The last year was like riding a big wave, recalls pop princess Katy Perry, who by any standards has just experienced a momentous 12 months. That wave carried her to the top of the charts all over the world and a record-breaking five number one US singles, including Firework and California Gurls, from her last album, Teenage Dream. No other female artist, not even Madonna or Adele, can match that.
On the back of that incredible chart success, the 27-year-old embarked on a gruelling, 11-month-long world tour that saw her playing 124 cities in front of up to 25,000 wildly enthusiastic fans each night. “Looking back, I’m very proud I got through it,” she says. “I only had to cancel one show and that still sticks in my side.”
By the end of last year, Perry was firmly established as one of the biggest pop stars in the world. But her personal life had suffered. As a new fly-on-the-wall documentary film of that epic global trek shows, her marriage to Britain’s comedic naughty boy, Russell Brand, hit the rocks before she made it home.
The singer made every effort to get her relationship back on track, flying back to America from far-flung places to meet Brand (whom she married in October 2010) and then, after a couple of days, heading back to play another gig.
“Every ten days or so I would put everybody [on the tour] on pause for three or four days so I could go back and re-charge and see to my relationship and give that time, which was very intense for me because the show was still on the road. But I made that sacrifice because it was important for me and I had made a commitment at that time.”
“Sometimes I had to fly in on the day of the show, completely jet-lagged and feeling like I had been hung by my ankles, and have to go on stage. But it’s like I pushed a button when I walked out.”
In the film there are tender shots of her and Brand, clearly besotted, in between gigs. But then, later, come the terse phone calls and whispers among her entourage that all is not well.
There’s one sequence where the camera captures her backstage in tears seconds before she emerges in view of a wildly appreciative audience. Rarely has “the show must go on” seemed more painfully appropriate than when, she admits to me, all she wanted to do was “pound the pillow”.
Watching the film, it is clear that distance played a big part in the couple’s troubles – Brand, with his movie career rocketing, was in America while she was on the road. At one point she says to the camera, “being in love is the dream and then the reality of trying to make it work is not like the movies.”
She refuses to discuss her ex-husband, but if she’s uncomfortable talking about Brand, why didn’t she just airbrush her personal troubles out of Part of Me? “It’s the elephant in the room and it would have been wrong of me not to touch on it. I’m not saying it wasn’t a difficult decision to leave it in, because it was, and I get sweaty palms even thinking about it. I hope it doesn’t come off as a pity party.”
It doesn’t. The film (opening in cinemas today) shows a hugely likeable, funny and clearly talented performer who fought long and hard to get to the top. It’s 11 years since her first album was released and disappeared without a trace, and she played tiny venues and suffered rejection from numerous record companies (four in seven years) before her breakout single, I Kissed a Girl charted in 2008.