloween, perfect.

I was gonna talk about Halloween, but this issue is out in December, so I wanted to give it a forward thinking spin, am I right in saying you prefer Halloween to Christmas?

Yeah.

Where does that slightly gothic, dark, creepy stuff and interests come from?

My mom. My mother has a closet of only black, I am not kidding. It’s like a spot in my house where when people come over they’re like ‘can we see in your moms closet?’ and I’m like ‘sure’.  And I show them and they’re just like [pause] ‘oh my god!’ It has no colour in her closet, you walk in, it’s a walk in closet like Carrie Bradshaw style, floor to ceiling black. And it’s hilarious. I mean she’s the most amazing woman in the world my mom, we’re getting slightly off topic because I love my mom so much, but she’s just really cool.

Would you say she’s a goth? I don’t know if that’s more of a UK thing.

No, I don’t think she’s goth, I mean she doesn’t worship Satan and wear jelly bracelets. Ha. But she is…

I mean that’s just a social stereotype of wearing black.

Yeah, no, I’ve been wearing more black lately because I want to be more like my mom. Cos I think she is the most amazing woman in the world, I think so highly of her, she’s the hardest worker. She’s the most generous, most hilarious, independent, i mean talk about a feminist. She’s the strongest and most amazing woman in the world. She’s a feminist but at the same time she also sees a people problem. Not only is she concerned about double standards and how misogyny is ever present, she’s also really concerned about the whole world, equality and things like that.  

They have their root in the same problem.

I think that’s where I get my everything from is my mom.

How does it tie into the horror thing?

I don’t know, my mum has always been really full out when it comes to halloween and scary movies all year round and you know when I was a little girl my favourite movies ranged from The Wizard of Oz to Jaws to Jurassic Park, Independence Day, Armageddon, like the weirdest. Just the weirdest. My mum showed me the Thriller video before I could even speak and I was like [shouting and clapping] ‘yaaaasssss!! werk zombies!!’ it was weird but I always loved it and she always loved it and she took me to Halloween Horror nights which is an event, I don’t know if y’all have it over here but it’s an event in the states at Universal studios and they turn the whole park into a terrifying place to exist. Literally you can’t escape.

I love that you’re laughing at all this [bringing in the giggler in the corner]

That’s Christie, we grew up together so she knows everything I’m talking about first hand.
So she took me there when I was SEVEN. They were like ‘you might wanna sign a...’ she had to sign a flyer to say ‘oh my kid is too young to be here and I’m saying that’s ok’. She took me to halloween horror nights when I was seven. And it was absolutely terrifying. But I loved it. That was just sort of how we were, my dad would come home late from work one night and we would all have skeleton masks on and he’d be like ‘why?’ It’s just another Thursday in the Grande residence.’ Just skeleton make-up and everyone hiding under a big black blanket and he was like… y’all are weird. But that was our family, it was very… My brother was always pretending to be a velociraptor. That was another a thing, he was always trying to scare me.

That’s quite a hard one to pull off

He does it. It’s pretty hard to pull off but he does a convincing job.   

Do you think that dressing up gave you a way in to performativity - and almost like stage presence, always playing these characters

Yeah, of course. I think growing up in such a playful household, or i guess growing up in a household where everyone was wearing costumes and singing karaoke and acting a certain way gave me that urge to entertain. To be a character and put a show on for people, I think that definitely gave me some sort of hunger, you know? Especially because my brother was in musical theatre as well during high school. Watching him as Frankenstein in Young Frankenstein with my grandmother in the front row having a heart attack where he had to do this one scene where he was fumbling around where he just woke up and became Frankenstein - you know when Frankenstein comes alive and he’s tripping over everything and stumbling into things and breaking things? My brother went full out and everyone was laughing in the audience and my Nana was screaming [does voice] ‘oh for christ sake Frankie you’re gonna kill yourself’ having a heart attack.

You very briefly reminded me of Kathy Griffin then when she does her mum’s voice.

Oh yeah, funny!

You mentioned wearing black earlier, but you’ve also been wearing a lot of cat ears recently. Where does the feline affinity come from?

I don’t know. I love… I think all girls look really pretty with animal ears on. And it’s playful and I love animals and it’s a reminder to not take everything so seriously. Y’know if you’re wearing a really high fashion fierce outfit and you top it off with some cat ears, that are also kind of chic looking - mildly chic looking - it’s a reminder to maybe have a little bit more fun and not take yourself so seriously. Also it looks cute and you look like a kitten.

Do you think boys can pull it off?

Yes! I met a love at Universal the other day, I went to the theme park. I guess my fans were expecting to see me there because I always go to halloween horror nights and I guess he was expecting me to be there and he was like [loud, high] ‘ARIANA I WAS HOPING TO SEE YOU’ and he had cat ears on and his name was Tom and I was dying, he was so cute and I was LIVING. I was obsessed with him. He was so cute and I also performed in a gay bar in New York and a lot of the boys had cat ears on. I was so cute. I am a very big fan of boys in cat ears as well. I thought they looked so cute in the audience, just kitties, just kittens.

The thing it reminded me of was when you talked ages ago about working with Kesha’s mum, and the fact that she’s on this animal rights campaign, I wondered if any of that rubbed off on you.

You know I definitely felt a connection with Kesha and her mom when I was working with them a couple of years ago right off the bat because of that. I’m so passionate about animals and animal rights and they’re so passionate about animals aswell and to me, how a person feels about animals and how a person acts around pets, says a lot about them. I don’t know if that’s something that you can relate to or not..

