The next time you鈥檙e jamming to feminist anthems on Spotify, know that you鈥檙e probably listening to a track that was touched by Linda Perry. Perry is the brains behind some of the most kickass tunes of our time, from 鈥淏eautiful鈥 by Christina Aguilera to 鈥淪uperwoman鈥 by Alicia Keys. After starting off her hustle in the band 4 Non Blondes and subsequently pursuing a solo career, Perry has written hit songs for some of the most notable artists in the world, a talent that led to her induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2015. Today, Perry is turning her focus to supporting up-and-coming artists from the ground up with her new label We Are Hear. In partnership with Intuit鈥檚 Backing You campaign, she鈥檚 also helping kickstart the career of an outstanding artist named Willa Amai who鈥檚 already set to blow up the music industry at just 13 years old (you probably heard her incredible rendition of Daft Punk鈥檚 鈥淗arder, Better, Faster, Stronger鈥 during a QuickBooks commercial that aired during this year鈥檚 Grammy Awards). We chatted with Perry about how the music industry is changing, including why labels need to start backing the underdog and why it鈥檚 time for the people behind the music to have their turn in the spotlight.

Brit + Co: As someone who has worn many hats in the music industry (as a band member, solo artist, songwriter, and producer), how do you feel the role of music artist has changed since your first hit exploded with 4 Non Blondes?

Linda Perry: The role of the artist? Well, that鈥檚 an ongoing scenario; it keeps changing because the business keeps changing. That鈥檚 basically why me and my partner Kerry started a company called We Are Hear 鈥 because we wanted to help fulfill other artists鈥 vision. We consider ourselves a creative energy brand where we see what [the artist] wants to do, and we鈥檙e behind you to help motivate you, to help fulfill the vision, and to be supportive, to develop 鈥 and that doesn鈥檛 happen anymore. Right now, the artists are basically being thrown in with these huge companies. They throw them out there and if it doesn鈥檛 stick, that鈥檚 it, they move onto the next one.

B+C: Can you talk a little about the growing number of independent workers in the music industry?

LP: Well, there have always been a lot of independent workers. Remember the 鈥80s? The 鈥80s were really awesome. There were really great bands and the industry was booming, and then the 鈥90s showed up. The people in the 鈥90s, they didn鈥檛 want to be on labels; they wanted to be cool and they wanted to be underground and independent like Nirvana, Sound Garden, and all those guys. The indie labels rose because they were the ones who were signing these acts, and the labels were still trying to make a living off of Men at Work or whatever and that sound was going out. You鈥檝e got all these indie labels like Sub Pop, Caroline, whatever, that are coming up, and they have this huge success with all these major bands. Then what happened [was] the big labels went and bought up the indies.

That鈥檚 kind of happening again right now. The difference today is that there is more support for these indie artists and small businesses like We Are Hear. A perfect example is QuickBooks. We don鈥檛 have the time to do all this accounting and invoicing because when you鈥檙e a small business all hands are on deck and you鈥檙e working, you鈥檙e pushing, you鈥檙e moving fast because you don鈥檛 have that many people. And so software like QuickBooks comes in and it helps us manage our invoices, and does all this stuff for us that we normally would probably[鈥 screw up. We鈥檙e not a big business, so we can鈥檛 afford having these suits in a luxurious office counting change and not paying anybody because it takes forever for those guys. The funny part is that those guys have money but they take forever to pay out. So when my band or someone plays for me on an album or anything, we pop it in QuickBooks, type up the invoice, and they get paid right away. And people are really liking that about it, so, you know, the indies are better right now because there鈥檚 better support.

B+C: So you think it鈥檚 easier for independent artists to succeed today than it was previously?

LP: Oh absolutely, I do believe so. Well, also you have all the social media, you have all that. You can poop on your YouTube channel and get signed. I don鈥檛 get it, I don鈥檛, trust me, I鈥檓 not a fan of that. I鈥檓 a fan of real artists, having a purpose with your music, having a purpose with your company, having direction. And everything we do is to serve what we love, and that鈥檚 music. So it鈥檚 very important. We started We Are Hear because I don鈥檛 want to be microwave popcorn 鈥 I don鈥檛 want to throw out a band that鈥檚 just good for one shot and then you鈥檙e on to the next one. It just doesn鈥檛 feel good, and I鈥檓 an artist, my partner Kerry, he鈥檚 an artist, and we want to support the artist. We want to support the underdog.

