Q&A: Taylor Momsen of The Pretty Reckless
Sitting in a dark dressing room at Scottsdale, AZ's Martini Ranch, The Pretty Reckless' Taylor Momsen is a sight to behold. Wearing oversized black sunglasses (think Jackie O.), Momsen is donning a gray tank dress and her flaxen tresses are parted into two long braids.
The 18-year-old singer/actress -- who starred as Jenny Humphrey on the CW TV series "Gossip Girl" and as Cindy Lou Who in the Jim Carrey flick "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" -- is kind, sweet and even a little excited that a journalist has come to see her.
An interview should be the least of her thrills. She's on a headlining tour with her band The Pretty Reckless, traversing the country in support of her 2012 EP "Hit Me Like a Man" and last year's full-length, "Light Me Up." The act is preparing to open for Marilyn Manson on its tour.
Momsen spoke to SoundSpike about "Hit Me Like a Man," preparing new material and being taken seriously enough as a musician to share the stage with System of a Down, Slipknot and Marilyn Manson.
SoundSpike: You must be excited that "Hit Me Like a Man" is doing so well.
Taylor Momsen: It's super exciting. It's No. 3 on the rock chart. Bruce Springsteen is No. 1 and 2, so I don't feel too bad. It's pretty awesome. It's kind of crazy.
"Hit Me Like a Man" is a collection of new songs and live tracks. How did you decide which live tracks to include?
We wanted to "Make Me Wanna Die" because now we have every version of "Make Me Wanna Die" possible, recorded acoustic and all live versions. "Since You're Gone" is one of our favorite songs to play live. We usually open the set with it and it's when we lock in that groove. It's definitely one of our favorites.
Have you started work on a new album?
Yeah, yeah, we perform the U.S. headline tour, The Medicine Tour -- I'm not used to calling a tour a name -- then we jump on for a month with Manson. And then right after that we go straight in the studio and start recording the second album.
How far along are you?
Not far enough. It's never done until it's mastered and I can't touch it anymore.
How do you know when it's done?
It's weird once it's done. When the song is written, it's constantly evolving. It's not working then it works. There's no in between. It's either great or it's not. We have a very high standard of things, which makes it difficult. Hopefully it'll pay off in the end.
What is the direction of the new material?
I think it's definitely evolving. I think the EP gives you an indication of where the music's going. That's why we wanted to release something. We wanted to just give fans new material because we've been touring this album, "Light Me Up," for so long. We needed to start playing some new things. Also just to give them a taste of where the direction's going. I don't know what that is. I think the biggest thing that's changed is my standard of what's good has changed and grown. I'm competing with myself now along with everyone else. Putting out the first record, I'm not competing with anything to do with me. I'm competing with the rest of the world. As far as songwriting, I've definitely raised the bar of what I consider great. That's challenging, but if you're not beating yourself then what the fuck are you doing?
Were you surprised at the success of "Light Me Up"?
Extremely surprised. It was amazing. The first time we played London, Notting Hill Arts Club, it was the first time we've ever been to London. Every person in the audience knew every word to every song. It was surreal. It was one of the best feelings in the world when you have an audience singing back every word that you wrote and slaved over. "Wow, you actually really listened to this and Jesus, thank you." It's kind of like that everywhere we go. It's amazing. You can't ask for anything more than that.
That must make it all worthwhile.
When you finish the song, that's the first thing. That's 10 seconds of pleasure. Then the touring's fun. It's the other side of making music. The fans can really make or break a show. We don't play to tracks, so it's different every night. Even if we're playing the same set, no one plays the same thing twice, never. It makes it fun to play every night. You never really know what to expect. You very much feed off the audience. The fact that they're different every night and in a different place every night. We've been doing it for two years now and we don't want to stop. We just want to stop to make new music so we can play those songs, too.
Tell me about your songwriting process.
I write all the time, like all the time. You don't really stop writing. You write a lot of shitty stuff before you write something good. You are just constantly looking for anything to inspire you like it could be this couch. You never know. You're constantly keeping your eyes and ears open, whether it's your life or someone else's experience, a line or a phrase. Every song is written differently. The only common thread is it starts with an idea, a very succinct idea, whether that be a riff or a lyric or a melody. It's got to start somewhere.
