Elle King, Indigo Child Beyond Her Years
August 14, 2019 by Abbe Davis
"You don’t ever want fear to dictate your life, you’ll miss out on everything."
"I'm addicted to music, that's my strongest addiction."
Multi-Platinum artist Tanner Elle Schneider, known as Elle King, released her critically-acclaimed second album, Shake The Spirit in 2018, with her fourth radio #1 hit, “Shame.” Her single is the only one to ever hit #1 on Adult Pop Songs, Adult Alternative Songs, Alternative Songs and Country Airplay charts. The how and why of it is very evident. Talented, brave, and a strong singer/songwriter, Elle is not a quitter.
I can’t help but laugh anytime I see the "Ex's and Oh's" video from years ago. In the video, she literally ditches a guy, then hands another male a hot dog bun, slipping the dog into the bun, and bidding him farewell, buh-bye. It’s hilarious. Guys fighting in the middle of the desert over her, and then some men are standing on their heads, as Elle sings and plays guitar walking through them. Gutsy and sultry and hilarious. In the end, the guy she left by the side of the road at the start of the video, has traveled miles through the desert to get back to her. He crawls over to her on her lounge chair asleep, and rests his exhausted head on her, as she pets him, the cocky message being, “It’s okay, baby, all of the guys go through this with me.” It’s a classic video. Female power all the way.
Elle’s strength is two-fold. She worked for her success, didn’t rely on her parents’ success to carry her, and she has had setbacks and gone through her own struggles, regardless of the fame she had in her 20’s. Street smart Elle was already in clubs by age 16 with a fake I.D. and her guitar, playing her own songs. She wanted it. In school she had been in some plays, and had even been on movie sets with her dad, Rob Schneider, of SNL and comedic movies. She wanted music and was never an obedient girl scout, as portrayed in the movie, Deuce Bigelow. This was someone a lot more ahead, and eager to be independent at a young age. Wildly free-spirited, she went on many paths, tried the hard stuff, rebelled with a fervor, and learned a lot.
In younger years, her relationship with her famous dad was less than easy on her. He was always working, and they didn’t spend a lot of time together. She also had to deal with her parents getting divorced. Nowadays, Elle feels that her father, and many helped her heal the scars from her past marriage. She is not only grateful for her parents, (London King, and Rob Schneider) she also adores her stepfather, her two younger sisters from her dad’s marriage, and her stepmom.
The thing about healing is how it has a ripple effect. The healing you do with people can create greater peace within.
The first time she knew she ever could sing was at the young age of 13 at a performing arts camp. Also, her stepdad had her listening to blues, rock, soul and many female singers, and let her borrow a Washburn guitar when she was 13, and the rest is history.
Her first hit song took a year to catch fire. By 2016 the two-time Grammy nominated song, “Ex’s and Oh’s” earned her much success and she was on top of the world; albeit ready to live on the edge and prove her independence still.
It wasn’t always easy for Elle. When she’d play some shows, she had to, at times, hear the jeering voices of audience members quoting her famous dad, “You can do it!” Can you imagine trying to get into the zone of your music or vibe and having to hear that? Way annoying.
By 2016 after days of knowing Andrew Ferguson, Elle King married into a tumultuous marriage. The marriage was almost over before it began. However, love is in the air again for Elle King with her July engagement to long- time boyfriend, Jim. It is love from a different vantage point of knowing more about herself first. This past year, she not only added dates to her Shake the Spirit tour, she was also on tour this past Summer with the HEART’s Live Alive Tour with legendary women, Nancy Wilson, Ann Wilson, and Joan Jett.
From her album in 2018, Shake the Spirit features her hit song, “Shame,” a forthright, catchy, danceable nod to 80’s Punk meets Motown. Her recent single, “Baby Outlaw,” features a throwback to 70’s movie soundtracks, sprite chords, a haunting melody, and again, saucy female power oozing out of her pores. Her rebellious spirit rises up again like a phoenix, refreshing and ahead of her years. Her voice and feel cuts to the bone and leaves permanency in the ability to hand over emotion easily.
Elle's self-work shows in how she speaks about her life, and the level of appreciation she has about the lessons learned. It’s refreshing to speak with someone who, at only age 30, is digging down deep to know who she is.