See I never had pets, so I have this weird distance to them.

For me, I think it says so much about a person, how they act when they see an animal.

Yeah, I get that, but I kind of feed off their energy, so some cats can be really distant...

Yeah I mean if an animal scratches you in the face you’re not necessarily gonna want to take it home.

Get the stiletto out.

No! Definitely never. But no, I feel you on that, but I definitely felt a connection with them because of that. Anyone who’s ‘oh I’d give my life for a dog’ I’m like - arms open.

Yeah, depends on the dog for me.

If I’m watching a movie and something happens to the dog, I have to turn it off. I Am Legend, with Will Smith, as soon as the dog died I was like ‘Ah, I’m out, gotta go. Goodbye’.  Fantastic film, fantastic actor, I don’t know how it ends because I couldn’t watch the rest, I was a wreck. As long as the dog lives, I’m fine. Pass me the popcorn.  

So many of those animals films have that like, err - like Bambi.

Like in scary movies, like in Paranormal Activity when the dog dies, I can’t handle it. As long as the animals are okay I can watch it.

Yeah, humans… disposable.

Yeah, not so much. I’m just kidding.

I wanted to talk about the album, obviously you worked with Kesha before and you worked with quite a lot of people on this...

I didn’t work with Kesha on this album, that was pre first album.

But on the last one, yeah. You had quite a lot of contributors and cowriters and it’s got this sense of it being a big party working with all these people. If it was a party, who would be partying the hardest?

Of the people that I worked with? If I had a party with everyone who worked on this album, who would be partying the hardest? [pause] this is a great question, I have to think hard. Who would be partying the hardest. maybe… I think Tommy Brown and Victoria Monet. I did My Everything and My Only One and on the first album I did Honeymoon Avenue Daydreaming with them. I did the intro with them on this album as well. Probably those two. Is that a boring answer? I’m sorry.

Well no but, I mean, in what way?

They’re just a fun group, I’ve been in a party scenario with them a couple of times so they’re always good company.

And who generally was your favourite to work with?

I think Tommy and Victoria as well, same answer, I love them and I’ve known them since before the first album and we sort of been able to experiment so much together and really capture some really special memories in the music we’ve created. It’s a really special thing, we have such a great bond. And they do music like nobody else. They’re so gifted and so talented, I love the both of them. And they’re a couple and that’s really cute. They’re a couple and they work together every day and the never get sick of eachother and I think that’s the cutest thing. Actually they probably do get sick of eachother, but they love eachother too much to, y’know

Professional

Yeah

Is it too early to think about album #3?

No

Are you on it already? I keep saying ‘on it’ today for some reason

Yeah, kinda I’m always in the studio, I’m never not in the studio. Whether I’m with someone else in the studio because they’re working on their project and I’m just offering ideas and cutting back up vocals or something like that, or working on stuff just creating, I’m always in the studio. I feel like ‘I wonder what Ariana Grande is upto right now?’ I’m in the studio. Yeah. So that’s always where I am. I love making music and I hope I can continue to grow and grow and grow and get better and if I have one successful album, I don’t want that to make me rest on that, I want to just be ‘oh forget about it!’ and pretend that every album is my first if that makes sense.

It’s hard act to follow, two Billboard number one albums, it’s a little bit of pressure.

It’s a little bit of pressure but this is what I’m here for. I feel like I’ve got a pretty good grasp but I also really want to continue to push myself to grow, and try keeping to get better and better because I know I can definitely improve.  

I mentioned that growing up narrative before, if you’re continuing this ‘growing up’ theme, are there any unexplored more mature genres that you might take on?

Well you know I love this world of heavily r’n’b influences pop music that I’m living, so I’d like to stay in that world. I’d love to have maybe one EDM song on the album, I think that could be a new phase, a new trend, do one really dancey number per album and keep the rest of it more and more in my r’n’b vein because really that’s where I belong, that’s where I live. I also really wanna tackle a power ballad, I haven’t really done one yet. I don’t really have any ballads, I have sweet mid tempos, and Tattooed Heart was a ballad, but other than that I don’t really have one yet. But I also, I don’t know, they’re kinda boring too. Wait until I’ve really had my heart broken and then I’ll write a ballad.

That’s always a good source.

Actually, I don’t wanna have my heart broken, screw the ballad, I’m fine. I don’t want to be able to write that song, never mind.

Please keep the EDM song.

I will yeah.

I have to review so many albums, and sometimes its record after record of really slow bleak dull records [she slurps on drink] and I get so tired...

I love an up moment.

so I put a bit of Break Free on to wake me up.

Thank you, that’s awesome, well thanks. I try to keep my albums pretty up beat for the most part. I try to do mids and ups for the whole thing. Yeah.

Works for me

Good, I’m glad. I was wondering if you got to ask a question about Break Your Heart Right Back because I remember you saying ‘I have to ask a question thats not the obvious question’ but I don’t remember if I answered it or if if my answer took us off track.

Yeah just talking about it as a subject matter, there should be more songs like that out there.

Yeah, there should be more

To me that’s more interesting than trying to pin it on one person, the idea that artists should always write autobiographically is nonsense.

Yeah it’s so funny how many questions I’ve got about that song because it’s about a boy with another boy. They don’t ask me about that with any other song. Nobody is like [excited gushing voice] ‘who’s Best Mistake about?’ I’m like urrr, I dunno… you know? It’s funny.

--

It’s at that point that things get wrapped up and Ariana Grande is given her a copy of GT and she goes mental. But you can read all about that in the magazine itself, how meta.