December 7, 2016 Interview – Taylor Momsen of The Pretty Reckless
Some feelings are so strong, there is no fighting them. Growing up a child actor, starring in such hit films as 2000’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas as Cindy Lou Who, Taylor Momsen’s creative impulses extended beyond the big screen. Yearning for something more, something real, Momsen learned early on that her true calling was Rock-n-Roll. Determined to make her dreams a reality, she quickly devoted her life to music, pouring her soul into leading modern Rock band The Pretty Reckless.
Gifted with a voice, style, as well as undeniable onstage presence, Momsen and The Pretty Reckless arguably are one of Rock-n-Roll’s saviors. Growing with each passing year, their latest album, Who You Selling For, exhibits more raw energy, less overprocessing, and most of all, real emotion. Recently we sat down with Momsen to talk how she was destined to lead a Rock-n-Roll band, the work behind their new album, her emotion live on stage, and much more.
CrypticRock.com – You have been involved in entertainment since a very young age, first acting professionally and then later going on to lead the Rock-n-Roll band The Pretty Reckless. First, tell us, what inspired you to get involved in the arts?
Taylor Momsen – Music has been my life since I can remember. I’ve been singing since before I can remember and writing songs before I even realized I was doing it. It was in my blood I guess. I got put into the industry at a young age because of my family. When I got old enough to make my own decisions, I quit acting and all that and strictly focused on music and the band. I haven’t looked back since, it was a good decision.
CrypticRock.com – It appears to have been. The Pretty Reckless has seen a great deal of growth over the past decade. You have released three full-length albums now and toured with Marilyn Manson, Evanescence, and Guns N’ Roses. From your vast experiences over the years, what are some of the most important things you have learned?
Taylor Momsen – Drink lots of water? (laughs) You learn a lot from experience, you can’t beat experience. Just touring the world and having been a band for almost 10 years now, every experience adds to your knowledge of your life, being a musician, and being in a band. Just getting older and seeing the world, with your own two eyes, it adds perspective. A lot of things, but it’s just growing as a person, as a musician, it’s not one thing in particular, it is not as specific.
CrypticRock.com – Understandable. You grew up with this band; you started when you were a teenager and now you are a young woman. You’ve seen a lot of your young adult life growing up in part of this Rock band, which is kind of cool.
Taylor Momsen – I have and it is very cool. It is very cool to grow with your best friends, to develop and grow together. I always thought I didn’t want to be Elvis, I wanted to be the The Beatles; I didn’t want to do this alone.
CrypticRock.com – It seems to be going very well. Who You Selling For came out in October and this could be The Pretty Reckless’ most complete piece of music to date. What was the writing and recording process behind this album?
Taylor Momsen – The writing process is always kind of the same, there is no process. The only consistent thing is Ben and I are the two writers of the band, so we write everything. We really just try to keep our minds open to anything. I read a lot, I write, I paint, I sculpt, I watch television, I people watch, I isolate myself from the world to try to get inside my own head, because you never know where an idea is going to come from. That’s kind of always consistent with every record. The recording process this time around was a little different, it’s the first time we’ve brought an outside musician. We wanted to make a very organic record that really captured the human element and the player behind each note. Not with computers, everything where it can be lined up and made to be perfect.
In my opinion, the reason why music touches people so much and can connect with them so much is that human element. The imperfection can make it perfect. Hearing the person and hearing the soul behind the whine of the guitar note, the wobble of the vocal, all that is really important. We very much set up and jammed to see where the songs will take us, bringing in a backup singer and using a keyboard player. Obviously Warren Haynes is featured in “Back to the River,” it all really elevated this band. It’s the closest we’ve come to making a real, I hate to use the word “old school,” but in a sense, an old school Classic Rock record. It’s certainly our proudest accomplishment to date.
CrypticRock.com – It seems to have worked very well. Bringing in outside musicians, sometimes, it gives you a different perspective on things. How did that enhance the process?
Taylor Momsen – Instead of having to overdub the keyboard later, we are all multi-instrumentalists, we can all play the part, but instead of having to do that, you can do it in the room together and really feel out the vibe. The greatest example is the song “The Devil’s Back,” it was initially going to be a two and half minute song, but because we were jamming in a room, it just felt so good. The vibe was so right and we started clicking, it was all one take, I think it was done in the second take. It became one of the longest songs on the record. It allowed us to really be open and to see where the songs were going to take us in an organic way.
