Since emerging in 2000, Pink has distinguished herself as one of the biggest artists and top live draws in the world. Ahead of the release of her incredible new album Trustfall, Music Week joins the star – real name Alecia Moore – her manager Roger Davies, RCA’s John Fleckenstein and David Dollimore, plus Barrie Marshall of Marshall Arts, to discuss a career that has defied all the odds and a lot of expectations along the way. With a huge UK summer stadium tour on the way, too, it’s officially time to get the party (re)started…
WORDS: GEORGE GARNER
We begin with the title of the best-selling book that never was: Artist To Artist – How To Get Fucked 101 by Alecia Moore. You know her better by the name of Pink.
“I went through so much clichéd bullshit for the first four or five years of my career that I wanted to write a book called that,” she tells Music Week from her home as sunlight streams in through the floral curtains draped behind her. “It would be, like, ‘If you do this, you’re fucked!’ or, ‘Do that, you’re fucked!’ Yep, I did all of that. And that was going to be my legacy [laughs].”
Suffice to say that the book in question does not actually exist, and for two very good reasons. First, Pink never wrote it. Second, and despite her self-deprecation, she never had to. Instead, the artist greeting us today – sporting a big smile, framed by short blonde hair and dangling hoop earrings – has an altogether more impressive legacy.
Since emerging with her debut, Can’t Take Me Home, in 2000, Pink has sold over 60 million records worldwide, broken live attendance records and scooped up prestigious awards including three Grammys and the MTV Video Vanguard accolade – its other illustrious honourees being the likes of Michael Jackson, Rihanna, Beyoncé and Britney Spears. Oh, and a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame. But it’s not just what she’s achieved that’s impressive, it’s the unique manner in which she’s done it.
“Pink’s an icon,” hails her manager Roger Davies. “She’s never been a conformist, always followed her heart and yet has sustained an amazing career over 23 years. She has an incredible voice, she’s an important songwriter, she always has something to say and she can sell out stadiums all over the world.”
As pop history scholars can attest, a lot of artists’ careers play out in a similar fashion: the rapid rise, the even faster implosion; the overnight success, the plateau, the gradual decline; and who could forget the world-conquering fame, the fall-off and the triumphant comeback tour? Pink’s trajectory bucks all of them: a good old-fashioned story of sustained growth. Her last two studio albums, 2017’s Beautiful Trauma and 2019’s Hurts 2B Human both hit No.1 in the UK, those cycles also seeing her play stadia around the world – including two nights at Wembley Stadium. For RCA US COO John Fleckenstein, who’s worked with her from the start of her career, her survival instincts in a permanently changing music business are a thing of wonder.
“Pink’s been around long enough to see the transformation of this industry from sales to streaming and from purchase to access,” he observes. “These are big, seismic shifts, and she’s managed to continuously adapt and understand what’s important. She’s also managed to do that across multiple countries around the world. Frankly, it’s amazing.”
“Pink’s a trailblazer,” agrees RCA UK president David Dollimore. “There’s no one like her, and I think it’s her ambition that’s helped her continue to get bigger and bigger over the years.”
If you think that her ninth studio album Trustfall – released February 17 via RCA – is about to see that drive deteriorate into cruise control, think again. Roger Davies is unequivocal when he tells Music Week that it’s “the best album of her career so far”. Indeed, when it came to its lead single Never Gonna Not Dance Again, Pink had a pretty lofty brief when she contacted long-time collaborators Max Martin and Shellback. She wanted to write their best song ever.
“People usually go to them, like, ‘What have you got? Give us the magic!’” she reflects. “I think it’s really fun for them when someone comes with an idea, like, ‘This is what I want, it’s very specific, it’s called Never Gonna Not Dance Again, and it has to be the best song we’ve ever made! No pressure.’”
It wasn’t just her own exacting high standards driving this brief, it was her lived experience. In 2020, Pink – an asthma sufferer – came down with Covid, and so too did her son Jameson, who was aged just three at the time. It hit them both hard. Jameson’s illness continued for weeks, leaving a distraught Pink praying for him to pull through, which thankfully he did. She emerged with a new sense of perspective – those times in the past where, say, her kids would ask her to play on the beach and she declined? They now struck her as lost opportunities to make a memory. She needed a song to acknowledge that revelation. Written with Martin and Shellback over FaceTime – between lots of “giggling and shots of whiskey” – the up-tempo disco pop of Never Gonna Not Dance Again is as life-affirming as it gets.
