The very first show Christina Perri ever played was opening for Jason Mraz in 2010 — in front of 9,000 people.
At the time, Perri, a shy singer-songwriter from Philadelphia had just experienced her first taste of musical success when her song “Jar of Hearts” was featured in an episode of “So You Think You Can Dance” in June of 2010.
With the song climbing Billboard’s Hot 100 and Hot Digital Songs charts, Perri suddenly found herself a much in-demand artist, playing big TV gigs that were much different from the coffee house open mics she was used to.
“I didn’t grow up playing in bars — I was super shy,” she said from a tour stop in Orange Beach, Ala. “I never had a band until this band, until I got a record deal.”
She doesn’t remember much about opening up for Mraz that first time.
“I completely whited out,” she said. “Apparently, [Mraz] came out and gave me a beautiful intro, but I was on the side of the stage saying, ‘Please don’t barf, please don’t barf, please don’t barf.’ So he introduces me, walks by me and says, ‘Don’t worry, this is just the most important night of your life.’ I went out and everything just disappeared — apparently, it was good.”
opening for Jason Mraz
Where: Saratoga Performing Arts Center, 108 Avenue of the Pines, Saratoga Springs
When: 7:30 p.m. Sunday
How Much: $59.50-$23 (lawn)
More Info: 584-9330, www.spac.org
The two musicians remained close after the show, with Mraz appearing on Perri’s debut album “Lovestrong” in 2011, singing and playing acoustic guitar on the third single “Distance.” Now, Perri is once again opening for Mraz, this time on an eight-week U.S. leg of his “Tour is a Four Letter Word” tour, which heads to Saratoga Performing Arts Center on Sunday night.
She’s remembering a lot more of these shows as well. This is the seventh tour she has been a part of in the past two years, by her count, and quite possibly the biggest.
“This is definitely by far the best,” she said. “We’re having more fun every time we go out. Jason and I perform together at the end of his show, and it’s just like a dream, honestly.”
Perri’s rapid rise has been almost dream-like, as well. The younger sister of former Shinedown and Silvertide guitarist Nick Perri, she first struck out to make it big in the music world in Los Angeles at age 21, but became sidetracked by marriage and a career producing music videos. By 2009 she had divorced and moved back to Philadelphia, where she began writing new songs — including “Jar of Hearts.” By 2010 she was back in L.A., once again pursuing a music career.
Her now infamous big break on “So You Think You Can Dance” featured a recording of “Jar of Hearts” set to a performance by contestants Billy Bell and Kathryn McCormick. Perri was in the audience during the show taping.
“I was sitting in the audience in the back of the bleachers, all the way in the back — it was no big deal that I was there; I was just this waitress with a little song,” Perri said.
Hearing herself loud
“I just remember what freaked me out the most was how loud it was — I had never heard myself so loud with a recording, so I was really in shock. My friend was there and she was just crying. I was kind of just blown away by the dance, the dancers, and then all of a sudden, there was this kind of boom of art, between the choreography, the dancers, my songs on TV shows — all these platforms were smushed together.”
Perri was soon making TV appearances, and assembled the band that she still plays with today to record her debut album, a deeply personal affair combining elements of pop, soul and modern rock. Although her album appeared relatively quickly after her big break, the band was still able to gel on the recording, and the arrangements haven’t changed much live.
“I feel like everything happened in such a unique order,” Perri said. “I met my band who I still play with and love more than life in August 2010, but we didn’t record the album until January. We had to play some of these little shows, so we started to arrange together as a band pretty early on before the studio, so it’s not that different.”
The real evolution will be found on her sophomore album, which she will begin working on in October. She already has about 50 songs in demo form, which have been worked out between and during tours, whenever she gets a chance.
“We as a band have grown together, and album two is the one that’s really going to be more evolved and mature,” she said.
“My writing has grown an enormous amount, and we’re thinking of arrangements now. These are my favorite songs of mine — I was thinking more, what do I want to perform for the next two years. So album two will be my favorite songs to play live with my band, since I know that’s all I’m going to be doing after I record them.”
While fans wait for the next record, Perri is looking forward to an EP of Christmas songs coming out on Oct. 16, entitled “A Very Merry Perri Christmas.” The album will feature five classic Christmas songs — including the first song she ever sang (she wouldn’t reveal it) — and one new original.
“I’ve been dreaming about that one since I was 3,” she said. “It’s super classic, extremely respectful. I didn’t do my own versions of them and stuff — there is style to it, but it’s really just honoring my favorite songs.”