On Sept 13, Elle will serve as the direct support for Miranda Lambert’s The Roadside Bars & Pink Guitars Tour. Additionally, Lindsey Sterling, electronic violist, features a collaboration with Elle on the single, “The Upside.” If that isn't enough to keep her busy, Elle’s new single, “Baby Outlaw” has already hit #1 on the most added of the AAA chart, and is also in the Top 20. With all of this happening in her life, I couldn't wait to speak with Elle and get her take on it. I got to speak with her at the end of the Heart Alive tour.
AD: Hi Elle, how are you?
EK: Hi, I’m good, how are you?
AD: I am so excited. I wanna scream, sing, or dance, but I’m just not gonna do that to you.
AD: Congrats on your July engagement!
EK: Aww, thank you so much.
AD: How is Jim doing? (she thought I said, “How did Jim do it?” as in how did he propose, so I keep listening)
EK: He did it with my family around, at night, and it was very sweet and very special, and I’m so happy and pleased with it.
AD: Wonderful. I dig his style, I mean, he looks like he can hang out and go anywhere and just be fine in who he is. So what’s he about?
EK: He is a very smart and wonderful person. He is my perfect mate. We are absolute opposites, but I guess it just works. I love him.
AD: That’s so great. What are those things that make it work? Is he your safe haven, does he join you on tour, or how does he get time with you?
EK: Well, he’s a very private person. He does his own thing. I don’t wanna go too much into our relationship. Yah, he does visit me on tour sometimes, but he likes to take care of everything at home. We’ve got two dogs, and he runs the show back home.
AD: I love it. How is the Heart Alive Tour goin?
EK: Its amazing. I love being on tour, I love watching the show every night to see three women; being Joan Jett, Ann & Nancy Wilson. These women who, when I was a young girl being molded, wanting to be on stage and wanting to sing, my stepdad had me listening to their music. He steered me in the right direction, and I would say, “Wow, they can really sing, they’re so cool and badass!” So I get to hear their songs live every night, and everyone has just been so kind and welcoming to us.
AD: Do you ever get to speak with them or hang out?
EK: I do talk to them, yah. Part of me is like, “I never wanna bother anybody,” ya know? They really don’t make me feel that way at all. On the road, everyone’s very respectful of everyone else’s space. I’ve spoken to them, and they’re very sweet. Everyone is so respectful of me and my time, so I try to pay that same respect back. Last night I popped my head in and watched their Meet ‘N Greet. Everyone is great.
AD: Do they like to give ideas or advice ever? Do they tell you stories ever?
EK: No, but I feel like I never wanna seem uncool when I’m talking to them. The last thing I’d wanna do is ask them for fuckin’ advice.
AD: (LOL, OK, I need to explain what I meant here when I asked her this, I don’t mean she should run up to them all gaga to say “OMG, pleease tell me what to dooooo!!) Sometimes artists just offer this on their own and they just share. They are cool that way, and that’s where I was going with my question.
EK: You know, if they did wanna give me advice, I would be there with a pen and paper, and I would write it all down. I would.
AD: I hear you, very cool. Your album, Shake the Spirit, your soul flies right out of you. Please tell me the singers that inspire you. Who else did your stepdad expose you to?
EK: You know, I listened to a lot of soul music. A lot of Aretha, Ann Peebles, Mavis Staples. Then, not voice-wise but super honest, and amazing songwriting was Cat Powers the Greatest. I got that album when I was about 16. The honesty in that was influential to me. Feelings that I experienced when I listened to that. She sang lyrics like, “I hate myself and I wanna die.” Some listeners would be like, “Whoa this is some heavy shit,” but for me, I felt, “Wow, she’s so honest and she’s just singing, and I love her.”
AD: Did hearing her heal you in some way?
EK: I don’t think I connected with the “I hate myself and I wanna die,” but I connected with the honesty, and her total strength to say it. I really love that.
AD: Correct me if I’m wrong, let’s go back to that time. You were living in NYC, and you were 16 and were getting into bars with a fake I.D.So what songs were you singing back then?
EK: Songs I wrote.
AD: That’s so ballsy. What got you to do that? If I think of myself at 16, I was scared, and hormones and all of that crazy stuff going on. You’re strong, at 16 to go to a bar and get up and sing?
EK: Maybe I wanted to be a grown up. I hated being a kid. I liked being on stage. I was weird, I was kind of an outcast. I really enjoyed the spotlight and I enjoyed being around older people.
AD: That’s so cool. Tell me, how did you meet your band, The Brethren?