“After the fact, Shellback was like, ‘I actually think this might be my favourite production I’ve ever worked on!’” adds Pink. “I said, ‘See, you’re welcome!’”
Never Gonna Not Dance Again has subsequently become a UK No.1 airplay hit, and has amassed over 32 million streams on Spotify alone. And that’s just a glimpse of what’s in store: Trustfall’s title-track is another banger in waiting, a sleek EDM monster produced by Fred Again.. and Johnny McDaid. The concept of a trust fall – the group exercise where individuals lean backwards in order to be caught mid-air by a support network – resonated deeply with Pink. It speaks to the maelstrom of our shared human predicament right now.
“I feel like that’s what life is right now, especially with the pandemic: getting out of bed, going to work, dropping your kids off at school, participating in elections…” she trails off, seemingly exhausted by the list. “It all feels like you’re falling backwards and it requires so much trust. It’s maddening, it’s beautiful, but it’s life. It’s a really, really interesting time. I feel like our parents said the same shit, right? Every generation has been like [adopts an old fogey accent, talking out of one corner of her mouth], ‘It’s a craaaaazy time!’ I know that makes me sound like an old mom, but it’s how it feels. We have to be our own heroes right now.”
Pink’s willingness to explore the tension between the “maddening and the beautiful” goes a long way to explaining why her skirmish against mainstream sensibilities has been so successful for over two decades. Notorious for her blunt force candour – when Music Week presses record at the start of the interview, she beams, “Not if but when I put my foot in mouth, we gotta make sure we got it on tape!” – she has long proven herself to be a charmingly frank alternative to the press-trained indifference of many modern pop stars.
On record she is every bit as forthcoming, making hits out of subjects as varied as divorce, mental health, beauty standards, masturbation and even political unrest. In 2006, Dear Mr President had George W Bush firmly in its sights, while 2017’s What About Us had people in red states dancing, completely unaware that it was partly informed by the failure of Donald Trump’s America.
At the heart of everything has been the hard fight to preserve her individuality. Consistently and unapologetically, Pink has flaunted industry convention in order to be her undiluted self. And she’s preached the importance of that to others. If you ever fancy turning your eyes into hosepipes, simply consult her MTV Vanguard award acceptance speech, which she addressed to her daughter Willow after she confessed to her mum that she felt like the “ugliest girl I know”. From the outside looking in, she’s always made all of this look easy. But is blazing her own trail simply a matter of telling everyone to fuck off, or has it exacted an emotional toll on her, too?
“It’s both,” she says. “I heard a quote yesterday that said, ‘If the path before you is clear, then you’re probably on somebody else’s.’ I love that, and that’s exactly what we’re talking about. It hurts, but I like being uncomfortable. And I like making other people uncomfortable, because it’s authentic, it’s messy. And that’s where the yummy stuff comes in.”
As she utters those last words, a large grin spreads across her face. She is, she explains, a disciple of Billy Joel, Don McLean, Janis Joplin and Joni Mitchell, all artists that defined her childhood.
“They teach you that life is not supposed to be pretty,” she says. “And the pretty stuff isn’t all that interesting. It’s messy, so why cover it up? We want to know people. I want to know about Edgar Allan Poe’s life, like why did he write that shit? What was happening to him? With Janis Joplin, I wouldn’t understand that voice if I didn’t understand the pain beneath it. So the artists that I can’t know? I’m like, ‘Well, that’s a nice song, I guess, but it’s not interesting.’ I need more. I need the nitty gritty.”
“My stepmother once had a quote on her wall that said, ‘If you never tell a lie, you never have to remember anything,’” she adds. “I was like, ‘Huh, that’s good because my memory sucks! I’ll do that then!’ This is who I am, and I refuse to let anyone put me into any other mould.”
It’s an attitude that was forged a long time ago...
Towards the end of his life, Pink had a heart-to-heart with her father, Jim Moore. In 2020, she revealed via Instagram that he was undergoing a second round of chemotherapy for prostate cancer.
“What do you want to come back as?” she asked him, broaching the subject of reincarnation.
“Well, I’m a pilot, sweetheart, so I want to be a bird of flight,” he replied.
He was, Pink reflects with Music Week back in the present day, also on morphine at the time, so he quickly added another animal to the list.
“Or a cannibal chipmunk,” he said.
“Yeah,” Pink replied. “Let’s go back to the bird.”
