Lizzo Talks Prince, Psychics, and What Inspired ‘Truth Hurts’ in Her Stern Show Debut
“About Damn Time” singer also opens up about her love life and new documentaryDecember 12, 2022
You don’t need an astrological chart to tell you 2022 was the year of Lizzo.
The celebrated 34-year-old singer, songwriter, rapper, and flautist has dropped hit singles, released her highest-charting album to date, won her first Emmy award, and racked up six nominations for next year’s Grammys, including for record and album of the year. She’s sold out arenas across the country, stunned on several award show red carpets, and stars in the new documentary “Love, Lizzo,” which gives fans a behind-the-scenes glimpse at her fascinating life and unparalleled career. On Saturday, she will perform on “SNL” for the second time since April. The stars, as they say, have aligned. But during her eagerly anticipated Stern Show debut on Monday morning, the “Good as Hell” singer wanted the world to know she only plans to get better.
“My whole life has been about finding my voice, and I’m still not there,” Lizzo told Howard.
Their long conversation touched on topics ranging from her musical education and how she fell in love with the flute to Prince’s favorite animated movie and what advice she’s received from fellow superstars Adele and Cardi B. Lizzo shared the inspiration behind several of her hits, like “Truth Hurts,” and revealed why she holds herself to such a high standard as an artist.
“Everything in me wants to be cool and make the trendy [music] — and, keeping it real, I studied music my whole life. It’s easy for me to make,” she said. “But I got to be true to myself [and ask], ‘What do I want to make, regardless of its trendy or not? What’s classic? What stands the test of time?’”
The Truth About ‘Truth Hurts’
Lizzo found her first Billboard Hot 100 chart-topper in 2019 after she re-released “Truth Hurts” as a radio single. Howard loved the song’s lyrics, which includes memorable lines like “I just took a DNA test, turns out I’m 100 percent that bitch,” and he was curious what inspired her to write it.
“I was going through some personal issues, and I was sad,” Lizzo said. “Everything that was happening to me, [my producer] Ricky Reed was writing it down, and he was like, ‘Do you realize you just wrote a song?’ I was like, ‘No, I’m crying right now.’ And we put it together that way.”
“I literally went to the salon and got my hair done, I literally went on a date with a Minnesota Viking … everything was just like stream of conscious,” she continued.
When discussing the song’s opening refrain “Why men great ’til they gotta be great?,” Lizzo explained her gripe was about more than just men being disappointing partners. “We’ve given men all this power and responsibility to be, like, world leaders and I feel like they let us down so much,” she said. “They never live up to protecting people the way they should.”
On Losing Her Dad and Experiencing Homelessness
As Lizzo developed as a musician, her father remained a constant source of support. “All my life I had this like very clear purpose … and my dad was like someone who really was at the heart of that because it was like, ‘Okay, he’s encouraging me to play the flute and then one day I’m going to become really successful at flute so I can take care of him,’ and that was the focus,” she admitted to Howard. “It wasn’t like, ‘I’m going to be successful at flute so I can win Grammys, [or] I’m going to be successful at flute so I can be a millionaire’ — it was to take care of him.”
Lizzo’s father died when she was a 20-year-old student on scholarship at the University of Houston. It devastated her to the point that she eventually dropped out. “I actually stopped talking … It was like an actual kind of breakdown that I had, and it was really, really difficult,” the singer noted, adding at one point she also experienced homelessness. “I felt like my life didn’t really have purpose anymore … and it was just like the worst thing that can ever happen to like a 20-year-old. Like, losing your dad suddenly and not having anywhere to live, not having a job, not having anyone to talk to,” Lizzo continued. “[I] wasn’t like suicidal but it was just like, ‘I’m exhausted with life.’”
Living out of her car forced Lizzo to become resourceful. “I could like sleep in [my band’s] studio sometimes,” she said. “I showered at the gym … there was a shower at the studio, too, but it was grody because there were two other boys who lived there … and there was shit all the time.”
Prince, Pixar Movies, and Paisley Park
While living in Minneapolis, it was Lizzo’s appearance in a documentary on the local music scene that first brought her to the attention of late Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Prince. Eventually, he had her record the song “Boytrouble” with his all-female backing band, 3RDEYEGIRL.
“Everything about him was so magical,” she said before recalling the advice he gave her for the track. “My favorite thing about that was like, you know, ‘Treat it like it’s your song. This is your song’ …. You kind of want to be like perfect and the audition version of yourself in that scenario, but … after he gave me permission … I’m like, ‘I’m rapping, I’m singing, I’m doing harmonies … I’m going to give him everything I know how to do.’ If I had my flute, I would have played that bitch too.”
That was just the first of many times she visited Prince’s home and studio, Paisley Park. “It’s more than a home … it is kind of like a music factory type place … there’s like massive soundstages and all these studios and like his friggin’ motorcycle from ‘Purple Rain’ just sitting in display, and like sometimes he would just sit on it just to fuck with people,” Lizzo noted before recalling once witnessing the animated Pixar film “Finding Nemo” projected onto a wall. “It was his favorite movie.”
Lizzo also recalled watching Prince putting on a very intimate concert. “I do cherish those memories a lot,” she revealed. “Seeing him perform on a piano and just like singing … that was the last time I saw him, and it was beautiful. I cried, he cried.”
Someone Like Adele
After Prince’s untimely death in 2016, Lizzo vowed to keep spreading his message. “I said, ‘I am going to commit to positive music, I’m dedicated to positive music, and if you think I’m too happy … check yourself,’” she remembered. “I’m going to spread love and positivity, and that’s what Prince really wanted.”
