Spokane is down with Elle King. When the fiery singer-songwriter learned that a story in The Spokesman-Review announcing her date at the Spokane County Interstate Fair was one of the most read stories of the day in mid-May, King was ecstatic.
“It’s nice to know that there are plenty of folks from your neck of the woods who resonate with my music,” King said. “It makes me feel really blessed.”
King, who will perform Wednesday at the fair, has that spark and it’s been evident since she showcased at South By Southwest in Austin seven years ago.
Courtney Barnett, Best Coast and Kali Uchis were the most buzzed about female recording artists entering that SXSW. But King trumped each of those recording artists, playing a number of shows during a four-day stint in Austin during the mega-music conference.
“Alcohol and Red Bull kept me going,” King said. “You’re going all the time. You want to go out there and make an impression.”
King certainly made an impression with her smash, “Ex’s & Oh’s,” which hit the No. 10 spot on the Billboard Hot 100.
King has never gotten tired of hearing her signature song played on the radio. “Hell, it’s awesome,” King said. “When I first wrote that song, I honestly did not think that it would make the album. And after a year of it being out it bleeping exploded. It’s crazy how far the song has come and where it’s taken me. It was totally unexpected, and that’s what’s so magical about that song. Years later, people are still so hyped up about it and hearing it on the radio now is still so cool. I also love to hear people karaoke it!”
It helps that the soulful King doesn’t sound like anybody else on the circuit. That’s part of what makes King so refreshing. She doesn’t chase trends. There’s nothing calculated about her bluesy tunes.
“I just write what I feel like writing,” King said. “I don’t pay attention to what’s in. I don’t care about that stuff. I’ll leave that to other people. It’s all about what moves me.”
Some of King’s most effective songs are lovelorn numbers. “I’ve broken some hearts, and I’ve had my heart broken just like everybody else,” King said. “I think what I sing about is relatable. Who doesn’t go through this stuff with love? A lot of the songs come from situations I’ve had with people. I’ve had some interesting experiences.”
King is the daughter of former model London King and comedian-actor Rob Schneider, who divorced shortly after King was born in 1989.
“But it was my stepfather who probably had the hugest impact on me in terms of music,” King said. “He was a musician and he taught me so much. He was the one who showed me how to play my first song on guitar. My mom was always very supportive as well. Whatever I wanted, she ended up doing for me. I took lessons and stayed with music.”
King works the audience at every show and loves connecting with the crowd. “I think it’s about having fun up there,” King said. “If you have fun when you perform, it comes across to the people out there. I honestly have the most fun when I’m up there with my band. There’s nothing else like it. It blows away everything else. I love revealing myself to those who come out and see me. I like to talk in between songs. If you’re going to be spending money on one of my shows, I think it’s a good thing if people leave feeling like they know me.”
Sincerity is another part of the equation for King, who means it in the studio and onstage. “I’m not a phony,” King said. “This is not an act. I wouldn’t know how to act a certain way. All I can be is me.”
King’s parents made their mark in Hollywood but her mother moved back to a small town in Ohio to raise her daughter. That experience helped shape King.
“You have to realize that I come from Southern Ohio, which is very Christian,” King said. “My mother grew up in that environment. It was very strict for her. She had to wear skirts all the time as a child. She couldn’t listen to rock ’n’ roll. But she didn’t raise me in that strict way. But I did do things like go to church camp and so I’ll sing about temptation, maybe doing the wrong thing or I’ll sing about the devil.”
But those are some of the ingredients that make up good old-fashioned primal rock and roll. “It’s all fine as long as it serves the music,” King said.
King will showcase songs from her 2015 debut “Love Stuff” and her second album, 2018’s “Shake the Spirit” at the fair. King is working on a follow-up.
“I have some great stuff planned for the future, and I can’t wait to share it with the world,” King said. “It really is something special and a great follow-up to ‘Shake the Spirit.’ ”
King balances work with play. “I’m almost always doing the most random crap,” King said. “I’m a redneck at heart, so give me a 4-wheeler and some mud and I’m happy! When I’m out on the road, I love to spend time with my family and friends and find moments of gratitude for myself and my life.”
Where can King be found after jamming at the fair? “Point me to the rowdiest dive bar and I’ll be there,” King said while laughing. “I don’t really have a set spot in mind when I’m in town. I kind of let the night take me to where I need to be. I’m always open to suggestions!”
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