While the final form he wanted to assume was left open, there was no question as to what he was to Pink during the course of his life. “I dedicate this album to my daddy – my hero, my glue,” she wrote in the liner notes to her debut Can’t Take Me Home. His passing in 2021 was an immeasurable loss.
“Grief is such a weird thing to me because I lost so many people at such a young age, so many friends of mine,” she says, solemnly. “I’ve done the funeral thing, I’ve done the grief thing, but I’d never lost a parent. People always tell you, ‘Oh, that’s a bag you’re gonna be unpacking for a long time,’ and you don’t really understand what that means. Even if you had an idyllic childhood, it’s complicated. It’s a bag you just keep unpacking.”
Those complex feelings find expression in Trustfall’s standout song, When I Get There. An elegiac track penned by David Hodges and Amy Wadge, it beautifully articulates the different stages of grief, and all the unanswered questions that loom.
“I played it for my best friend who lost her mom a little bit before I lost my dad, and she’s still not speaking to me,” she says, wincing as reflects on the song’s gut-punching power. “The interesting part will be seeing if I can do it live.”
Jim Moore didn’t just believe in his daughter, he armoured her with self-belief. In Pink’s 2021 song All I Know So Far – the single soundtracking her Amazon documentary of the same name – she worked something he once told her into the chorus. ‘You throw your head back and you spit in the wind,’ she sang.
Pink still vividly recalls when he imparted that advice while driving her to her first singing contest.
“I remember looking at him in the front seat and him going, ‘Honey, you just put your head back, spit in the wind, and show them what you got,’” she reflects. “And he raised me that way. I mean, he was a Vietnam vet. He was tough, and he raised me like that, but he was also a poet, a folk singer and he knew the language of the trees. He gave me all of that. He was always so proud of me.”
That ‘spit in the wind’ philosophy has served Pink well in pursuing a career without limitations. Listen to Trustfall and you’ll be struck by the sheer amount of genres she traverses, from pop to rock to country, all while collaborating with the likes of First Aid Kit, Chris Stapleton and The Lumineers.
“Pink consistently moves around genres yet everything always feels contemporary,” praises RCA’s David Dollimore. “She has that luxury where she can do different styles. We all know certain artists don’t jump out of their comfort zone, but Pink’s done that across all the albums she’s put out. That’s why I call her a trailblazer. Not many artists do that.”
That luxury has been hard-earned. Lest we forget, when Pink emerged in 2000, it was as an R&B/pop proposition at a time when genre distinctions were both highly rigid and prescriptive. They soon chafed. For RCA’s John Fleckenstein, two words spring to mind when it comes to the question of what the music industry can take from the Pink story so far.
“The words would be ‘bravery’ and ‘perspective’,” he explains. “I’ve seen nothing but her doing the bravest thing at the most important moments, and that allowed her to unlock and transform it into a career of this magnitude. The other word, perspective, I use in the context of her lasting star wattage. It’s so rare to see somebody, particularly in the pop universe, be this big for so long, and continue to get bigger and bigger. A lot of it comes down to her ability to take a step back and go, ‘This is where I’m at in the world and this is true to me’. That’s a huge factor in how she’s been able to transcend what a lot of people have not been able to do in the pop universe.”
Pink made brave decisions right from the beginning when, as a member of the LaFace-signed R&B trio Choice, she took the label’s ultimatum to disband the group and pursue a solo career. Her biggest gamble, however, came with her 2001 second outing, Missundaztood – a record in which she boldly reimagined herself as a rock-centric pop star. Her manager Roger Davies remembers the time well.
“I first met Pink in 2001 and was immediately impressed by her star charisma – she was fiercely ambitious,” he recalls. “I was living in London at the time and I didn’t know much about her other than I remembered her riding a motorbike through a plate glass window in her video for There You Go. She told me that she wanted to make a rock/pop album.”
Indeed, without her label’s knowledge, she had already covertly started the process.
“She’d found Linda Perry’s phone number in a makeup artist’s notebook and said that she was going to call her to get some songs,” he continues. “She visited Linda, who gave her Get The Party Started, and my first job was to tell [Arista president/CEO] LA Reid that Pink wanted to make a rock/pop album rather than another R&B pop album like Can’t Take Me Home.”
Not only that, she even included her A&R odyssey in the lyrics to Don’t Let Me Get Me (‘LA told me, you’ll be a pop star/all you have to change is everything you are’). For the record, Pink has her own idea of what would have transpired had she capitulated and delivered Can’t Take Me Home Part 2.
“I know I wouldn’t still have a career like I have,” she observes. “It wouldn’t have been interesting enough.”