One contemporary Lizzo has called upon as a confidante is pop sensation Adele. “She was just like, ‘Are you okay? Do you want to come over and drink some wine? Do you want to talk?’” Lizzo said of the “Rolling in the Deep” singer on some of the negative attention she’s received on social media. “She’s literally me in a different font, so it’s nice to have her.”
Lizzo went on to express her admiration for Adele. “I look up to her a lot. She’s done a lot, and she knows who she is, and she honors that with every album,” she revealed of her friend. “And she gives us piano ballads that go number one, which is just like so hard and rare to do. You just have to be like the rarest gem of all time to be able to do that — we need her. I am grateful for her.”
And while the two have never discussed collaborating, Lizzo said she’d be open to it so long as she could bring along her trusty instrument. “I would play flute with Adele because she’s that kind of artist,” Lizzo said.
‘About Damn Time’
Lizzo’s latest mega-hit “About Damn Time” spent multiple weeks this summer atop Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, but as the superstar told Howard on Monday, the song almost never made it onto her new album “Special.” She co-wrote the track earlier this year, just a few months before her latest album was set to hit shelves.
“I was like, ‘My album’s done. I don’t need more songs. I’m good,’” she recalled. But then her co-writers called her up and played the funky bit of magic they’d come up with in the studio. “I heard the [beat] and I was like, I’ll be there in 10 minutes.”
Excited though she was, Lizzo said it took quite a few rewrites to get the lyrics just right. “The verses were freestyle, so that was easy, but the chorus took forever,” she told Howard before performing the hit live in the studio. “Finally, I was like, ‘I’m going to be okay, okay? Alright? It’s about damn time.’”
Flute Inspirations From James Galway to Jethro Tull
Lizzo fell in love with the flute in the 6th grade after her band teacher assigned her the instrument. “My band director made it very cool. We were playing, like, Biggie Smalls and that stuff on radio,” she said.
When talking about other flautists she admired, Lizzo admitted she was heavily inspired by classical flautist James Galway. “It’s the simple things that really get you on flute,” she said as she and Howard listened to a moving Galway track. “Like, I wish I was a cooler jazz flautist … and I will learn [to become one], but this is my foundation.”
Next, they listened to a rock track from Jethro Tull founder and flautist Ian Anderson. Though Lizzo appreciated his skills on the flute, she told Howard she wasn’t quite ready to incorporate that style of play into her music. “I play around with the undulating and the blowing, but I’m too shy to do it on stage for real for real,” she said.
Lizzo Responds to Her Critics
Every superstar has a few detractors, and in Lizzo’s case some have accused her of writing music for white people. As a Black woman, she said that line of criticism was “very hurtful.”
“It really challenges, like, my identity and who I am, and diminishes that,” Lizzo told Howard, adding, “I’m making funky, soulful, feel-good music that is so similar to a lot of Black music that was made for Black people in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Then, on top of that, my message is literally for everybody in any body. I don’t try to gatekeep my message from people.”
She’s hopeful her new HBO doc “Love, Lizzo” will clear up some of those misconceptions and misguided criticisms. “I feel like a lot of people truthfully don’t get me, which is why I wanted to do this documentary,” Lizzo said. “I want to show the world who I am.”
A Bold Prediction
In 2019, Lizzo appeared as a guest on the show “Hollywood Medium with Tyler Henry” as its host tried channeling her late father. Howard was curious whether she thought Henry had really been in contact with him.
“I do fully subscribe to mediumship. I have had wild revelations with mediums — like, things you would just absolutely not believe,” Lizzo said. “I don’t really seek them out,” she continued, saying one medium called her out of the blue to tell her she’d soon win a Grammy by beating another artist whose name started with a “b.” “Fast forward to 2020, I did win a Grammy and it was with Billie Eilish.”
“I’ve had wild things like that happen to me where I’m like, ‘Girl, who you talking to because you better be talking to God,” Lizzo told Howard with a laugh.
Finding Mr. Wright
Lizzo had a message for any romantic suitors looking to slide into her DMs: “Don’t waste your time, honey. I am very much in love with Myke [Wright].”
Lizzo met Wright, an actor and comedian, in 2016 on the set of their MTV show “Wonderland.” She told Howard there was sexual tension between them for years before they finally became romantically intertwined. “I had a lot of shit to do, and I still was very much in my ‘I feel un-loveable’ place, and I still was very much not where I wanted to be career-wise,” she said. “Even if a person came around that I was googly gaga about, I had these wild defenses up that made it almost impossible for a true intimate relationship to occur.”
The two went their separate ways after “Wonderland” ended its run, but it turned out goodbye was just goodbye for now. “When the time was right we came together, and we just recently were like, ‘Oh, we’re together. This is official,’” she said, saying they even had “the talk.” “We’re not playing any games with each other anymore. We’re very much locked in.”
Howard wondered if Lizzo planned to marry Myke.
“There’s nobody else I’m going to be with for the rest of my laugh,” Lizzo responded with a smile and a laugh.
The final song Lizzo performed in the studio Monday morning was the title track off “Special.” She described the tune as a thematic departure from some of her earlier work, written back when she was still a struggling artist.
“I was like, ‘Let me start singing about my life how I want it to be.’ I write these songs because I know that I’m going to sing them over and over and over, and they’re going to be meaningful to me, and helpful to me, and they’re going to be suits of armor,” Lizzo told Howard, adding, “And it’s for anyone else who needs to sing it to remind themselves that they’re special.”
“Wow, can you sing early in the morning,” Howard said of Lizzo and her band’s performance. “This is beautiful.”
“Shout-out to my vocal coach,” Lizzo laughed.
“Love, Lizzo” is streaming now on HBO. Lizzo’s latest album “Special” is available wherever albums are sold.