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THE PV Q&A: Taylor Momsen of The Pretty Reckless on the Election: "The movie 'Idiocracy' is coming true, minute by minute, and it’s terrifying"
Via PureVolume 1 week ago
By Tom Lanham
In conversation, 23-year-old actress/rocker Taylor Momsen carries herself with the poise, dignity, and erudite wisdom of an old soul, someone who’s possibly lived a few lifetimes or more. Then again, she has been working since age two, first as a model, then as a child actress in films like How the Grinch Stole Christmas, wherein she played beloved Dr. Seuss naïf Cindy Lou Who. By her teens, she had graduated to a regular role on TV’s red-hot CW series Gossip Girl for four seasons, as the beguiling Jenny Humphrey. When she formed her metal outfit the Pretty Reckless at 16, it might have seemed like a fleeting fancy, an exercise in dilettante dabbling. But the kid was serious, and the quartet just issued its more ballad-y, often-acoustic-rooted third album, “Who You Selling For,” which showcases Momsen’s remarkable bluesy range. And she never went back to film or television again. She doesn’t feel particularly wise, though, she sighs. “So I don’t know if I’ve necessarily learned lessons – I’ve learned dumb things, like how to survive on tour. You drink a lot of water and get as much sleep as possible. But I’ve just gotten older as a human, so hopefully I’ve grown while doing that. We’ve been around the world, and around the world again, so I’ve seen it all in passing. And if anything, that certainly changes your perspective on life, in general.”
PUREVOLUME: You’ve said that you look back at your early stage outfits – corsets and stripper heels – with some embarrassment now?
TAYLOR MOMSEN: Ha! When I look back at pictures of myself back then, I’m like, “Oh, Man!” But I was 15, and in all honesty, it was super-genuine at the time. But that’s who I was at the time, so it was fine. But I look back at it now and go, “Whew! Now that was a bad outfit decision right there!”
PV: And you paint and sculpt to keep yourself busy in the off hours, right?
TM: Well, I’m not making any pottery. It’s just kind of abstract, it’s whatever comes out. And I don’t really have an intention with it, because I don’t really have any skills at it – I just like doing it. So I’ve never taken any art lessons or anything. But it keeps your mind open and creative, and it’s just a hobby of mine. And it’s the one artistic thing that is just mine, not for the world.
PV: You and your key co-writer – Reckless guitarist Ben Phillips – are not a romantic couple, though, right?
TM: No, we’re just partners. I’m still chillin,’ totally single.
PV: But you went through a dark, existential crisis leading up this record. Were you depressed?
TM: Well, it’s not depression. It’s more “What do I do next?” More just a question of trying to redefine yourself and figuring out how to grow. So I don’t have clinical depression or anything – I’m just talking about life, and how it has its ups and downs, and you use that as a tool in your writing. And touring is weird. This sort of life – if you haven’t done it, it’s hard to explain it, because you live in this bubble, so the outside world becomes this thing that doesn’t exist. And you get off the road, off tour, and then it hits you again. When you get home, you sit down, and you’re left with this giant hole. Like, “Who am I now? I’m two years older, and I’m just sitting here alone, wondering who I am.”
PV: What was your breakthrough epiphany for “Who You Selling For”?
TM: I think the epiphany was getting it all out in the songs. Writing is a weird process, because there is no process. So it’s very torturous, and it can take you down a spiral, a rabbit hole in your own head. And that’s not always a good thing, but at the same time, it’s necessary when you want to be honest with your writing. And you have to be honest, so you can’t put limits on yourself. Because you’re cheating yourself, and you’re not going to be the best that you can be. So that’s always a strange process. And when you finish a song – and it’s good – it’s the most elating feeling on the planet. I think that there is no better feeling. And then getting to go record that song, and it becomes final? That hellhole in your own head? You can close it up a bit. And it’s not always easy – there are fights and there are arguments, and things aren’t working, and this, that, and the other. But at the end of the day, when can go home and press ‘Play’ on a song that you wrote and recorded, -- and it’s good – it’s a fucking great feeling. And then once the album’s out, you get to go tour it and play those song every night, which is also an elating feeling. And then once that ends, the tour cycle ends, then it’s back to the hole. And then you have to see where it takes you from there.
PV: Is it difficult to sing these cathartic songs – like “Devil’s Back” and “Oh My God” – night after night?
TM: Sometimes, yeah. But with “Oh My God,” it’s just pure fucking adrenaline and anger, and when that kicks in, you kind of feed off of that. But yeah, there are certain times where you’re emotionally at odds with what you’re playing. But the high point is writing of it. Once you’ve written it, said it, recorded it, it’s kind of like it’s already out of your system.
PV: “Living in the Storm” sounds somewhat frightening.
TM: Well, have you seen the world today? I think we’re all living in the storm. And the movie “Idiocracy” is coming true, minute by minute, and it’s terrifying. And the election? It’s terrifying, too. I don’t even know how to feel about that yet. So I’ll kind of just keep going, I guess. But, uh, I like London a lot. And France is nice. And Canada’s not so bad.
PV: Are you optimistic at all?
TM: Absolutely. I think – for us at least – it’s a new era, and I think we’re kind of on a roll, we’re growing as a band. So we’re super-optimistic about where this is going to go. It’s going to be awesome. So Hey – onwards and upwards!