EK: Most of them were brought in as players. Then we parted with the lead guitarist. So, we had a mutual friend in common, a tour manager, and he had always said that he would fit in with us really well. When it came up that we were auditioning guitarists, he was like, “I’ll fly out to audition, I want that gig.” That initiative and drive I really respected, and I heard him play literally one chord and I was, “I want that guy.”
EK: I literally did not even watch any other videos that were sent to me. He was the missing link.
Then, Cameron, the most recent member of our band, was the lead singer of the band, Horse Thief. We used to tour together all of the time. He became one of my closest and dearest friends, and when I was going through starting to write this past record, he would fly out like every other week.
I wasn’t leaving my house and he would come take care of me, and help me, and make sure I was eating. He would play guitar with me, and write music with me. So, when it came time to make the record, I wanted him and that energy around. After the second session of Cam just being around all of the time, I was like, “Hey guys, I’m thinking about asking Cam to join the band,” and everybody looked at me and goes, “I thought he was already in the band.”
AD: (laughing) That’s awesome. If I review your life, you’ve been nominated for two Grammy awards for “Ex’s and Oh’s,” you play banjo and guitar, you have held skunks, kissed a shovelhead catfish, worked in a tattoo shop, so what haven’t you done that you still wanna do?
EK: Wow, ya know, I got this fortune cookie the other day, the best fortune I’ve ever gotten, “Your greatest wish will come true.” I was thinking, "You’ve gotta be careful what you wish for, every coin has two sides," and I was really asking myself, “What is my greatest wish?” I don’t really know. I feel very proud of myself for everything I’ve been able to be a part of, and that I’ve accomplished. I really don’t know if I’m missing anything or what my greatest wish would be. I wish that I can continue to always put out music that makes me happy, and I hope I get to keep touring with people that have inspired me so much. I would love to just find a balance of home life and keeping my foot in the music career. I don’t really know how to do that yet. I’m not really sure and maybe you meant, “Do you wanna make a Country album some day?” I would like to make a Country record.
AD: Well then you just answered it. That’s one thing.
EK: Touche, cool, alright.
AD: What about a Jazz album? Blues?
EK: Nobody would buy it.
AD: What?! I know Shame was the hit off of your album, I mean, of course, but I gotta tell you, when I hear "Good Thing Gone", live from London, your voice, wow. It seems like some Indigo Child, like a wise soul who has been here through lifetimes. When I hear you, that is how it seems. Growing up, did you ever feel older than your age?
EK: Uh, yes. 100%. I’ve always heard that I’ve had an old soul, and have felt comfort around people much older than me. It’s funny that you say Indigo Child because I just learned what an Indigo Child is, and my fiancé was like, “That’s what you fucking are.”
EK: It’s interesting, they say children who have special abilities, or ADHD or anything, that’s what they are. I feel connected to it. That’s very interesting that you just said that.
AD: I am asking you, because, even when “Ex’s and Oh’s” came out, and then I dug into this latest album, I feel like your voice, the ability to let it out like that and connect that way, that’s something else. With all of that strength, what are some things that maybe you’ve wanted to do, but it scares the crap out of you to think about doing it?
EK: I feel like, it’s not something that I wear proudly, but fear is a big part of my life. Fear has kept me from doing a lot of things that I would love to do, unfortunately. I think it is a deep-seated fear of failure. I really do push myself and try and I’m getting better at learning faster, “Just buck up and do it, this is cool, and you’re gonna like it.” Even though I’m a singer, but getting up on stage to do someone else's song gives me fear, but if it’s my song, I can express myself in my own way.
AD: Is that about living up to how the songwriter intended it, is that why it is scary?
EK: I don’t know what feeds that anxiety or the loud voices in my head. I don’t’ know what it is, because I love to sing and I love to perform. I also love to sing other people’s music. We always do covers. I wish I didn’t have that fear. If I hadn’t gone through experiences like I’ve been through, like losing my voice on live television in Sydney, Australia, maybe I wouldn’t have that fear, ya know? That was awful to go through. I guess maybe I have this fear, like, “I’m going to open up my mouth and nothing’s gonna come out,” like those dreams you have where you are trying to scream and that weird feeling. But then I get through it, I usually black out in pure anxiety and I don’t know that I always remember to be in the moment. I genuinely am working on that. You don’t ever want fear to dictate your life, you’ll miss out on everything.
AD: People do it every day and they do miss out on a lot. Hopefully we’re all here to evolve, or hopefully we are all trying to. When you are on stage, how do you experience it? Meditative or do you feel it?