Is it difficult to write on the road?
It's definitely something I've had to adjust to. It's not really the road; it's just to find privacy and to shut yourself off from the rest of the world, which is a very small world on a bus with a lot of people. I have to go live in my own head for a while. It's a challenge but we're getting used to it. I've sectioned off the back room on this tour. So I can sit and write.
Are you excited about opening for Marilyn Manson?
Really excited. I've been a fan of his forever. We were just in Australia doing Soundwave Festival. Unfortunately, we were playing the exact same time as Manson every day. We never got to meet Manson, but we met the rest of the band. They're all really great guys. It should be a really fun tour. We're really excited.
How do you prepare for a tour like that?
Not really any differently than any other tours. We look at it like we have our show, as an opening band you don't know what to expect because it's not your audience. I think you have to go for it and do your thing. We're not going to change anything per whoever we're touring with. We are what we are. If people like it great, if they don't, then that's cool, too. I think it's kind of the same thing.
Soundwave must have been fun.
Awesome. It was my first time in Australia. It was awesome. There are so many great bands. It was such a great tour. System of a Down was headlining. I got to hang out with those guys, great dudes. Some of my favorite bands -- Slipknot, Manson, Black Label Society -- fucking awesome dudes. It was a heavy rock tour, which was fun.
It must have been nice to be taken seriously enough that they included you in that mix.
It's great. It's the first festival we've played that's really been from front to end it was a rock/metal tour. We've done a lot of the festivals where there's been rock bands. We played with Foo Fighters and Liam Gallagher's new project Beady Eye, lots and lots of great bands. There are still the other stages that are the ultra-pop stages. To be on a tour that was just metal dudes the whole time, it was kind of awesome. We felt very in our element, which is cool.
4 - Toronto, Ontario - Phoenix Concert Theatre
6 - Quebec City, Quebec - Le Cercle
7 - Montreal, Quebec - Metropolis
8 - South Burlington, VT - Higher Ground - Showcase Lounge
10 - Boston, MA - Paradise Rock Club
12 - Philadelphia, PA - Theatre of the Living Arts
13 - New York, NY - Irving Plaza
14 - Poughkeepsie, NY - The Loft
17 - Richmond, VA - Canal Club
18 - Chapel Hill, NC - Local 506
19 - Charlotte, NC - Visulite Theatre
20 - Atlanta, GA - The Masquerade
21 - Jacksonville, FL - Jack Rabbits
22 - St. Petersburg, FL - State Theatre
25 - Orlando, FL - The Social
28 - Hampton Beach, NH - Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom (w/ Marilyn Manson)
29 - Huntington, NY - The Paramount (w/ Marilyn Manson)
1 - Silver Spring, MD - The Fillmore Silver Spring (w/ Marilyn Manson)
2 - Montclair, NJ - Wellmont Theatre (w/ Marilyn Manson)
4 - Atlantic City, NJ - House of Blues (w/ Marilyn Manson)
5 - Pittsburgh, PA - Stage AE (w/ Marilyn Manson)
6 - Grand Rapids, MI - Orbit Room (w/ Marilyn Manson)
8 - West Des Moines, IA - Val Air Ballroom (w/ Marilyn Manson)
9 - Sioux Falls, SD - WH Lyon Fairgrounds (w/ Marilyn Manson)
11 - Dallas, TX - Palladium Ballroom (w/ Marilyn Manson)
12 - San Antonio, TX - Sunken Garden Amphitheatre (w/ Marilyn Manson)
13 - Houston, TX - House of Blues (w/ Marilyn Manson)
15 - Oklahoma City, OK - Diamond Ballroom (w/ Marilyn Manson)
16 - Kansas City, MO - Uptown Theater (w/ Marilyn Manson)
18 - Minneapolis, MN - The Brick (w/ Marilyn Manson)
19 - Milwaukee, WI - The Rave Eagles Club (w/ Marilyn Manson)
29 - Buenos Aires, Argentina - Teatro Flores
1 - Santiago, Chile - Teatro Teleton
5 - Rio De Janeiro, Brazil - Circo Voador