Pink’s insurrection paid off big time, in turn becoming one of the greatest examples of artistic self-determination of the post-millennium. Missundaztood remains her best-selling album in the UK, on 6x platinum sales of 1,882,665 according to Official Charts Company data. In the UK, another three of her releases have gone 4x platinum: 2006’s I’m Not Dead (1,435,866), 2008’s Funhouse (1,349,977) and 2010’s Greatest Hits – So Far (1,320,518). Together with Davies – who David Dollimore praises as “one of the best managers in the world” – Pink redefined who she was on a global scale. Mention his name out loud, and her badass voice immediately softens in tone.
“He’s the love of my life, he’s the man I respect the most,” she says of Davies.
Remember that How To Get Fucked 101 book Pink wanted to write? He’s a big reason why she didn’t have to pen it.
“When I met him, I was an abused puppy,” she says. “If you’ve ever been to a dog shelter, I was the one cowering in the corner that was ready to bite. I [once] renegotiated my contract for an outfit and a bag of weed when I was 17 years old. It was stupid. When I met Roger, I had been managing myself. And that went well…”
And how did Pink rate, erm, Pink, as a manager?
“Well, I secured my own publishing deal, I was pretty proud of that!” she laughs. “But when I met Roger, he was like, ‘What the fuck is this?’ I’m like, ‘That’s my contract, don’t crumple it! What are you doing!?’”
She recalls a question Davies asked her in the early days.
“His thing was, ‘How hard will you work?’” she remembers. “I said, ‘I’ll die for this. This is all I have, I will die if I don’t.’”
It’s easy to get used to hyperbole in the music industry, but in Pink’s case it’s true. When it comes to her live shows, she really is risking life and limb…
It’s July 15, 2010. Pink is standing centre stage in front of the baying crowd packed into the Easy Credit Stadion in Nuremberg, Germany. As the opening strains of So What begin, two dancers each start to attach a wire to a circular harness around Pink’s waist – wires that are primed to rocket her into the air for the show’s grand finale. One dancer is visibly struggling to clip the line into one side. Something is wrong. Pink raises her arms into an X shape to alert the crew but it’s too late. On musical cue, one wire – instead of both – pulls taut and drags Pink offstage, hurtling her into a steel safety barrier. Still mic’d up, the words “Fuck, that hurt!” echo around the now silent arena. Eventually, she hobbles up onto the stage.
“So, I’m not sure, but I possibly broke something,” she says. “I’m very sorry I won’t be able to do the last song, but thank you for coming and always being supportive.”
She limps off to the sound of nervous-yet-relieved applause.
It’s a reminder – were any needed – of the risks Pink takes in order to blow people away every time she takes to the stage. Her dazzling aerial feats are the stuff of legend.
“I’ve been to many of her shows and they are such a spectacle of brilliance,” says David Dollimore. “I’ve never seen anyone that pushes themselves with their performances like Pink.”
Her live agent, Barrie Marshall of Marshall Arts, has known her since 2000, and witnessed the evolution that her live show has taken first hand.
“Pink’s one of the greatest live performers in the world,” he says. “However huge the venue, she has that rare quality to engage with every single person in an audience. She gives every ounce of herself in each show, which is why they’re unforgettable.”
Pink’s 2021 documentary All I Know So Far is revelatory in this regard as it details her preparations for a two-night stand at Wembley Stadium. At one point she’s captured telling the crew that the show – full of spectacle – is somehow still not good enough in her eyes. The question, of course, is why does she continue to risk life and limb by constantly upping the ante, when she could, in truth, just belt her songs out like so many others do at this point?
“Ah, I know, I know, I know,” she says, shaking her head. “And the insurance company’s like, ‘You’re getting older,’ and I’m like, ‘Yeah, well, you’re cutting the cheque – look I can still do a full split!’ You can tell when you go to a show and the artist cares, and you can tell when they don’t. I’ve been to those shows when they don’t and it’s offensive – it’s offensive to me that you would take somebody’s money. Just go take a break, buy a bar on a beach and fuck off! Don’t just take people’s money then go up there with your hands in your pocket sitting on an amp singing a song that I loved as a child. Don’t ruin my life, fuck you [laughs]. That’s how I feel about it. And I’ve been to those shows, and I hate them. I won’t listen to their songs anymore.”
Jaw-dropping spectacle is only part of the equation when it comes to Pink’s phenomenal growth as a live act. To fully understand that, you need to go right back to her early conversations with Roger Davies and the global vision they shared together.