CrypticRock.com – That really makes for a special creative enviroment. Now you had mentioned the human connection with another, human’s emotions, that is very important as well. One thing that remains constant with The Pretty Reckless is that there is an uninhibited and dangerous vibe that Rock-n-Roll is suppose to have. You should be proud of that. Keeping that rawness is important, do you agree?
Taylor Momsen – Absolutely. I think that by having it be real, being honest, organic, and in-your-face, even if it is a ballad, it’s saying something, there’s no filler. I very much appreciate the record cause I grew up on Classic Rock, and we are living in a time of singles, where it’s almost like the ’50s, but we still make records, we don’t make singles. We make records which are very much meant to be listened to front to back and will hopefully take you on a journey, the track is very important to us. It will hopefully take the listener and allow them to delve into something inside themselves or take an escape from something or relate to something. Whatever it does. Taking one song out of a record, for us, if it’s our record, it’s always hard. It’s like losing a limb, you can’t just take one thing out of it, it’s very much the whole body of work. It captures a moment in time in this life.
CrypticRock.com – Right, exactly. That is why they call it an album, it acts like a photo album as a snapshot of someone’s life. You had mentioned about making a whole record, it is essential. A lot of young bands have kind of gotten away from that. It is important, especially for Rock-n-Roll, that full-length records are made. They should be cohesive pieces from start to finish like you said.
Taylor Momsen – I totally agree, it’s a changing period I think. It’s a tipping point, not just in music, but in the world right now. We will see where it goes and hopefully the vision will step up and we can help in some way through our music. Music has saved my life over and over again, hopefully we can pass that on and do the same for other people.
CrypticRock.com – Absolutely, and records such as Who You Selling For gives hope like that. Acting and music are two different forms of expression. That said, do you feel your acting career gave you the experience to express yourself more freely when performing live?
Taylor Momsen – No, they are two completely opposing things. One, you are literally playing a character. Music is where I can be myself and in all pure honesty. There is an element of performance on stage and the adrenaline kicks in and you feed off the crowd, but there is no character being played on stage. It’s just me singing songs I wrote. They are very complete opposites.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, you are being yourself on stage and baring your soul. A live Pretty Reckless show is certainly a fun experience. The band is full of energy, emotional, and expressive. As the performer, what is the live show experience like from your point of view?
Taylor Momsen – It’s amazing, it’s different every night, even if it is the same set list. The cool thing about live music, it is constantly changing, even if it is the same. It’s never the same cause the crowd is never the same. You really do get to feed off the audience, feed off their energy, and they feed off the music that you are bleeding out to them. It’s a very cool, hopefully symbiotic, experience every night.
CrypticRock.com – Obviously it is for the audience. Seeing the band live, you do really project a certain energy, which is really cool. You can tell that you are living out the music on stage.
Taylor Momsen – We try to leave it all on the stage, we are sort of a very serious band when it all comes down to it. When we are on tour, everything is about the show and leaving it all on the stage. It is about making that show the best it can possibly be, no matter what the circumstance. Whether it be I’m sick or my knee is busted, whatever that is, you shut all that off mentally and focus on the show itself and give your 100% every night.
CrypticRock.com –Right, that dedication is very honorable. My last question for you is pertaining to movies. CrypticRock.com covers music and Horror/Sci-Fi films. If you are a fan of the genres, what are some of your all-time favorites?
Taylor Momsen – I am a fan of both. The Shining (1980) is one of my favorite movies of all time. Salem’s Lot (1975) is one of my favorite books as far as Horror. I am a big Stephen King fan. With Sci-Fi, Star Wars, Star Trek, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, all the Comic Book movies, all the Marvel movies I love. I love the show Supernatural, I am just a fan of all things in both those genres.
CrypticRock.com – Nice, seeing you are a fan of Horror/Sci-Fi series, have you seen Stranger Things, and if so, what did you think?
Taylor Momsen – I did, it was awesome and I loved it. The ending of Season 1 was a little weird in my opinion, but up until the very last episode, I was hooked. It is good, it is worth watching.