Music & Nightlife

After rocky year, Elle King returns with cathartic new album and all-female tour

Elle King will open for Joan Jett and the Blackhearts and Heart on Wednesday night at PNC Music Pavilion.
Elle King will open for Joan Jett and the Blackhearts and Heart on Wednesday night at PNC Music Pavilion. Courtesy of Green Room PR

Pop-rock singer-songwriter Elle King emerged in 2015 as the sassy, free spirit behind the smash single “Ex’s & Oh’s.”

She was nominated for three Grammys, dueted with Dierks Bentley on the CMA Award-winning track “Different for Girls,” and toured with everyone from Miranda Lambert to Modest Mouse.

But as her career was skyrocketing, her private life was nose diving. Depressed and suffering from PTSD after the dissolution of an abusive year-long marriage (they married three weeks after meeting), she turned to drugs and alcohol. Her sophomore album — “Shake the Spirit,” which she made in the thick of it — covers the bumpy aftermath through songs that range from upbeat pop to torch songs and throwback ballads.

Newly engaged as of early July (to her new boyfriend, who she simply refers to publicly as Jim), King is a lot healthier these days. The daughter of comedian Rob Schneider, King remains funny, brutally honest, bubbly and enthusiastic, especially about her current tour with the recently reunited Heart along with Joan Jett & The Blackhearts.

She spoke to the Observer recently about the tour, the album and her healthier state of mind.

Q. How is the tour with Heart?

It’s amazing — no offense to all the other tours, but it’s the greatest tour I’ve ever been on. Everyone is just so nice. I love Ann and Nancy (Wilson), and I look up to them so much. To see them perform every night is just cool and special. I grew up listening to big voices, and Ann is one of the queens of them.

Q. Have they shared any career advice?

I never want to bug them. I get really starstruck. I keep my conversations short because I don’t want to look dumb. I bet if they did give it, it would be great. I got in a little trouble for the setlist I wanted to do. Night one was a bit of a disaster. We made a couple changes for night two (kicking off with the upbeat “Baby Outlaw” and adding “Good to Be a Man” to the set). I forget that I’m supposed to play the radio songs. I’m such a big believer in being one with the show and playing to the right audience. It’s not my show, so I just try to do the coolest 30 minutes I think I’d want to hear.

Q. Are you excited about Joan Jett joining the tour?

When I first started listening to girl rock n’ roll, I got a Runaways’ CD. I have literally idolized Joan Jett since I was 10 or 11. She’s as cool in person as anyone can imagine. To tour with Joan Jett and with Heart, I’ve got bragging rights. Sheryl Crow has been on the tour and she’s an angel. She plays hit after hit. It’s an amazing show to be a part of, and it’s really fun to watch.

Q. You went through a lot between albums. How are you doing?

I turned 30 two weeks ago and I don’t feel any smarter, but every day I have this overwhelming sense of gratitude. I do less thinking about my former self. I want to hug her and tell her everything is going to be OK. I was so crazy and manic and wild, but she still got me to be who I am now. I don’t think I would be where I am now emotionally and mentally if I hadn’t made that record the way that I made it. It’s so important to find your cathartic outlet. Whether it’s what I went through or something else in a person’s life, it is a big deal. For me, I made a record.

Q. Were you influenced by anything in particular musically?

It’s weird because the only thing I was listening to was Parliament and disco. It was the only music I would let in. When I’m making a record, I don’t listen to anything — especially new music. I don’t want any outside influences. Since I listened to so much disco, now I really want to make disco music. I have to make room for new music because I feel it so deeply. I don’t listen to music lightly. That’s why I like disco.


Who: Elle King will open for Heart and Joan Jett & The Blackhearts.

When: 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Where: PNC Music Pavilion, 707 Pavilion Blvd., Charlotte

Tickets: $29-$199.

Details: 800-745-3000;

They will Coastal Credit Union Music Park at Walnut Creek, Raleigh. Aug. 10, 7 p.m.