Linda Strawberry On Touring, Mormonism and Rebirth

LA-Singer Sweeter Than A Strawberry

Los Angeles-based musician Linda Strawberry spent nearly seven years on the road. She ran away from home at eighteen. She has toured with the Smashing Pumpkins as a sound engineer and appeared on Billy Corgan’s solo album. Her Mormon family fears for her soul and her brother’s a missionary in Indonesia. Think this 26-year old doesn’t have anything to say about home? Well, you’re wrong, because she’s got plenty to share.

Our editor and Strawberry spent two weeks trying to get in touch, but technical difficulties and swollen throats prevented a conversation until this weekend. Read what transpired, after the jump. Oh, and we’ve also included Strawberry’s track, “Fuck You, I’m Beautiful”.

Linda Strawberry: Hello?

Andrew Belonsky: Hello, is this Linda?

LS: Yes.

AB: Hi. It’s Andrew from Queerty.

LS: Hi! I’m so glad we could finally connect!

AB: How are you feeling today?

LS: A lot better. I may have a few coughing attacks while I’m talking to you, but I’m feeling much better.

AB: Let me ask you a question: where were you raised?

LS: U-tah! It was in Orem, Utah.

AB: That’s right. You were a Mormon, if I remember correctly.

LS: Yes.

AB: Tell me about that. How many sibling did you have?

LS: I have a small family in my extended family. My mom had six kids: three girls, three boys. I have about a hundred first cousins. My mom has eight brothers and sisters and my dad has seven – so, I think…I’m not really sure. There are so many aunts and uncles, I lose track.

AB: What was it like growing up with so many cousins and siblings? Did you feel like you got lost in the shuffle?

LS: Well, there are so many kids in Utah that you have to work really hard to stand out, especially because all the kids are overachievers, for the most part, because of the culture. Everyone plays instruments, everyone’s trying really hard. There are not that many outside influences. I also have two sisters with disabilities, so with all their medical problems, I was really just the invisible one that took care of the kids. It wasn’t until I got into high school when I started to play my music and perform that I started to get any attention at all. I was the quiet one. I was really, really quiet, if you can believe it.

AB: I can’t believe it.

LS: No one can believe it now! Even when I was working for Billy [Corgan] – I was eighteen through twenty-one – I was really quiet. I was just an engineer. I was in the background, so I didn’t really talk that often. I came out of my shell when I was twenty-two.

AB: How did that happen?

LS: I had my heart massively broken for the first time. I fell in love and it was just such a huge mess – a chaotic breakup. I came back to LA and I was completely on my own for the first time. I could create a whole new identity without anyone having pre-judgments of me. I was able to figure out who that was. When I started being creative and letting myself make art and music, it naturally came out.

This here’s Strawberry’s aforementioned song, “Fuck You, I’m Beautiful”.
Billy Corgan left his mark on Strawberry: he christened her stage name.
AB: You had to recreate yourself. You were no longer Linda Michelle Rowberry?

LS: Yeah, actually, I’ve been building up since I was sixteen, I wanted to be an artist and see all this stuff. It was one of those things that was in my imagination. Strawberry was a nickname since I was little girl because I loved Strawberry Shortcake and my real name was Rowberry. When I was met Billy and I was eighteen, my nickname was Strawberry, so he never knew whether to call me Linda or Strawberry. The first time I was on-stage at a rock show was the very last Smashing Pumpkins show when they broke up in 2000. Billy introduced me as “Linda Strawberry: a pop-star from Romania.” [Laughs] I loved it! So I decided to stick with it..

AB: What do your parents think?

LS: Oh. They freaked out completely when I first left Mormonism [at] eighteen. I knew I was more open-minded than Mormonism would allow me to be, so I ran away. I didn’t talk to them for two years. It was so horrible, because they basically think that I’m really not going to be with them for eternity. They don’t take it lightly. Now they’re so cool, because they realize I’m not rebelling against them, I’m not rebelling against my religion, I’m just simply being myself. Even when I go home now, I go to church because I think it’s interesting and I can sit there and meditate, but people will come up to me and say that I’m going to burn in hell and they hope I come back into the fold: all these crazy things.

AB: Do you believe in heaven?

LS: Yeah – well, I believe in God: God as an energy. I think about those things constantly. I think that God is in everything, but I think that God is basically positive energy and love. Anything that gets you up in the morning and keeps you creating and doing all the things to make yourself stronger, like intelligence and independence. I think that the opposite of that also is God. I actually think all of it is. I don’t know how to describe it. I think that our flaws and positive attributes are all part of the same energy core.