EK: This tour has been different. We play at 7 pm and the sun is still up, so we are outdoors and it’s a different feeling. For some songs I do get into a meditative state. It’s not like I try to, I just kind of get into that when I’m performing. It’s a different feeling. This is the first time where I get very in tune to The Brethren and my voice. The environment is different. It’s not like a rock club or a small theater, where you can feel the energy- cause we’re all in the same building. This is much more open and it’s a little bit looser, so it takes the pressure off. I really enjoy playing every night.
AD: Do you improvise at all?
EK: Well, we are very conscientious of time and this is the most respectful tour I’ve ever been on. From the tour manager, to the head of production, to the roadie on the floor, everyone is working very hard, so we never wanna make anyone work harder. I don’t improvise too much, but this is the first tour that I’ve played electric guitar on, so it’s new and it’s pushing me. I am pushing myself, ya know?
AD: I want to ask you about your song, "Sober." What got you to write that song?
EK: In that song, I was talking about getting off of some heavy stuff that you shouldn’t do. I drink or do weed on my vacations, but I do respect people who live a sober lifestyle.
AD: What’s the hardest part about walking into a therapist’s office and doing the work?
EK: In my younger days I used to lie to a lot of therapists. I wasn’t in a place where I wanted to change, so in the last two years I have wanted to change. I didn’t wanna live my life that way anymore.
I think the hardest part is that, it’s not about the therapist, its about you taking accountability for yourself and your actions, and what you want and need to change. Looking at yourself in the mirror and being like, “Hey, you did this.” It’s about looking at yourself because a lot of times, I’m like, “Well this person did this to me, and this person hurt me, and that situation made me do this,” but it really is “OK, what part did I play in it?” That was a tough pill to swallow, cause you gotta kind of flip the arrow of the blame game, and realize that you need to take accountability for the shit that you do. That was a moment where I feel I took the next step into adulthood. At the end of the day, you can’t point the finger at anybody, people can do shit to you, but how long did you let it go on for?
AD: Along with that, if you met your 20 year old self now, what would you say to her?
EK: Oh my gosh, WOW. I would probably just hug her and say, “You’re beautiful, and you’re loved, and you’re worthy, and don’t do the hard drugs.”
AD: Aww. Well, what if she says, “Oh yah, whatever, fuck off?” (laughing)
EK: That’s exactly what she would say. (laughing)
AD: A.ha. Your dad, I’m not gonna go on a long tangent about him, but I do love his comedy and his Elvis impersonation. I can see how you guys resemble each other, yet, to you, does he crack you up? Do you laugh a lot with him? You guys are close now, how do you feel about it? I hear you also have a great sense of humor, would you guys ever do a comedy together?
EK: Yes, first and foremost, my dad is very, very funny. I think that I’m the funniest person that he knows. When I’m with either of my parents, all we do is laugh. My parents have been through so much bullshit in their own lives, and I’ve watched my parents grow up, too. So, I feel like we're all kind of in a nice head space. We really enjoy being with each other. I truly appreciate the relationship that I have with each of my parents, and even my step parents. Do I think I’d do a movie with my dad? Hell no.
AD: (laughing) Why not? Would you both try to direct it or argue about it?
EK: No, no. I grew up on movie sets, and I learned at a very young age that musicians have a lot more fun than actors. I like that every night on stage, or even if I’ve done MTV’s Catfish and stuff, I enjoy doing that, because I am myself. I really do enjoy being me more than playing another character.
AD: That’s great, and you each have your craft, and each of you are great at it. Are you able to speak with Miranda and Madeline enough from the road? (her younger sisters)
EK: Oh, that’s so sweet that you know their names! Yes, we always send videos back ‘n forth. Sometimes I make up songs and send them to little Madeline, cause she likes that.
AD: Are they really into music or do they wanna get into playing an instrument? I know they look up to you.
EK: Aww, my dad says that yes, they do look up to me. They love coming to my house cause I have pianos, and they know that when they come to their big sister’s house, they can touch anything, they can play anything. I wanna feed that.
I was very blessed that my mother constantly put instruments in my hands. If I said, “I don’t wanna play that…” I remember I quit taking violin because I wanted to take ice-skating lessons and my mom was so supportive, and my dad was, too. It was “Try whatever you want, any lesson you want,” and I felt very blessed to have that. I can really see the musicality coming out of Miranda, and they love to do karaoke. Maybe that is the Filipino side of us? You can ask any Filipino person.
