Elle King discusses opening for Heart, becoming a hologram and that time she met Meat Loaf

On Saturday, the ‘Exes and Ohs’ singer opens for Heart and Joan Jett in Tampa.
Elle King will open for Heart and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre in Tampa on Saturday. [Courtesy of the Green Room PR]
Elle King will open for Heart and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre in Tampa on Saturday. [Courtesy of the Green Room PR]
Published August 16
Updated August 16

It’s a sweet life, opening for a couple of Rock and Roll Hall of Famers like Heart and Joan Jett. Elle King’s been part of some great tours before, but nothing quite like this.

“This definitely feels so comfy and warm and inviting, and sometimes it’s not always like that,” the singer said by phone recently from a tour stop in Charlotte, N.C. “A lot of other tours, they don’t really give a s--t about the opener, or pay you any mind. We’re the first of three, and we feel very respected and taken care of.”

Part of that’s a credit to King herself, who on many tours would be the name at the top of the poster. The 30-year-old singer-songwriter has cultivated a diverse fan base with her mix of alternative rock, roadhouse country and old-school soul, exemplified by her Grammy-nominated 2014 hit Exes and Ohs, and her 2018 album Shake the Spirit, which dealt with heavier issues like breakups, depression and substance abuse.

Since breaking through, she’s booked tours with everyone from the Dixie Chicks to Dropkick Murphys, Miranda Lambert to Of Monsters and Men. Now she’s on the road with Heart’s Ann and Nancy Wilson, reunited after a brief but acrimonious three-year breakup, and she says the vibe backstage has been “respectful and nice and warm and welcoming.”

Before the tour hits Tampa’s MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre on Saturday, King talked about rock legends, star songwriters, becoming a hologram and more. (This interview has been condensed and edited.)

Can you give me your top three all-time Heart songs?

Is it bad that my three are the hits? It feels very surreal to me to hear Magic Man, Crazy On You and Barracuda live. That just doesn’t seem real. Those are songs that, when I first started getting into rock ‘n’ roll, my stepdad showed me as strong female legends. I get to hear those songs every night, and it’s pretty crazy.

Who was the first all-time, hands-down, rock legend you met in person?

Wow. I think Meat Loaf, actually. I don’t know if he’s a rock legend, but I was a really little girl, and I saw him yell at a bunch of people in a suite at an all-star baseball game. I must have been 4 or 5, and I remember being like, That guy seems really mean.

A lot of the co-writes on your albums have been mostly with men. Is that intentional, in terms of the chemistry you’re trying to gin up?

This is 100 percent a male-driven industry, and I really do believe that it has been way easier for men to be successful. So when I’m sent names of who I’d like to write with, eight out of 10 will be men. It’s kind of like the luck of the draw. If it works, it works. I would love to work with all women; I really would. Sometimes it just is not how the cards fall.

You’re in a room writing with somebody like Greg Kurstin, Mark Ronson, Ben Gibbard — are there moments where you’re like, “Oh my god, I can’t believe that just happened?”

Oh my gosh, 100 percent. There’s this high you get by creating something special, whether it’s with somebody famous like Ben Gibbard or a friend in a hotel room. You get a high from creating something good that might evoke emotion, or just be really catchy. It’s the reason why I keep doing this, and the reason why I push through s---ty songwriting sessions — because they’re not all great — is because you’re chasing that. I am 100 percent addicted to making music and creating with people, because when it’s good, you’re just on cloud nine. There’s no better feeling.

After you sang Different For Girls, weren’t you turned into a hologram for Dierks Bentley’s tour?

Yeah, I was. But people didn’t know that. They thought I was on tour with him. I think they spent a s---load of money on that hologram, and I was like, “Why didn’t you just have me come do it?” But it’s cool. The only holograms I’d ever heard of were Snoop Dogg, Jerry Garcia and me. That’s a pretty cool list.

There’s Roy Orbison and Buddy Holly, and they’re doing Whitney Houston next year. But you’re one of the youngest performers captured in holographic form. So I guess that’s going to live forever.

That’s pretty awesome. I wish I could just have that in my house.

Contact Jay Cridlin at cridlin@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8336. Follow @JayCridlin.

IF YOU GO

Heart, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts and Elle King

$22.50 and up. 7 p.m. Saturday. MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre, 4802 U.S. 301 N, Tampa. (813) 740-2446. livenation.com.

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