The Pretty Reckless Singer Taylor Momsen Talks About Baring it All on Her Band's New Album

Concert Preview

The Pretty Reckless singer Taylor Momsen began acting when she only 3 years old. Since then, she has had some great acting gigs. She was on the TV show Gossip Girl for many years and she played the role of Cindy Lou in Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas. But she's always loved rock 'n' roll too.

"I grew up with my dad’s record collection,” she says via phone. “The Beatles were his favorite band. They’re the reason why I wanted to be in a band and the reason I started writing songs and the reason I picked up a guitar. Everything. Then, it was Led Zeppelin, the Who, AC/DC, Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan, and Neil Young and I got into the ’90s stuff with Soundgarden and Nirvana and Alice in Chains and I could just keep listing bands. Oasis, the Doors. I’m wearing a Soundgarden shirt right now. It’s always been in my blood. It’s the first thing I ever heard.”

You’ll notice that not too many women have made it onto her list of influences.

“There’s not a lot of women in rock n roll,” she says. “I find myself more influenced by male artists. I grew up wanting to be Robert Plant. There are amazing women vocalists, from Janis Joplin to Sheryl Crow and Garbage. I used to play with Joan Jett and she is cool as shit. I have always found myself more influenced by men.”

The Pretty Reckless formed in 2009 a year later released its full length debut Light Me Up, an album that yielded hits such as “Make Me Wanna Die.” Earlier this year, the band, which has toured with Evanescence, Marilyn Manson and Guns n’ Roses in addition to doing headline runs in both the U.S. and abroad, released the hard rocking Going to Hell.

“Musically, it starts with the songs,” says Momsen. “If you can play the song with an acoustic all the way through and it works, you bring in the band. If not, you drop it and move on. With the production, we tried to keep it minimal because we toured as a live band for two and half years with Light Me Up. We don’t tour with backing tracks. I refuse to. You can switch the set list to whatever you want. We kept that in mind when making this record so the transition from record to live show wasn’t so drastic. It’s two guitars, vocals, bass and drums, petty much.”

And what about the album cover art, which features a giant arrow plastered on Momsen’s nude back?

“A lot of things inspired it,” she says. “The Pink Floyd poster for when they released their back catalog is one of my favorites. They took a shot of these beautiful women sitting naked by the pool with the album covers on their backs. I thought that would be a good idea. The cross was hand painted on me. I wanted it to be a beautiful iconic image that was memorable and tasteful and explained how this record is so honest and bare. I wanted to represent that in imagery. You have to be bare. There are subtleties to it. For the vinyl version, you can see that I’m reaching down to hell and my arm is getting scorched. It was a long photo shoot that took about 20 hours. I wanted it to be perfect. It was very specific but I’m happy about it.”

The Pretty Reckless, Heaven’s Basement, Louna, 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 29, House of Blues, 308 Euclid Ave., 216-523-2583. Tickets: $17 ADV, $20 DOS,

Like this story?
SCENE Supporters make it possible to tell the Cleveland stories you won’t find elsewhere.
Become a supporter today.

Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected].
Scroll to read more Music News articles

Join Cleveland Scene Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.