Linda Perry knows what most music fans think of Kelly Osbourne.
"You think she's a spoiled little brat that got a record deal [because of her father], but she is so more than that," said the former 4 Non Blondes singer-turned-hitmaker, best known for her work with Christina Aguilera, Gwen Stefani and Pink. "She is very talented. She writes really good lyrics and is very, very, very mature."
Perry, however, has not always been a fan.
"I heard her last record and it sucked, and I told her that too," Perry said of Osbourne's 2002 debut, Shut Up, a notion Kelly seconded (see "Kelly Osbourne Says She Hated First LP, Wants To Do Broadway"). "It wasn't for her, that record. It was made for somebody else, not for Kelly. The record I made was for Kelly."
That record is Sleep in the Nothing, due in June. Perry and Osbourne were scheduled to start the album just as the latter checked into rehab (see "Kelly Osbourne Checks Into Rehab For Painkiller Addiction"), so Perry spent three weeks writing music in the studio while Osbourne penned lyrics at her treatment center.
"I was like trying to imagine what she could possibly be going through, so I came up with this direction and she came in and loved everything that I was doing," Perry said. "It's very electronic, very electro-clash, '80s. And her vocals on it are amazing: That girl was four takes. The first take was horrible, the second, third and fourth were right on. It's a wonderful, wonderful record. I am very excited for people to hear it 'cause it's so different for her."
As usual for Perry, it's one of many projects for the songwriter/producer, and Osbourne's album served as a nice bridge between her work on Gwen Stefani's solo album and collaborating with genuine electro-clashers Fischerspooner. Perry contributed to several tracks on the New York duo's second album, Odyssey, due April 5.
"They called me and I was like, 'God, their music is so quirky, I love it,' " Perry recalled. "They initially sent me some tracks of just music and they were like, 'Just do your thing.' And so I did my thing and they were like, 'How did you do that?' So they came down to my studio and we came up with a couple of songs and I love them. Their music to me is so creative."
Along with Fischerspooner and Osbourne, Perry recently produced half of newcomer Sierra Swan's debut, Queen of the Valley Girls, due this summer. Bill Bottrell (Sheryl Crow), Chad Hugo from the Neptunes, Jeff Turzo (formerly of God Lives Underwater), and Scott Cutler and Anne Previn (who wrote Natalie Imbruglia's hit, "Torn") also contributed production, and Cold's Scooter Ward recorded a duet with the singer/songwriter.
"Her voice is very dark and rich," Perry said. "The album is bizarre, but it works. I was trying to figure out how do we make this go into the pop thing without taking away her integrity, and I don't know how we did it, but we did it."
With her recent projects, which also include a few Enrique Iglesias tracks, Perry's enjoyed crossing genres and she hopes to continue doing so, perhaps even working with country artists.
"I'm able to switch gears at any moment," Perry said. "I think because I try to morph into the person's character. Left on my own, I'd be boring and every song would sound the same, but when I'm able to take on the person's character, this whole other side of me starts showing up. And that's why I'm so good where I'm at right now, because it's not about me, it's about them. You kind of have to have no ego to be a producer and a songwriter."
That said, Perry would like to turn some of the success she's earned as a producer into attention for herself, beginning with the spring re-release of her 1996 solo album, In Flight.
"It's such a beautiful record, and my label at the time thought it was too bizarre," Perry said of the album, which was largely overlooked upon its initial release. "I would love people to hear this record, and I don't think a lot of people did."
Perry, who has become a bit frightened by the stage over the years, is so dedicated to the cause that she's planning a solo tour, but she's set a limit of 10 dates. She's also slowly working on a new solo album, although producing is her priority.
"It won't be what I do for other people," she said. "I don't think I could make a pop album. I have a lot of songs that I kind of put away and I don't let anybody else hear them, and those are my songs. They are very diverse, all over the place."
And speaking of diverse, Perry is also launching Custard Records, an Atlantic imprint whose first two artists are British singer/songwriter James Blunt, whom she described as "Barry Gibb [of the Bee Gees] meets Jeff Buckley," and a "death disco" band from Prague, Czech Republic, called Sunshine.
"There's a line in a song I wrote for Sierra called 'The Ladder': 'I put my hands into each pocket I find,' " Perry said. "And that's what I like to do."