Christina Perri has a lot of tattoos — 38, to be exact.
They’re images of everything from a tiny penguin on her hand through an elaborate Banksy balloon-girl image that occupies an entire ribcage, to the words “La mia familia” around her neck, honoring her Italian-American clan back in Philadelphia.
One is most telling: “to thine own self be true” on her forearm where she can always reference it. It’s the credo that’s guided the singer from obscurity to literal overnight stardom.
“Especially in this day and age, and in the music business itself, they’re words to live by,” says Perri, whose then-unknown track “Jar of Hearts” instantly sold more than 220,000 copies on iTunes after being featured on TV’s “So You Think You Can Dance” in June, paving the way for her upcoming full-length debut “Lovestrong” and a tour with James Blunt, which hits The City tonight.
“But I was so lucky, because I woke up one morning and people just liked my song the way it was. And I got scooped up and sent to New York to sign a record deal, and the label said, ‘Just do what you’re doing, because it’s working.’ So now every day I get to wake up and just be me.”
Fans of Perri’s “Jar” ballad will delight in “Lovestrong,” which is aglow with solid followups, like the acoustic “Penguin” or gorgeous anthems “Tragedy” and “The Lonely.”
Her newfound fame got her invited onto Kat Von D’s “L.A. Ink” program, wherein the famed tattooist needled No. 38. “It’s my favorite painting, ‘My Dishonest Heart’ by Audrey Kawasaki, and I’ve been wanting it for so long,” Perri says. “It was a five-hour session, and it hurt. But not as bad as some other ones, like the Banksy or the two tattoos on my palms.”
Perri was emulating an older brother when she got her first tattoo at 15. “Then I just fell in love with the art of it, the self-expression,” she says. When “Jar” ignited, she was freshly divorced and waitressing in L.A. at a posh café. “So I had to wear long-sleeved shirts and pants and sweat my butt off because I chose to have those tattoos,” she adds. She quit the day after the “Dance” airing.
IF YOU GO
Where: The Warfield, 982 Market St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. today
Tickets: $40 to $50
Contact: (800) 745-3000, www.ticketmaster.com