“When we first met, she was doing dates opening for NSync and singing to track,” reflects Davies. “I instinctively wanted to make her a live touring artist. We put together a band and started performing in clubs all over the world. England was very important to us. I can remember a turning point when we played at Brixton Academy in 2002, and we started performing in regional markets all over the UK. We went from theatres to arenas to Wembley Stadium.”
Crucially, no steps were skipped in territories, even when some lagged behind others. Often, Pink found herself as a multi-platinum act pin-wheeling between venue sizes.
“Roger had me doing clubs, and then I worked up to theatres and then, overseas, I worked up to arenas, and I would still come back to America and be doing clubs, like the 930 Club,” she laughs. “And then at the same time, I would do arenas, and then I would do Dingwalls. It was this very humbling thing, but I got to hone [my skills]. We just pounded the pavement.”
John Fleckenstein insists that it’s important to keep in mind how unique this was, especially for the time.
“She put the work in, and Roger also deserves an enormous amount of credit for it,” he says. “When she took a pivot on [third album] Try This, the American market wasn’t accepting of the music and so she pivoted overseas. Roger put her on European festivals, which seems regular now because everybody does festivals, whatever genre you’re in, right? But back then, they were the bastion of rock music, period. People were saying, ‘You’re crazy, she’s a pop artist, you can’t put her on European festivals like Rock Am Ring!’ But he did. And she showed that she could actually pull that off. It transformed her international career.”
There have been many pivotal live moments. Roger Davies fondly recalls her sets at V Festival, Isle Of Wight and her BRITs medley in 2019. Barrie Marshall peels off a list covering everything from La Scala in 2002 (“Everyone knew that here was an artist that was incredibly special,” he says) to the Camden Dingwalls underplay in 2006, Madison Square Garden and the resolute “triumph” of her Wembley Stadium shows in 2019.
“She broke records in Australia – it was something like 60 arenas or something absurd,” adds John Fleckenstein, still bewildered. “It was unbelievable. We were like, ‘How is this even happening?’”
If there was one crucial moment, however, it was the gorgeously choreographed 2010 Grammys performance of Glitter In The Air.
“I think most of America remembers it as this ‘A-ha!’ moment,” he says. “The impact that performance had on America, really, was that moment of like, ‘Oh, yeah, this next chapter of Alecia is going to be gigantic.’”
“She performed it with such grace,” says Barrie Marshall. “The whole world watched with awe and saw the magic.”
When it comes to the live campaign for Trustfall in the UK, the Pink Summer Carnival world tour is set to take in two nights each at the University Of Bolton Stadium, Sunderland Stadium Of Light and BST Hyde Park London, plus a date at Birmingham’s Villa Park.
“These UK stadium shows in the summer are the best marketing tool we could have because the next day social media and TikTok will be populated by performance clips,” says David Dollimore. “It’s going to be internet fire.”
As for what Pink has in store for the shows?
“It’s all here,” she says, pointing directly into her skull. “I haven’t climbed on anything yet, but it’s aaaaaall here.”
Moving into 2023, Pink is in the strongest position of her entire career. So, as the artist who once recorded an album called Missundaztood, just how well understood does Pink actually feel as an artist these days?
“13 or 14%?” she grins.
Really, that low?
“For anyone that’s been with me for a while, I feel like we’re all growing up together,” she explains. “Those people? I’d say 95% know me in and out. They know my intentions, what I stand for, my sense of humour, all that. The rest of the world? Not at all.”
In 2017, ahead of the release of Beautiful Trauma – a 2x platinum UK No.1, selling 605,669 copies to date – she told the New York Times that she’s always been ducking under the wave of pop discourse compared to some of her peers. Over five years – and two Wembley Stadium shows – on from saying that, where is she in relation to the wave now? Still ducking under or surfing?
“I think I’m at the bar, drinking something out of a coconut!” she laughs. “Sometimes I feel like I’m in a riptide. I have no idea!”
She goes on to paint a picture of the real life of Alecia Moore: dropping her kids off at school, making sure they’re not late, trying to stuff her daughter’s bike into the back of her car, all while hoping she can make it to yoga later in the evening. It turns out that ducking under the wave while also being one of the biggest stars on the planet is working.
“I’m pretty happy about it,” she concludes. “It’s what helps me sustain what I’m able to do, it’s not a big, bright star that’s gonna burn out. I just want to suck the marrow out of the bones of this for as long as possible.”