AB: Let’s talk about – [your publicist] Johnny Royal described you as bisexual. You are currently living in Los Angeles with your boyfriend. Tell me: have you ever had a relationship with a woman?

LS: Yes, I have. I’ve never actually labeled myself “bisexual,” because I think inherently everybody is. I don’t think there’s anybody on this planet hasn’t had attraction or thoughts about the same-sex. I don’t think that’s possible. I have fallen in love with a few girls. It was natural to me. I didn’t even think about it. It’s when you start telling other people that you have to put labels on it. I have been really in love with at least three girls. I’ve noticed that there was so much stigma, even when I tell my best-friends, so I’ve kept it to myself a lot. Until now. I don’t care now. Everybody around here in LA knows that about me, but I’ve never really labeled myself.

AB: You describe yourself in your MySpace page – you say, “I am new media savvy. I understand and enjoy this new networking world”. Do you think that the concept of home, being rooted somewhere is archaic? Do you think it’s outdated?

LS: I think it’s necessary. I think everybody needs to feel that sense of belonging somewhere. I think it’s necessary for the human spirit. Even when I’d be on tour, I would still feel lonely, because I didn’t have a place to go home to. I was always up in the air. Now if I go away, I dream of coming back home and I know I can come back here and get in my own bed and have that to come back to to rejuvenate myself. Even when I go home for Christmas to see my family. It’s so comforting that I have a place to go.

Linda’s wall reflects her aural obsession.
AB: Are you going home this Christmas?

LS: Yes. I’m so excited. I have two nieces – three and five: the perfect age. They’re always wearing princess costumes. They’re two little cuties. I don’t see them that often, so I’m really excited to go. I have two shows with Royal Bliss. They’ve been my friends for eight years. They’re non-Mormons in Utah, so it’s fun hanging with them.

AB: Do you consider yourself to be a patriotic person?

LS: Yes, I am a patriot, but I’m very disillusioned right now with the state of our country. I think since i’ve traveled the world, I have a different view, because I’ve seen other countries. I’ve been everywhere. I think of the world as a unified world instead of – you know, I have this one place that I can be and be happy. My family has never been outside of Utah.

AB: Really?

LS: Well, actually, my parents have traveled a little bit with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, but my sisters and brothers – they haven’t traveled and been exposed to other cultures, but my brother Tim is in Indonesia right now being a missionary, but even that experience is very sheltered by the Mormon church. I could live somewhere else and still feel like a patriot, because this is where my roots are, but I would like to see our government get cleaned up and there’s a lot of systems in our country that are broken. I don’t want to be a pessimist, but I don’t really see them changing very soon unless they can get radical changes in the government.

AB: You were saying your brother’s in Indonesia right now being a missionary. What do you think of missionaries?

LS: I’m so proud of him. He’s there to be a Mormon missionary, but most of what he’s doing there is service. You can’t talk to your family or friends for two years. They’re 19-20 year old boys. That alone blows my mind, because most 19-20 year old boys are going crazy and missionary work is the last thing I think they would be doing. But these boys go out there and they can’t date or even really look at women that way, they’re just out there to serve for two straight years. All they do is pray and … I think just the character building thing, take the religion out of it, I think that’s going to make him strong for his entire life. That’s going to really serve him in the future. I wish they weren’t preaching a religion that will take away the freedom of thought, but sometimes people find so much security in that. It gives people some sort of answer, so that they can ground themselves: people who have lived in chaos their whole life.

AB: Let’s switch gears and talk about your music. What do you have coming up?
LS: I’m so excited finally – finally, man – there’s just been so much fucking bullshit with my music. I had twenty-four songs for The Lost Record and I only needed six – five main songs and one instrumental – and I have all these other songs leftover from the Chrysalis debacle and then I have over a hundred songs from The Lost Record. I’m sorting through those and planning on making 2008 my year of music, where I have several projects that I put out. I have a piano record that I’m going to do and then I have another rock record and then I want to put out the rest of The Lost Record in February. That’s probably going to be my next release. If I wanted to, I could release fifty or sixty songs. That wouldn’t make much business sense, but I could.

AB: Do you record at home?

LS: I record at home on my laptop and at people’s houses and in studios: where ever I can get my hands on gear. I’m a total tech nerd. I love – I can set up a home studio and make something with it really easily. People think they need all this stuff, but everybody could have their own studio for like $2000. Just get basic ProTools and a simple G4 and a $500 mic. That’s all you need, really. Well, and imagination. I’m glad it’s so easy now. I hope more and more people make music.

Headline image by Ashley Walters.
[Editor’s Note: For the record, Strawberry only had one coughing fit. I could tell she wanted to let out a few more, but kept a lid on it.]

Check out Strawberry’s MySpace page!