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Interview with Karen Elson

Karen Elson

Image & Video by Jan-Willem Dikkers

I want to be in a romantic goth band so badly.

Karen Elson

Karen Elson
Karen Elson is a British supermodel, musician and advocate for children and women’s rights. She recently released her second album in seven years, entitled Double Roses. She is also a founding member of the New York City political cabaret troupe known as the Citizens Band, which has incorporated actors and musicians such as Zoe Kravitz, Rain Phoenix and Nina Persson.

In Double Roses, Manchester-born musician, supermodel and mother of two Karen Elson delves into the personal and confronts the vicissitudes of her life. Elson’s second album comes seven years after her critically acclaimed debut record The Ghost Who Walks, produced by Elson’s then-husband Jack White. The album was recorded in Los Angeles, at the world-renowned United Studios (neé Ocean Way) in Hollywood, with producer Jonathan Wilson (Jackson Browne, Father John Misty, Conor Oberst). Collaborators on the album include Patrick Carney of The Black Keys, Pat Sansone of Wilco, Father John Misty, Laura Marling and other prolific musicians.

As part of a House Arrest video for Issue, Elson spoke about her influences, the making of Double Roses and what she plans to do next.

Where are you from?
Manchester, England

When did you start making music?
Around 13 years old

Who did you listen to growing up?
So many terrible bands, but then when I was 13 I got into The Stone Roses, PJ Harvey, Nick Cave, Velvet Underground and that was a turning point for me. Until that point though, it was boy bands. Not ashamed.

Who is your music influenced by today?
Morrissey and Robert Smith and Hope Sandoval.

“I never want to do anything ‘okay’.
I want to do it good.
So I had to learn how to be good-ish.”
— Karen Elson

How and when did you decide that this is what you were going to do?

Well I decided that when I was young but it took me a long time to figure out how to get there. I love music so much. I love writing music, I love singing and I love listening to music. I’m such a fan that when it came for me to start making music, I was quite shy about it for a while because I had such unrealistic expectations for myself. I never want to be mediocre in anything. I never want to do anything “okay”. I want to do it good. So I had to learn how to be good-ish. Maybe I’m still not there, but I’m still going to try.

Wim Wenders
Considered by many to be an auteur director, Wim Wenders is a German filmmaker, playwright, author, and photographer. His work exemplifies the New German Cinema era of the late 1960s. Wenders’ narrative drama Paris, Texas (1984) scored him a BAFTA Award for Best Direction and a Palme d’Or at the 1984 Cannes Film Festival.

Sam Shepard
Sam Shepard is an American playwright, actor, author, screenwriter, and director. Among his fourty-four written plays, one of them, Buried Child, won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1979. He is known for including surrealist, poetic and absurdist elements in his work, as well as depicting the nomadic outsiders of American society.

What was the inspiration for the name Double Roses?

It’s a Sam Shepard poem I fell in love with. I really like his plays. He wrote Paris, Texas that Wim Wenders directed. There’s just something so stark and melancholy and romantic and lovesick that I really respond to.

How does it feel to have finished the album?

It had been years to get the record made, so it was a huge sense of relief. Massive, in fact.

What was different this time around as opposed to putting out your 1st album?
I had a bit more experience. I didn’t really know what I was doing walking into the first record recording. I wrote the songs and recorded them, but this time around I felt a lot more sure of myself and determined to make the record.

Who would you most like to collaborate with and why?

Morrissey, Hope Sandoval and Robert Smith. Definitely. I want to be in a romantic goth band so badly. That will be the next record.

“I’m a crazy cat lady.
I’ve got four cats, and I’m obsessed with them.
I collect vintage clothing and old books.
I like taking pictures and keeping myself busy.”
— Karen Elson

What are your interests and passions outside of music?

I’m a mother with two gorgeous kids. That definitely keeps me busy, and I love being with them. I’m a crazy cat lady. I’ve got four cats, and I’m obsessed with them. I collect vintage clothing and old books. I like taking pictures and keeping myself busy.

What’s your favorite book, film, and music right now?

I just finished reading Sally Mann’s autobiography Hold Still. Beautiful book. I guess because I’ve been on tour with Ryan Adams I’ve been listening to a lot of his music at the moment. I’ve heard his music for years, but it’s been nice to delve into it a little deeper, and I really like his new record. Film-wise, I seem to watch the same shit all over again. Wings of Desire by Wim Wenders, I watched that the other night. It’s such a beautiful film.

What’s next for you?

I want to make another record soon. I don’t want to wait too long. This record took almost 7 years to make, so I need to not give myself any slacking time. I’ve got to keep writing songs because that’s what I love. After I finish touring, I’ll get back into writing mode and figure that out.

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