AD: (laughing) Really? It’s a thing, like with Japanese people? We like it here, too. They are going to be rebellious teenagers in a few years, so what are you gonna do?
EK: Oh, I can’t fucking wait! I’m gonna buy them each a drum kit. I’m gonna say, “Here you go, have fun, dad.”
EK: I’m awful. I was an awful teenager and I still feel so bad for my parents for what I put them through. I can’t wait to watch from a distance.
AD: What if you aren’t watching from a distance? What if they come to you, and they are going in a bad direction and want to do all kinds of rebellious stuff? What are you gonna say?
EK: I’ll tell them everything that I’ve been through and hopefully, you know.... Times are different now, and kids aren’t as repressed.
AD: They are making them smarter now. When do you have those talks? I’m trying to figure it out, kids should be realists, not little lambs, ya know?
EK: I feel like, when you hammer it into kids, “Never do this, never try drugs,” you push them into it. If you start with open and honest conversations, and you are real, I feel like it doesn’t push them into the need to rebel. It takes openness, at the same time, people have to go through what they go through. I most certainly hope that my little sisters don’t experience what I did.
AD: Maybe they won’t, who knows. You have been so open about your ex, and you have a new chapter now that is beautiful. For women or, I wonder this about myself, too, if you ever did see your ex someplace would you speak to him?
EK: It’s a personal thing. I feel like I’ve done a lot of work on myself. I felt like I’d been wronged by a lot of people but, where I’m at now, I probably would hug them and wish them well. It’s a weight off of your spirit to not hold onto anger from past experiences. It takes a lot of fucking work!
AD: I have a beautiful gem to share from Mark Farner, of Grand Funk Railroad, do you know who he is? “We’re An American Band,” and “I’m Your Captain?”
AD: He told me this and it stuck with me, "We all need to let go of thinking someone owes us, or that we owe them, this idea of debt consciousness, that storyline has to be dropped, and it’s about being a loving person without that guilt." I thought that was pretty deep.
EK: It takes a lot of work to get to that. It’s actually a lot easier to hold on to hate and anger. There’s so much freedom in forgiveness, it is a beautiful selfish thing, where you don’t do it for the other person, you do it for yourself.
AD: Ah, yes. Very true. Speaking of working on things, when you are on the road do you get to write much?
EK: I’ll go like 8 months without writing a song. Something happened three weeks ago on tour. My band texted me, “Hey, we’re making music,” and I found out that they’d been playing music and writing for like2 days, and I was so pissed, I was like, “Oh my gosh, I’m gonna go back and I’m gonna write a fucking song.” The next day I bought a little guitar, cause I like a little healthy competition, and I’ve probably written ten songs on tour. I’ve been writing a lot. Some is creative flow, and I don’t judge it, I try not to push it, it can also be stressful. I need to write. I’m addicted to music, that’s my strongest addiction. I feel very at peace that I get to write. When we get off of the phone today, I’m gonna take out my guitar and work on music.
AD: Beautiful! The guys told me that they just said that to you on tour, just to get you to write.
AD: Can you imagine if they are all, “It worked, Hi 5!” (laughing) Now listen, I heard you’re gonna be the direct support for Miranda Lambert’s, The Roadside Bar and Pink Guitars Tour, do you wanna tell me about that?”
EK: Oh yah, baby, I’m psyched! First of all, Miranda is one of the most top bad ass ladies, she’s really cool and does her own thing. What I like about her is that she invokes that old school country vibe I really like. Sassy, funny songwriting that has been inspiring to me. Miranda’s always been very supportive of me, which is so crazy because I didn’t know how she even knew who I was. For her to want me to be direct support on her massive Country tour is so awesome.
It’s going to be probably one of our biggest productions, cause I don’t wanna let Miranda down. It’s going to definitely be a show you won’t wanna miss.
AD: Great, I’ll be looking out for it. I hope to hear you live soon. Keep in touch and we love your sound.
EK: Thank you, I really enjoyed speaking with you today, you’ve been the joy in my day.
AD: Aww, thanks, I respect all that you are doing more than I can say.
Abbe Davis has written for various Fortune 500 Publications and is also the lead singer/songwriter of the rock band, Sordid Fable. Her mission is to support musicians, praise the legends in music, and write and perform. Motto: Family, Friends, Music, Peace.