The first perception in speaking with Taylor Momsen of the Pretty Reckless is that you are not talking to a 17 year old. That has little to do with perceptions of personal maturity. Instead it is that she speaks about music like a seasoned veteran. However, there is nothing jaded about Taylor Momsen. She simply speaks straightforward about her love for rock music and the central role it plays in her life.
I had the opportunity to talk on the phone with Taylor Momsen about her music with the band The Pretty Reckless, the place of rock in the pop music world, and joining the long tradition of American bands who made it big first in England. She grew up attending Catholic school in her hometown of St. Louis, Missouri, and that definitely had an impact. However, the mark it left is similar to any other element of growing up. She says life has an impact on her songs, and Catholic school was, "a part of life." I asked how long Taylor Momsen has been writing songs, and she said she thinks since around the age of five. "I've always been writing songs and doing music."
Taylor Momsen is a star of the TV show Gossip Girl, but I sensed that music lies closest to her heart as an artist. She spoke about the long process of putting together a first album and performing with an earlier incarnation of The Pretty Reckless before the current lineup centered on her musical vision got put in place. She is supported by Ben Phillips on lead guitar, Mark Damon on bass, and Jamie Perkins on drums.
In today's current musical climate, rock music is not at the center of what is most popular in music sales like it once was. On pop radio the presence of rock music is slim indeed at the moment. I asked Taylor Momsen where she thinks The Pretty Reckless fit in that picture. She says of rock music that, "It's all pop music." She thinks the band's steepest climb is to get music fans to listen to them in the first place. She says, "Give us a chance. You definitely might like us."
The Pretty Reckless, although an American band, have tasted success in the UK earlier than at home here in the US. Last year their single "Make Me Wanna Die," a recording that is, "Certainly one of my favorites," according to Taylor Momsen, hit #16 in the UK. It has been followed by their album Light Me Up reaching the top 10 and the single "Miss Nothing" landing in the top 40. The Pretty Reckless are pop stars in England, and now they are heading home to the US intending to extend the success here. I asked Taylor Momsen what it felt like to be a hit first in the UK instead of at home. "It feels like everyone else" she says with a laugh and then cites others that have come before with the same experience like the Strokes and Jimi Hendrix.
Taylor Momsen listens to mostly classic rock for her inspiration from the Beatles and the Who to Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails. You can hear that influence in the snarling rock sound of the single "Make Me Wanna Die." However, there are hooks that will catch the attention of pop fans. The album Light Me Up hits stores in the US February 8, 2011 and the band hits the road in the US to tour across the country three days later. Taylor Momsen wants you to come out and, "Give us a chance." You might indeed hear something you really like.
- Watch "Make Me Wanna Die"