Last week, Christina Perri returned to the TV studio where her gold and multi-platinum-selling music career began. She performed her latest single, “Burning Gold,” on Fox’s dance competition show “So You Think You Can Dance.”
Events in the 27-year-old singer-songwriter’s own life inspired “Burning Gold.”
“I’m setting fire to the life that I know,” she sings. “We’re starting fires, we’re starting fires, till our lives are burning gold.”
Perri’s life turned gold in summer 2010, when choreographer Stacey Tookey selected her poignant, pointed ballad, “Jar of Hearts,” for “So You Think You Can Dance.”
Viewers responded enthusiastically to “Jar of Hearts.” Perri released the song independently, and it became a Top 40 hit. She soon had a deal with Atlantic Records. “Jar of Hearts” soared ever higher, eventually selling 4 million copies.
Perri’s success continued with her album debut, “lovestrong,” an international Top 10 hit. And her follow-up single, “A Thousand Years,” duplicated “Jars of Hearts’ ” sales of 4 million.
Returning to the “So You Think You Can Dance” set to perform “Burning Gold” was an emotional experience for Perri.
“I almost cried,” she said this week from Los Angeles. “I was singing this up-tempo song about how I wouldn’t stop until my dreams came true. I was on the stage that ignited that whole dream of mine. So I had a full circle kind of ah-ha, whoa moment.” A music star since 2010, Philadelphia native Perri still has difficulty believing that she’s a multiplatinum award-winning artist.
“I have beautiful plaques on my wall,” she said. “It kind of blows my mind. I see such a small percentage of these millions and millions of people, in cities all over the world. I can’t imagine them all in one place. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around it, but I’m extremely grateful.”
Perri was working as a waitress when “Jar of Hearts” and “So You Think You Can Dance” changed her life.
“There were seven other songs on that show that night,” she said. “I don’t know why mine had the biggest impact. And then the people stayed with me. And then they bought tickets to my shows and bought my album, when I finally did that. And then they bought the next album.”
Perri’s current tour with OneRepublic reaches the UNO Lakefront Arena Thursday, Aug. 21.
When the time came to make a follow-up to “lovestrong,” Perri didn’t let success intimidate her.
“A second album can be a scary thing, but I just didn’t get afraid,” she said. “I did what was authentic and what I liked. I protected those 13 songs the whole way and had no idea what would happen.”
Released in April, Perri’s new album, “head or heart,” debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard 200. Its first single, “Human,” is another million-seller for the singer.
Perri learned her songcraft from the best.
“From 13 to 15, all I did was listen to the Beatles,” she said. “I studied every lyric, every melody, every song, every album, every photograph, every video.”
Besides being a student of the Beatles’ music, Perri is a fervent fan.
“Everyone always says to me, ‘If you could go back in time to one particular day, what day would it be?’ I always say Aug. 15, 1965, when the Beatles played Shea Stadium. I would have been there, for sure, screaming my head off.”
Speaking Monday, Aug. 11, Perri was still buzzing about seeing Paul McCartney in concert the day before at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. In 2012, she got the thrill of a lifetime when she met McCartney. She keeps a photo of the two of them taken that day on her iPhone screen.
“I met him April 17, 2012,” she said. “He was rehearsing in a room next to me in LA. We talked for 11 minutes. No moment since then has topped that moment.”