Taylor Momsen has long blonde hair, stripper shoes with dollar bills in the heels and a low bullshit tolerance. If you read gossip blogs, you already know that much is true. What you might not know, unfortunately, is that the girl can wail. The girl can rock. But this has been overshadowed by scurrilous nonsense.

She’s also one of the stars of the CW’s hit series Gossip Girl, although you’d never know it lately, as her revealing stage outfits have garnered more press in recent months than the once ultra-hot show has in years. Save for whispers about the cast, and her rumored desire to be released from her contract. There’s always the whispers. (Hi, Chase Crawford!) Momsen couldn’t care less. She just wants you to hear her out.

The majority of the leggy 16-year-old’s biggest detractors lately are, unsurprisingly, the ones she has the least in common with. While that’s not a shocking revelation, perhaps it should be clarified: Momsen is a rock chick. Always has been. The ones throwing verbal and digital shade at her at the moment likely are not, although there have been other and older critics who cite more concern over her sexy stage wear and penchant for wearing walk-of-shame-esque makeup and related attire on the streets of New York. She’s arguably one step away from the cover of Star Magazine with the headline: Too Sexy at Sixteen? or showcasing her now-trademark raccoon eyes: Too Far Gone?

You know the type, which is to say that you knew (or know) girls like Momsen. The ones in band t-shirts every other day, paired with a seemingly bottomless closet of black. Maybe a Rolling Stones shirt here or there or a Zeppelin Houses of the Holy vintage piece. Possibly the kind of girl that can even be found obsessing over her vinyl collection and new Fender Strat while other girls gab about The Hills and point perfectly manicured fingernails at every girl who is different from them. But nevertheless, it’s safe to say, Momsen is one the former. And a solid number of the girls leveling steely-eyed gazes at her now are part of the very loud latter, or in the case of her older watchers – harboring concerned-mom protectiveness. It’s easier to pick apart who and what we don’t understand or relate to instead of just giving it a chance, or letting it be. It’s also easier, in a celebrity-obsessed world where gossip blogs and entertainment news programs do not have closing hours, to assume that what we see is what we get with actors (and musicians), and that all paparazzi pictures and blind items are the gods’ honest truth.

Not that the confusion and concern isn’t justified. Momsen isn’t trying to be Miley Cyrus and uphold the impossible moral and quality standards the triple-threat Disney star has been flogged with and contracted under. She and her band – the Pretty Reckless – are here to rock, not to preach to and lead the prepster and tweenster flock, and certainly not here to satisfy anyone’s urges other than their own. Even if those urges find the impossibly tall and gorgeous Momsen performing in lingerie and “stripper shoes,” as she has been on the current leg of the annual Warped Tour.

33331_01_TPR_Folder_1-1.pdfOf the “double standard” allegation thrown around in the media regarding Cyrus’ crucifixion for sexy garb, ultra-suggestive dance moves and YouTube videos of lap dances, and Momsen’s incomplete ascension to next at the stake for burning, the difference is clear: one has embraced Lolita and hot pants, the other dark eye shadow, Nevermind and Revolver. The comparisons need to be reframed; Momsen has more in common with the genuine and respectable musical efforts of Zooey Deschanel (She & Him), Taryn Manning (Boomkat) and Jared Leto (30 Seconds to Mars) than Cyrus. Momsen and Cyrus’ common traits are youth (and exposed skin), television and willingness to break the mold, but the buck stops there. One is a legendary (and up until recently, wholesome) tweener idol, the other a lifelong, rock ‘n’ roll-loving actress who likely doesn’t give a shit about American Idol or any other pop star for that matter. But let’s say it once more with feeling – Momsen couldn’t care less. She’s not a corporate machine-grown zombie. She’s nobody’s puppet. She knows who Muddy Waters is. Girl doesn’t even own a computer.

What she does own and owns well at the moment, though, is a cohesive, impressively gritty and very well-received four-song EP with her band and chops enough to make a legitimate go at it on the quartet’s upcoming full-length debut, Light Me Up. Need evidence? Check out the taut and addictive lead single “Make Me Wanna Die,” for confirmation enough of Momsen and the Pretty Reckless’ potential. 

I caught up with the humble and exceedingly gracious Momsen after she had just finished a victorious Pretty Reckless set with band mates Ben Phillips (guitar), Mark Damon (bass) and Jamie Perkins (drums) in San Antonio that found her soaked to the skin thanks to a downpour and loving every minute of it.


You’ve been on the Warped Tour for a few dates now – how’s it going? How has the response been?

It’s been a blast. The fans are great. So far, so good!

I imagine it’s really satisfying for you right now, with the release of the EP to be on the road, on a major tour, and just living in the songs every night.

Yeah! We love playing our songs every night for the fans. It’s a great tour, and we play every day.

Is stage fright a problem for you?

No. [laughs]

You’ve taken to the Pretty Reckless Twitter account to address the blogosphere’s obsession with your outfits. I imagine all the talk is aggravating for you because it eclipses discussion about your music.

I don’t really read any of it. I kind of just hear about it through people who send me shit because I don’t even own a computer. [laughs]. So I just wear what makes me comfortable. It’s just a stage outfit. People at the shows are so into the music, that [the blogs] haven’t taken away anything from that at all.

And that’s really what counts.

Yeah. I hope people will go buy the record.

The reviews for the EP have generally been very positive, if slightly cynical. Were you pleased with the response overall? What do you think is fueling the cynicism so much?

Oh! [laughs], well, I’m sure there’s people out there who don’t like my stripper shoes, and some don’t like that I’m an actress, and now I’m in a music band, so, we’re gonna let the music speak for itself. But if you hear the music and don’t like what you hear, then it’s all cool. But don’t judge the music before you listen to it – that’s a pre-conceived notion. I mean, feel free to hate it, and hate me, or whatever. Just don’t hate it before you’ve heard it.

