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Linda Perry, Back on Her Diverted 'Flight'

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Perry holed up in her San Francisco warehouse-studio for a while before eventually moving to Los Angeles. She recorded a follow-up album, "After Hours," that the label didn't like any better. According to Perry's version of events, she got on her hands and knees during a meeting with Interscope executive Tom Whalley and threatened suicide if she wasn't released from her contract. "You need to let me go," she recalls telling him. "If I had a 'What's Up' in my pocket right now, I would never give it to you." Whalley released her from the contract a few weeks later.

Perry had spent most of her 4 Non Blondes money and was contemplating a revival of her solo career when Alecia Moore, a pop singer who goes by the nom de disco Pink, left a phone message, threatening to camp outside Perry's house until the two met. Perry had no idea who Pink was until someone explained it to her. "I was so turned off. A white girl with pink hair singing R&B? So unappealing!" she recalls. "I called her and said, 'I think you have the wrong Linda Perry because there's nothing hip about me whatsoever.' "

Pink had wanted Perry only to maybe sing backup on a song or two, it turns out, but Perry ultimately co-wrote and produced much of Pink's 2001 release, "Missundaztood," including its flagship hit, "Get the Party Started."

Before her sessions with Pink, "I never wanted collaboration as an artist. I didn't talk to people nicely as an artist. I was really mean," says Perry, who blames insecurity. Working with Pink brought out a nurturing side that Perry hadn't known she possessed.

"With Alecia I learned a lot about myself," says Perry, who never, ever calls her Pink. "Here's a younger kid who could have been me at her age. It was just learning how to listen, to get a little intuitive about who you're with, and just being aware of people, aware of what they're saying. How they're walking, their speech."

After "Missundaztood," finding work wasn't difficult. Perry collaborated with Aguilera on her multi-platinum disc "Stripped," even providing her with a gritty ballad about self-acceptance, "Beautiful," which she had hoped one day to record herself.

Perry has become known for providing heft to the lightweight (Juliette Lewis), pop credibility to the obscure (Fischerspooner) and solace to the difficult (Courtney Love). What's more important, she reflects back at her artists a better version of themselves. "I'm very open. I'm very wise with people. I allow an artist to be an artist," Perry explains. "They have managers and label people telling them they don't know how to write a song. . . . I'm like, 'Why don't you play me some songs you've written?' Once they do, I'll be like, 'You don't need a writer! You're a wonderful writer.' . . . I nurture people's talents because at the end of it, that's what they're left with. They're left with themselves."

"To write a song with someone you don't know is very difficult," says Enrique Iglesias, who collaborated with Perry on tracks for his upcoming album, due early next year. "It can be embarrassing. . . . You're afraid they're going to say, what is that? That's ridiculous! . . . What I like about her is she's very passionate. There's no [BS] involved."

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In person Perry radiates an aura of steely capability. She engineers her own projects, can play almost any instrument, knows how to operate everything in her studio down to the last microphone, pedal and knob. She inspires fierce devotion in many of the people she works with.

"Linda Perry helped me find the courage to say the things I could never say," says Kelly Osbourne, who collaborated with Perry on her recent album, "Sleeping in the Nothing." "She is the most talented person I have ever, and probably will ever, work with."

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