Taylor Momsen is known for her acting roles, most notably as Jenny Humphrey on Gossip Girl. But the seventeen-year-old has been passionate about performing music since she was a little kid bouncing between her native St. Louis and auditions in New York and Los Angeles. This long-time love currently manifests itself in the Pretty Reckless, the rock quartet she fronts. Momsen co-wrote the songs on the band's full-length debut, Light Me Up, with her bandmate Ben Phillips — and haters will be disappointed to know that the collection is actually a solid debut. Her voice is mature and has tinges of bluesy gravel (in fact, it often recalls Pink), while the music is electrified hard-rock suitable for the radio. Momsen checked in with B-Sides via phone from New Hampshire, where she was rehearsing for the Pretty Reckless' upcoming tour.
B-Sides: How long did you live here in St. Louis before moving?
Taylor Momsen: I had a house there until I was ten; I moved right after my tenth birthday. But I traveled a lot, so I was in and out of school, so I wasn't there a lot. But I had a house there, my dad lived there until I was ten, and then we moved — the whole family moved.
Do you have any good memories of it? Anything stand out?
I liked having a house there — because from there I moved to...we moved to Maryland, but I moved to New York really quickly and [lived] in an apartment. I liked having a house; we had a back yard, I loved my swing set. It's where I started writing songs. I wrote my first songs in St. Louis, on the swing set. [Laughs]
What were your songs like then?
Morbid, still. [Laughs] I wrote a lot about animals. My first song was about my dad's dead dog. And now our first single that ever came out was "Make Me Wanna Die," so there's kind of a common theme. But I wrote a song for the Humane Society when I was there — I worked for the Humane Society and did volunteer work trying to get people to donate blankets and towels and help the animals, so I wrote a whole song about it, and it was on the news. [Laughs]
Why were you always drawn to music?
I don't know. It was such a drive for me at such a young age; I loved it, everything about it. I grew up listening to classic-rock records. Music can make you feel something that nothing else can. It became an escape. And then when I started writing music it became a way for me to deal and cope and not go totally insane. I wrote to stay sane. It's always very personal.
When you were growing up, did you try to emulate any vocalists that you might have heard?
Robert Plant. [Laughs] I mean, badly, but Robert Plant. He's a god.
What was the biggest challenge for you writing the music on Light Me Up?
Writing itself is the biggest challenge. Writing's the hardest thing. Any writer will tell you it's the hardest thing — it's the most grueling part of music, is writing it. That was the hardest part about it.
What is the most meaningful song for you on the record?
They're all really personal, and they're all really meaningful to me — it's hard to pick one, it's like picking a favorite kid. It's too hard; I can't pick one. I wrote a record, not just one song.