B+C: So was supporting the underdog the driving motivation when you decided to start your own label?

LP: Oh yeah. We had many, many conversations about how the labels are not developing artists anymore, they are not embracing the art. I鈥檝e had so many people that I鈥檝e worked with come to me and say 鈥淚 hate my record, I didn鈥檛 want to do this, the label made me do it,鈥 and I say, you know what, it鈥檚 your fault. The label won鈥檛 do anything that you won鈥檛 let them do.

So Kerry and I want to be a place kids can come and get inspired, and we will help them if we believe in them (of course, we have to believe in them and feel like there鈥檚 talent there), but we manage artists, we manage songwriters, we鈥檙e a creative team 鈥 I mean, we kick ass. Honestly, we鈥檙e really kicking ass.

B+C: One of the first major projects for We Are Hear was producing and releasing the soundtrack album for Served Like a Girl, a documentary film that brings awareness to the very real struggles of female veterans. What made you decide to take on this specific project?

LP: Well, again, I鈥檓 a big fan of the underdog. You鈥檒l find me hanging out with the underdogs always. That was a project that when it was brought to me, there was very little money behind it, and we鈥檙e talking about more than 55,000 women out on the street right now are veterans. And these women, some of them do three terms for seven or eight years, and when they come back they go to the VA and they鈥檙e turned away, and they tell them that there are no benefits for women and they go to welfare. Now, mind you, not that the benefits for men are outstandingly great, but at least they鈥檙e getting something 鈥 women don鈥檛 get anything. So I wanted to be a part of that because I wanted that to be known, I wanted to get that out there. So that鈥檚 why we got behind that project: to help spread the word.

B+C: You鈥檙e written some extremely popular feminist anthems during your career 鈥 including 鈥What鈥檚 Up(4 Non Blondes), 鈥Beautiful (Christina Aguilera), 鈥Superwoman(Alicia Keys), and 鈥Shine (Pat Benatar), a song you wrote and produced specifically as an anthem to accompany the Women鈥檚 March on Washington. What are your thoughts about the fusion of music and protest, especially in today鈥檚 political and social climate?

LP: I don鈥檛 know how many people are going to be a fan of what I鈥檓 about to say, but listen: With the good there comes bad, with the bad comes good. Right now, we鈥檙e with the bad comes the good, and we just have to stay focused because we have a very serious situation happening in this country and in the world. What we need to focus on is that through this, people are awake 鈥 they鈥檙e coming together, they鈥檙e unifying, they鈥檙e joining hands. It鈥檚 becoming a very, very powerful situation out there, and punk rock is going to come back, the Patti Smiths and Ani DiFrancos. People are going to start getting more political with their songs, and just be more free. I mean, to me, it鈥檚 equivalent to Vietnam and the 鈥60s. It鈥檚 like right now we are having a very big [moment] of people joining forces and saying 鈥渘o f***ing way, not on my f***ing dime anymore.鈥 That鈥檚 what we have to support as a country.

B+C: Can you talk a little about your partnership with Intuit on the Backing You campaign?

LP: Honestly, this is going to sound very cheesy, but I love these guys. I mean, we have this artist Willa and we played this showcase and they freaked out on Willa and they approached us and said, we have this commercial 鈥 we鈥檝e been looking for this voice. Willa, she鈥檚 13 now and 12 when I found her 鈥 and I didn鈥檛 even find her, a friend of my wife鈥檚 asked me to come see if I thought this girl had any talent 鈥 and she literally played me half a song and I just had a feeling about her. Then I told her to call me in February, and that she needed to write some songs. So she called me, and we just started working together, but not working together [in the traditional sense] 鈥 she鈥檚 13, you can鈥檛 push a 13-year-old. You just have to open up the house and let them see what they鈥檙e capable of doing, and that鈥檚 what we鈥檝e been doing. She鈥檚 just been writing.

