Fresh off her first headlining tour and appearances at festivals like Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo, firebrand singer-songwriter Elle King is having a breakout year. Her debut, Love Stuff, was released in February, with single “Ex’s & Oh’s” currently at No. 67 on the Hot 100. A little bit country, a little bit rock’n’roll, the rollicking tune exemplifies King’s devil-may-care approach, dismissing spurned lovers like wads of discarded gum. We caught up with King in her hometown of New York to see what else she’s been chewing up and spitting out as of late.
On “Ex’s & Oh’s,” you sing, “I had me a boy, turned him into a man.” How exactly does one do that?
That specific relationship, I was telling that person to grow up, in terms of things he did that bugged me. He grew up a lot after. As for relationships, I know nothing. I’m an idiot, I can’t get it right. I’m a really good friend; I’m terrible to date. My boyfriend is in the other room, and I’m very much in love right now, so I hope he’s not listening.
Has writing about your personal life ever come back to haunt you?
I’d be lying if I said I never pissed anybody off. I think the best music is honest music. There’s two songs on my album, “Ex’s & Oh’s” and “I Told You I Was Mean,” that people got angry about, but whatever. Those people pissed me off in the first place to make me want to write that song. All’s fair in love and war.
You’re known for your cover of “My Neck, My Back.” What’s the story behind it?
I started singing that song when I was 19 or 20, playing in bars and nobody cared, nobody wanted to hear some dumb girl with a guitar singing about heartbreak and being a slut. So I started singing that song and people kinda turned their head and said, “What did she just say?” And it just became a thing. And now I’m pretty much most well-known for that cover.
Your dad is actor and comedian Rob Schneider. What has he taught you about surviving in showbiz?
We’d travel around the world I would see how he would interact with fans who would stop them in the street. He would give anything for his fans. At the end of the day those are the people who keep us doing what we’re doing. He always said, “Take time, especially for kids.” So that’s the biggest thing that I took from my father.
An edited version of this story originally appeared in the Sept. 5 issue of Billboard.