One thing that jumped out at me from the EP was how mature and fully envisioned everything feels: your delivery, your phrasing, the lyrics…, especially “Make Me Wanna Die” and “My Medicine.” How long have you been cooking all of this up in your head?

We wrote [the record] for about a year and half. We worked really hard and tried to do something different, that isn’t around really [anymore.] Rock. So we really wanted [it] to have a level of quality to it, or we tried to! People like to feel. It’s an honest record. It confronts all the problems of life and shit, and throws them back in your face instead of…it’s not an escape record, you know?


With regards to your lyrics, where do you draw inspiration from most days? The streets of New York are obviously great for that, as is, obviously being young, and the industry you’re in. What else inspires you?

Inspiration comes from everywhere. I wish I knew. I wish there was one specific thing because it would be a lot fuckin’ easier to write songs! [laughs] But usually it’ll start with an idea, and something to say. We really tried to have something to say, [so that] each song…and not just say something because it sounds cool. It’s a very thought out record. Look at the Beatles. Even if it’s not the same type of song, it’s the same genre, and has its own thing to it. Hopefully there’s something for everyone on the record. You don’t have to like the heavy stuff on Light Me Up. There’s a variety. It’s a very versatile record, but it’s still rock.

Do you worry about revealing too much of yourself in your lyrics?

I write very metaphorically, so what I hope people do is not relate [the lyrics] to my life so much but relate them to their own, and take what you want from them. That’s what music’s meant to do, anyway. To make a person think or feel a certain way, and it doesn’t have to mean the same thing to everyone.

You’ve been quoted as saying you went to a White Stripes concert when you were younger and that it blew your mind. Was there a lot of music growing up in your household?

I was listening to the Beatles literally the day I was brought home from the hospital. My dad’s a big music fan – a rock fan. I listened to a lot of vinyl growing up on an old record player because we didn’t have a CD player then. I grew up with the classics: the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Muddy Waters and stuff. All the greats. [The music] was on all the time, and you can’t put on a Beatles record and say, ‘That sucks!’ because it’s just not gonna happen. They’re the best. I grew up with good music, and that’s been very inspiring.

When did you find your singing voice?

Didn’t really think about it. I’ve been singing since I was born, basically. I could hum Beatles songs before I could talk. That’s true! It’s on video. I grew up singing, and then I started writing because I was really introverted and very shy, so writing was an outlet for me to keep sane. I started writing very, very young. And it just kind of turned into this!

What can we expect from the full-length album?

Well, the EP is just four songs off of the record. We were going on the Warped Tour, and by the time we finished the record – it had just gotten mastered – so we wanted to have something out for the fans to hear. And with the amount of time it takes with the industry, we just wanted to put something out. The album’s called Light Me Up. The thing about the record is that it’s so versatile, [and] very song-driven. It’s not just based on a vibe or a certain style. Each song has its own thing to it. Hopefully there’s something for everyone. That’s what we tried to accomplish.

I love the fact that even though you’re a popular actress, you’re on the Warped Tour and taking the time to meet the fans at the merch booth and everything. You’re taking an organic approach to this, and not just taking advantage of fame.

Yeah! I mean, we’re a band. I like putting on shows. People call that work for bands, which I don’t understand. I like playing, and the organic approach is just being a band. We’re very psyched to be part of the tour, and we’re excited to be touring behind the record.

Do you feel like the underdog at all right now?

No, I’m very confident in my own skin. And where we’re at — people don’t really know what to expect yet, but I wouldn’t say ‘the underdog.’ I mean, I’m kind of shy. I’m actually really shy. But I grew up in the entertainment industry, so you learn to put on that façade. No, I wouldn’t say underdog. I’d just say “new.”

–Carrie Alison, Photos by Lauren Dukoff

  1. [...] post by rock music – Google News and software by Elliott Back July 14th, 2010 | Category: Rock Video [...]

  2. [...] post by rock music – Google News and software by Elliott Back July 14th, 2010 | Category: Rock Video [...]

  3. Fantastic article & interview, Carrie! Young stars like Momsen are easily dismissed as manufactured shlock in the music business, but she seems to have the spirit of a musician.


  4. [...] Taylor Momsen: Hot, Young and Pretty RecklessSentimentalist MagazineShe and her band – the Pretty Reckless – are here to rock, not to preach to and lead the prepster and tweenster flock, and certainly not here to satisfy …Interview: Taylor Momsen Dishes on The Pretty RecklessDose.caSeven Questions About Taylor Momsen And The Pretty RecklessPeace FM Onlineall 11 news articles » [...]

  5. [...] SOURCE [...]

  6. [...] Sentimentalist magazine interviewed Taylor and you can read the full interview below and clicking under cut: Taylor Momsen has long blonde hair, stripper shoes with dollar bills in the heels and a low bullshit tolerance. If you read gossip blogs, you already know that much is true. What you might not know, unfortunately, is that the girl can wail. The girl can rock. But this has been overshadowed by scurrilous nonsense. [...]

  7. So far, I really like the music I’ve heard from the Pretty Reckless. I’ve just started reading about them because I didn’t know much (aside from Taylor Momsen’s background) and have primarily found people bashing the band because Taylor doesn’t have any rock credibility, is a whore, or is copying Courtney love. This article has a well thought out perspective of the whole situation. Taylor will draw criticism for awhile, but she seems to really know what she’s doing and hopefully that will push aside all of the bashing.


  8. It is time to take a rest from your pain. Isn’t it what you are dreaming about? That’s what i want to say here.