When producer Kato Khandwala paired Taylor Momsen, the Gossip Girl actress and singer, with guitarist Ben Phillips that was the beginning of The Pretty Reckless.
There are some people who seem destined for a career in showbiz. Momsen, who had been singing and acting since childhood, was one of them. Later, she added modeling to her resume. Still, it was music that held the most appeal.
“Music is where I can be me,” Momsen stated. “Acting is easy. But you’re playing a character instead of yourself. Music is more personal because you’re writing it and you’re involved in every step of it.” Momsen’s music influences include Kurt Cobain and Joan Jett.
Momsen and Phillips developed a songwriting collaboration that was at the core of The Pretty Reckless. That was fortunate since the group stumbled out of the gate with a handful of band member departures resulting in the addition of bassist Mark Damon and drummer Jamie Perkins.
With the new line-up, The Pretty Reckless issued their initial offering, a four-song self-titled EP. Their take on Glam and Hair Metal didn’t do much.
But the debut full-length album, “Light Me Up,” a ’10 release in the U.K., turned things around. The album peaked at #6 on the U.K. chart while the single “Make Me Wanna Die,” topped the Rock Chart. “Light Me Up” didn’t get a U.S. release until early ‘11.
A year later the “Hit Me Like A Man” EP dropped with three new songs (the title track, “Cold Blooded” and “Under The Water”) and live performances of two songs from “Light Me Up” (“Make We Wanna Die” and “Since Your Gone”). In addition, The Pretty Reckless opened for the likes of Marilyn Manson and Evanescence. Momsen stated she was a “big fan” of the latter. By the end of the year The Pretty Reckless achieved headliner status.
The group’s “Kill Me” was heard at the end of the final episode of the series Gossip Girl. That seemed fitting.
“Going To Hell” arrived in early ’14. The sophomore full-length set improved the group’s standing. It debuted at #5 on the Billboard 200 with 35,000 copies sold in its first week, becoming the band’s first top-10 album.
“Heaven Knows,” a single from the album, was certified gold by the RIAA in ‘18 for accumulated sales of over 500,000 units.
“Who You Selling For” came next. “We had so much we wanted to say, it was like shaking a can of soda on tour, and then when we started writing we cracked the seal,” Momsen said of the songs on the ’16 album.
The set contained “Take Me Down,” which became the group’s fourth mainstream single to hit #1 on Billboard’s Rock chart (“Heaven Knows,” “Messed Up World” and “Follow Me Down,” all from “Going To Hell,” were the first three)
The Pretty Reckless now have the most #1 singles by a female-fronted Rock act.
Their ’22 album, “Other Worlds,” contains acoustic renditions of Elvis Costello’s “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding, Soundgarden’s Halfway There,” with Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron playing guitar, and an interpretation Chris Cornell’s (Soundgarden) “The Keeper.”
“We’ve gotten incredible feedback from fans about our acoustic performances, and we’d never put those out in any real format,” stated Momsen.