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The Pretty Reckless: Taylor Momsen Talks ‘Light Me Up’ & The Future!

Born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, Taylor Momsen always seemed to be the type of girl destined for super-stardom. At 2-years-old, Momsen signed to a modeling agency. A year later she began acting professionally, appearing in commercials as well as hit films such as “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.” As a result, she spent much of her time in NYC and, at 13, relocated to Manhattan. In 2007, she was cast as lead in the CW show “Gossip Girl,” a move which helped further fuel her quickly skyrocketing career and established her as a leading lady. However, music has always been her true passion.

She began humming melodies before she could talk and writing songs at the age of 5 after falling in love with The Beatles. At 9, her father took her to see a White Stripes show, a moment that changed her forever as she realized there was a place for her in rock ‘n’ roll. Inspired by iconic bands such as Led Zeppelin, The Who, Pink Floyd, Audioslave, Soundgarden, Oasis and Nirvana, Momsen honed her skills as a singer, songwriter and guitarist. Along the way, she hooked up with noted rock producer Kato Khandwala (Blondie, Drowning Pool, Paramore, Breaking Benjamin) who introduced her to guitarist Ben Phillips. This talented core worked tirelessly until they developed a truly unique sound catering to the strengths of Taylor’s astonishing voice. The results of countless hours of musical exploration and experimentation culminated on their amazing debut album, “Light Me Up,” which was released in February 2011. Celebrity fronted rock bands of the past were often treated as little more than a novelty act but once you hear The Pretty Reckless, you will know Taylor Momsen is a rock star! Her powerful voice, sultry delivery and rock ‘n’ roll swagger transcend her years and make her a force to be reckoned with! The Pretty Reckless bring a high-energy performance to the stage totally embodying the spirit of their debut record. It is this amazing live show that earned them opening slots in 2011 for Evanescense and rock legends Guns N’ Roses. Endorsements like that don’t come easy, especially for bands new to the scene.

Icon Vs. Icon recently got the chance to ask Taylor Momsen a few burning questions about her impressive debut release, the challenges involved with making the album, and what the future holds for The Pretty Reckless.

Taylor Momsen

“Light Me Up” is a very impressive debut. Can you tell us a little about your writing process and how it shaped this album?

There’s really not a process to the writing. I’m constantly looking for ideas and when one comes up you chase it and see if it turns out into something. There were no boundaries of style, when we had a good song we recorded it. I wanted the album to just be a collection of the best songs I could write.

From start to finish, what was the biggest challenge in putting this album together?

Well, doing a record while being on a tv show and modeling was hard. But I’d say the biggest challenge was having enough songs that are worth releasing, and not settling on lesser songs because of time or money. It took some time, but I think we accomplished that.

The band has been touring relentlessly since the album release. Can you tell us about the highs and lows of touring in support of the album?

Touring is awesome, after a year and a half we were still ready to go. The traveling can be tiring, but hearing thousands of people sing the words you suffered over to write is just awesome. I could do it forever!

Since the album’s release, you have certainly shattered any stereotypes involved with making the transition from acting to music. What do you think is the biggest misconception about Taylor Momsen?

I’m not sure what people’s misconceptions of me are, I’m sure most of them stem from me being on a TV show and how that relates to me being a musician.

What does the future hold for Taylor Momsen and The Pretty Reckless? 

Well, we’re releasing two new videos and should have new songs plus live tracks coming out all in the beginning of the new year. Then its a 3 month north american tour this spring. We’ll also be going to new places like Australia and South America in the new year, then we should be starting a new record as soon as possible.

The Pretty Reckless have a certain mystique that blends image, substance and live energy reminiscent many iconic bands of the past, something which is largely absent in the rock genre these days. Is recapturing some of that rock ‘n’ roll flair something you were aiming for when forming this band?

I don’t know about rock n roll flair, but I did want to keep the ethic of good songs, and I think a lot of new music seems to start with the desire to be famous before thinking about the song. New music really caters so heavily to markets there’s really no room for expression or anything else for that matter.

What is the best piece of advice someone has giving you in regard to your blossoming career in music?

Don’t trip when you walk out on stage!

To learn more about The Pretty Reckless, check out the band’s official website at www.theprettyreckless.com and check out our review of their debut album ‘Light Me Up’ below.

Taylor Momsen

As a music fan, I spend countless hours each year in trying to find the next big thing. If the next big thing is what you seek, look no farther than THE PRETTY RECKLESS! The band, which is fronted by Taylor Momsen of ‘Gossip Girl’ fame, has just unleashed their powerful debut album ‘Light Me Up’ on U.S. soil on Interscope Records. Celebrity fronted rock bands of the past have been hit or miss but as soon as this album is fired up on your system, it will remove all doubt that Momsen is just a pretty face! Her powerful voice, sultry delivery and rock n’ roll swagger transcend her years and make her a force to be reckoned with!

What should I expect?
As a whole, the band offers up a straight forward rock n’ roll style and attitude which jumps out and grab you even on the first listen. You may have already been exposed to the album’s first single, “Make Me Wanna Die,” which made it’s debut as the credits rolled for Matthew Vaughn’s stellar adaptation of Mark Millar’s graphic novel ‘Kick-Ass’. In short, it is a rock anthem that will stand the test of time as it blends seamlessly symphonic elements with brilliantly arranged riffs and a powerful bass line. Instantly catchy, instantly added to my playlist!

Along with Momsen, producer Kato Khandwala (Paramore, Breaking Benjamin, All Time Low) and guitarist Ben Phillips contribute to the robust songwriting. As a music fan, one of the most pleasing things about ‘Light Me Up’ is the fact that it showcases a talented group of musicians, brilliant songwriting and a stunning frontwoman with an incredible voice, yet still manages to stay focused on the art not to fall victim the the trend of overproduction or image. At its core, eager fans will find a powerful mix of jams that are capable of of being elevated to level of stadium rockers and more intimate tunes that would make for an amazing small club show. The Pretty Reckless does it all!

'Light Me Up'

This record is without a doubt my pick for rock album of the year. It is exciting, fresh and grows on you more with every listen. Any of track could prove to be a breakout mainstream hit and put the band on the fast track to superstardom. Other bands toiling in the studio should take note as this band has set the bar has been set high with their triumphant debut. Taylor Momsen and company are poised to breathe life into a genre where life support (and creativity) is desperately needed. If you get a chance to see the band live in the coming year, it is something not to be missed. The Pretty Reckless bring a high-energy performance to the stage that totally embodies the spirit of their debut record perfectly. It is this amazing live show that earned them  opening slots in 2011 for Evanescense and rock legends Guns N’ Roses. Endorsements like that don’t come easy, especially for bands new to the scene.

The Verdict?
‘Light Me Up’ serves as one of the strongest debuts of a in recent memory and will serve as a strong foundation for future outings. Standout tracks include “My Medicine”, “Miss Nothing”, “Make Me Wanna Die” and “Nothing Left To Lose.” — Jason Price

Rating: 5 out of 5

The Pretty Reckless’ Light Me Up tracklisting:

1. My Medicine
2. Since You’re Gone
3. Make Me Wanna Die
4. Light Me Up
5. Zombie
6. Just Tonight
7. Miss Nothing
8. Goin’ Down
9. Nothing Left To Lose
10. You