Hometown Jams: Elle King (07/06/2023)
Seating Options: (First Come, First Serve)
New York. London. LA. Firebrand. Punk. Renegade. Bold-faced icon. Startling songwriter. Grammy nominee. Pop sensation. Academy of Country Music and Country Music Association Award winner. Record setter. Brash live force. Brazen recording artist. Spider monkey on a tear.What if the story began with a banjo? With a residency trying to figure out writing songs? Perhaps a high gloss, but busted life and ultimately a secessionist raising in Jackson, Ohio? No wonder Elle King is hotter than a pepper sprout. Even more than ZFG attitude, there’s the forthright attack on a life lived frayed at the edges and pulling at the scenes. Sure, she had famous parents, but when it gets real for King, it all happens with her Maw-Maw and Paw-Paw in a scrappy Southern Ohio town that puts the “just” in getting by.
With a tumble and King’s power-delivery, there’s no doubt about how things go down. That same fervor informs the “Ex’s & Oh’s” bad match bookend “Try Jesus,” awash in thick gospel choir wail and just enough church organ to witness.
It’s what makes the audacious barnyard guitar shuffle “Tulsa” and the hilarious small-town gossip-eschewing “Out Yonder” so hilarious. Elle co-produced the album with Ross Copperman and the pair kept the songs moving, the humor high and the musical adventure.
That humor is led by the title of the album, Come Get Your Wife, a wry reference to a putdown tossed her partner’s way by an alpha male during a spirited night of fun and games. She can drink, play games and go toe-to-toe with the best of them so if you’re dishin’ it out around Elle, be ready to take it!
Yes, her parents are superstar comic Rob Schneider and international model London King. He of “Saturday Night Live” and movie fame; she of global catwalks and the universal fit model for the Limited, Abercrombie & Fitch and Express. It sounds glamourous, but it created a central conflict.
“I was a chubby, funny kid,” she recalls. “And my dad was rich and famous, so people made fun of me. I grew up with fame cause of Dad, but I was in the headquarters of all those fashion brands where Mom was hustling to give my brother and me this life. But really, I just wanted to go to Jackson.”
At 13, she was writing songs. By 16, she knew to lie about her age and start a residency at the now closed Spike Hill between North 7th and Bedford Ave. Thinking she was older, they gave her free beer.
A kid named Cranston, showing up with a banjo, put her whole life in order. She remembers, “It felt like home when I played it. I took that banjo with me and kept it for two years and really figured out what MY sound was.”
Only the business had other ideas. The robust blond with the tattoos and a wide-open spirit was advised to “tone down the country, play up the rock & roll shit.” Suddenly an alternative icon – scoring Best Rock Vocal Performance and Best Rock Song Grammy nominations for “Ex’s & Oh’s” – she got pinned by the speed of sound to a genre not always welcoming to women. Touring with some of the biggest – male fronted – alternative rock bands, she held her own.
It was fast. It was crazy. She got married, got divorced, got through it. As important, she recorded “Different for Girls” with roots/country force Dierks Bentley, which won the CMA’s Vocal Event of The Year.
“I didn’t know who he was,” she admits. “But my brother was like, ‘Are you KIDDING? He’s so cool! You have to do this.’ So, I did… and Dierks changed my life. He and (manager) Mary Hilliard Harrington opened up so many doors, taught me so much about how to do this.”
Indeed, the Bentley/Harrington vortex proved an on-ramp to country viability. On Come Get Your Wife, Bentley returns for the relationship resuscitating “Worth A Shot,” while her high octane whirling and thumping throwdown “Drunk (And I Don’t Wanna Go Home)” with Miranda Lambert has already scored a 2021 ACM Award and CMA Vocal Event nomination and set streaming records.
King’s made some friends along the way. On the brassy powder keg reckoning “Tulsa,” Osborne’s scalding guitars are joined by Ashley McBryde’s vocals, while industry favorite Charley Worsham provides acoustic guitar and backing vocals on the over it dismissal “Crawling Mood.”
Real about who she is. Real about where she comes from. For King, who came by banjo honest and isn’t afraid to tell the truth about where she comes from, it’s pretty simple.
“It’s that hard shit people in the nowhere know and deal with that I wrote about. It’s a connection between me and all of those people. Where I come from the babies are dirty and barefoot; we all know who Jessico White and Whites of West Virginia are.
“So, I wanted to show people, people who’re like me, who may’ve been lost or turned away, you’re not alone. We see you.”
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