But anyway, when we did this, QuickBooks came to us and they brought this commercial and we were like, YES! [We couldn鈥檛 get over] the fact that we [already] used QuickBooks and we love it. I鈥檓 terrible 鈥 I don鈥檛 even know what two plus two is 鈥 don鈥檛 even put any checks in my hand [or] put any numbers in my brain鈥 I鈥檓 a musician one hundred percent, all the way. One thing about QuickBooks is that they are backing [the independent artists]. So we鈥檙e supporting the artist and QuickBooks is supporting us. I mean, I love them. I can鈥檛 say enough about them.

B+C: As a part of the Intuit campaign, you also released a documentary-style commercial during the Grammy Awards called 鈥淏acking the Small Businesses Behind the Music鈥 featuring Willa Amai.

LP: Basically the whole thing is about 鈥淏acking You,鈥 and so Willa 鈥 she鈥檚 not a big artist, she鈥檚 just starting out, and she鈥檚 amazing. It鈥檚 a behind-the-scenes. We always see what happens to the artist when they win their Grammys and they have their big houses and their fancy cars and their makeup line. We rarely [see] what happens before that, and so the whole commercial and the campaign [features] the engineer sitting at the microphone, the person bringing the food, the photographer taking a picture of Willa. Then it goes to the creative director that turns it into a poster, then it goes into the hand of the girl that puts the poster on the wall. It goes from her singing the song acapella, in front of a microphone into the speakers, into the control room. So you can get an idea of the team behind the scenes.

There is a team that鈥檚 working with everyone 鈥 these artists don鈥檛 just happen. It鈥檚 not like little magic elves sprinkle dust on them and then all of a sudden they are on the radio. There鈥檚 a massive team and a lot of work that goes into it, and I loved it. When they told us this, it was so brilliant to me. So that鈥檚 what the commercial is about. And, I mean, it looks really great, they did an amazing job, and I think it鈥檚 very inventive and I feel it鈥檚 really going to change a lot 鈥攖he perspective of music.

B+C: As a notable songwriter who鈥檚 been in the business for years, has your creative process changed at all?

LP: With age, you just change, you know? I don鈥檛 even have a choice, it鈥檚 just happening. So it is true, the older you get, the wiser you get, and you start seeing things a little clearer. When I was younger, I had a lot of ego, but not the right kind of ego; it was ego to defend and control. Now my ego is of confidence, and I let go more because I鈥檓 confident 鈥 I don鈥檛 need to hold on because I know what I do. So having that kind of perspective really opens up my creative tunnel, and I鈥檓 on fire right now. I mean, I鈥檓 doing some incredible things, my energy is clear, and I鈥檓 focused. I think I鈥檓 just getting really good at what I do, and I feel like if my career were ten steps of a ladder, I feel like right now I鈥檓 on four, and I have so much farther to go. It feels good.

B+C: What鈥檚 the best piece of advice you鈥檝e ever received in your career?

LP: That鈥檚 so easy, because it鈥檚 always right here, right in front of me right now. When I was in 4 Non Blondes, every time I asked a question, the producer of the record company would say 鈥淐an鈥檛 you just be an artist? You don鈥檛 need to know that right now.鈥 And I just wanted to know why my guitar sounded so thin, when it sounded so fat in the live room, and I was just curious. So I left the band and then I was chatting with this producer Bill Bottrell, and I asked him a bunch of questions when I was working on this solo album called In Flight. I asked so many questions that he literally picked me up and put me in a seat, and he said: 鈥渢his is your EQ, these are your highs, your lows, your mids, over here are compressors, these are your effects.鈥 And I鈥檓 like 鈥渙h my god, what is all this?!鈥 And he said, 鈥淭urn the knob until it sounds good to your ear.鈥 I鈥檝e been turning knobs my whole career. In my life, it鈥檚 just what I do. I turn knobs until it sounds good or feels good.

Have you watched the Backing You commercial featuring Linda Perry and up-and-coming artist Willa Amai yet? Tweet us your thoughts by mentioning @BritandCo.

(Photos via Kristin Burns)