Elle King

Pain, Shame, and Triumph

On the eve of her valley appearance, singer Elle King opens up about success, emotional speed bumps, Joan Jett, and boldly staying true to herself.

GREG ARCHER Arts & Entertainment, Current Digital

Elle King

“Don’t you weep” is gloriously written in cursive on one arm. “Don’t you worry” on the other. Another inspirational quote is tattooed on Elle King’s breast.

(We’ll get to that later …)

Meanwhile elaborate and colorful vines, flowers, a butterfly and so many other designs beautify the Grammy-nominated “Ex’s & Oh’s” star’s body. They remind her that life is robust and, perhaps, that even when the dark clouds roll in, the sun is still shining somewhere.

Fortunately, it keeps shining down on King’s career.

Love Stuff, King’s debut album, dropped in 2015 and she’s been braving the limelight ever since. True, the single “Ex’s & Oh’s” fueled the album’s double-platinum success but King could not have ever seen the personal odysseys that would follow—major relationship issues, substance abuse, and depression.

She’s talked about all that candidly and last year, when her second album launched, it was appropriately dubbed Shake The Spirit. Lead single, “Shame,” became the singer’s fourth No. 1 radio hit. She’s currently touring the country to sold-out arenas and hits Fantasy Springs Resort Casino on May 26 when she opens for another powerhouse, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts.

“The Runaways [Jett’s early-career music group] were a huge, huge inspiration and influence for me,” King says of Jett. “Joan is rock ’n’ roll. She was back then and still is to this day. I love her to death and I can’t wait to open for her.”

As gregarious as she is deep, King, the daughter of actor/comedian Rob Schneider, shares more with Palm Springs Life.

How surprised were you by the immense success of “Ex’s and Oh’s?”

It’s been the greatest thing that has happened in my life. It just goes to show you that when you create something fun with no pressure and light-hearted and true, people just connect with it. It changed my life—a total 180. My world blew up. Through that, I met my band, which I consider my family. And yes, I sort of went a little crazy with some interesting life choices I made but all of that chewed me up and spit me out to be who I am now. I think I’m doing pretty good. I love playing music. I’m very happy.

Can you talk more about how that first experience of success changed you personally?

My obsessions with work took a toll on me, emotionally and physically. I got really obsessive over the things that mattered less, which are, unfortunately, a big part of this business and society: How you look, how people perceive you, what you say, what you wear. I let it drive me very insane. When you get to that place, bad people and bad things can creep in and become a part of your life. I allowed that to happen. It took a while, but I shed some emotions and things that I’ve held onto for so long.

“My obsessions with work took a toll on me, emotionally and physically. I got really obsessive over the things that mattered less, which are, unfortunately, a big part of this business and society: How you look, how people perceive you, what you say, what you wear. I let it drive me very insane.”

It’s interesting isn’t it—when we’re confronted with things about ourselves like that? And you’ve spoken out about being spiritual as well as mental health issues. Why has that been important to you?

There’s a lot of icky-ness that comes with it unfortunately, but the reason I spoke out about it was because I know that if I’ve felt that way in my life, then there had to be somebody out there who was, or is right now, feeling that way. I happen to have this platform and I just wanted to tell people that it was OK—that it can be normal and that there is a way out of it.

Your experience was pretty public, right?

I had a pretty public spiral, yes. Not as public as a lot of other things in this day and age of paparazzi, but I was open with what I had to do. I wanted to explain what I was going through. Talking about mental health was my way of showing people that it does get better. Just like your dream of whatever job you want, your dream of happiness and being OK within yourself also takes a lot of work. It’s not easy. But the payoff is great and it does come. The response I got was really loving, beautiful, and warm. I know some people wouldn’t want to talk about it, but I am not embarrassed by it.

What do you love most about performing, singing, creating?

There’s this thing that happens in the show, and not with every song, but when I close my eyes, I go somewhere else. It’s a happy release for me that I can’t get somewhere else. Sometimes, I get it in the studio. I feel like it’s a closeness to something else and something greater. The fact that I get to do this as a job and career is amazing.

What do you feel is your greatest strength?

I have a lot of love to give and it does not seem to ever run out.

What do you feel is your greatest challenge or weakness?

Probably that I have so much love that never seems to runs out. [Laughs] I’m so open … and sometimes to people who may not be deserving. It’s a double-edge sword.

What’s some of the best advice you’ve been given about life?

When I was younger and co-writing with people, I would be asked about my relationships. I would put myself in bad situations because, back then, I thought that at the end of the day I could get a song out of it. I heard something early on but it didn’t click until now — because now I want to be in healthy relationships — and it’s that you can draw from your past relationships and that you don’t have to be masochistic. I never understood that back then so it will be interesting, now, to be in a healthier place when creating records. It’s unknown territory for me.

You know, there’s this thing, and not everyone is born with it, but it’s like a skill you have to work on, so … I have a tattoo on my boob that says, “Damn I’m good.” And every time I look at it I think, “Yeah, that’s true.”

One last thing: What’s one of your most favorite tattoos?

You know, there’s this thing, and not everyone is born with it, but it’s like a skill you have to work on, so … I have a tattoo on my boob that says, “Damn I’m good.” And every time I look at it I think, “Yeah, that’s true.”

Elle King performs with Joan Jett & The Blackhearts at 8 p.m. May 26 at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway in Indio. For tickets, call 800-827-2946 or visit fantasyspringsresort.com. Keep track of Elle King at elleking.com.