Elle King attains chart success
Though breakthrough singer Elle King has a huge hit with Ex’s and Oh’s, the feel-good, carefree 26-year-old remembers performing tirelessly anywhere she could – without a mobile phone.
“I played in a lot of empty bars and I played on a lot of couches and in a lot of big offices, and I didn’t have a cell phone when my manager tried to get a hold of me,” says King, who met her manager, Alan Bezozi, in 2010. “I would talk to him on payphones.”
The hard times are turning into good times: Ex’s and Oh’s reached the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s Hot Rock Songs and Alternative Songs charts. It has also been nominated for two Grammy Awards.
Being without a phone did not stop King from falling in love and breaking up with boys – the subject of her hit single and most of her debut album.
Despite singing about leaving an international wake of broken-hearted exes, King says she is no maneater.
“It’s so beautiful to love a person, but it’s like, it sucks. It just sucks when it doesn’t work out and so I’d rather just have fun while I’m young and maybe I’ll get married when I’m 70, to a few people,” the raspy-voiced singer says.
Ex’s & Oh’s, a sultry laundry list of real-life break-ups, details four of King’s relationships. She is not too concerned about how her exes feel about the track. “I’m sorry,” she says, before saying, “I’m not. Thank you. Boom! Look what happened!”
Heartache flows throughout her debut album, Love Stuff, which was released last year. She sings about a toxic relationship in Under the Influence and offers a stern warning to future boyfriends in I Told You I Was Mean. The album takes a dark, soulful turn with the eerie Ain’t Gonna Drown and a then a surprising optimistic swing with Make You Smile, an upbeat track about how far she would go to make that special someone happy.
Inspired by Aretha Franklin, Dolly Parton – her dream collaborator – and rockabilly singer Wanda Jackson, King intertwines blues, country and rock ‘n’ roll. She begrudgingly admits that she makes pop music, too.
“I used to be afraid of those three letters, but I’m not anymore,” she says. “Now I understand that it’s just mainstream, it’s popular, and I’m learning and I don’t care.”
King was bitten by the showbiz bug at an early age. Her father is actor and comedian Rob Schneider, and she had a small role in his 1999 comedy, Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo.
“I just grew up around performers,” she says. “I just loved it and I’ve always wanted to be onstage and I never wanted to get a real job.”
The singer was primarily raised by her mother and stepfather in Ohio and decided to change her last name when she turned 18. She calls her mother “my everything and my idol”.
“I took her last name,” she said. “I wanted to do it on my own so that when it did happen, right now – this moment – I could say, ‘Yeah, I did it myself. And I did it with my name.”’
• Love Stuff by Elle King is out now through Sony Music Entertainment.
Updated: January 4, 2016 04:00 AM