Singer Elle King is admittedly hard and mean.
After partying in her native New York, she awakened on a recent morning to two reminders of her exploits: a bleary-eyed hangover and a throbbing pain in one arm.
“I got a rad new tattoo on my hand, downtown in the middle of the night, and it really hurts,” says KIng, who couldn’t remember exactly where the needling took place. It might have been at the tattoo parlor where she used to work – “because I always call my friends there when I’m drunk and want to get tattooed,” she says.
Looking at the design – a broken heart, and the words “hard” and “mean” – she says, “Yes. I am.”
Her debut disc “Love Stuff” on RCA, which she’s promoting The City this week, dives into classic rock, soul and country sounds, set to tough-as-nails autobiographical lyrics snarled in an old-school-R&B rasp: “You try to change me you can go to hell/ ‘Cause I don’t wanna be nobody else/ I like the chip I got in my front teeth/ And I’ve got bad tattoos you won’t believe….I’m not America’s sweetheart,” she sings in the banjo-tinged “America’s Sweetheart.”
It epitomizes her credo.
“I grew up with rock and roll, and I dress the way I want to dress, act the way I want to act, and sing the way I want to sing,” says King, 25, the daughter of model London King and comedian Rob Schneider, who split when she was young.
“I do have a chipped front tooth – I accidentally hit it with a microphone. I am who I am, and my attitude is, Love me for it or fuck you – I don’t care,” she says.
King’s streetwise identity didn’t happen overnight. She tried acting first, appearing in dad’s “Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo.” At 16, she entered a recording studio at the insistence of family friend Adam Sandler, who was wowed by her singing voice. But sessions for Warner Bros. didn’t happen. And she was fired from a short-lived stint in a Randy Jackson-orchestrated girl group.
It taught her two lessons, she says: “How to bite my fucking tongue in work situations, and that I never want to be in a band with other singers.”
Hard-earned wisdom fuels King’s compositions, as in the bluesy ballad “I Told You I Was Mean,” a kiss-off to a dumbfounded boyfriend from her past.
She says, “I’m living a fast life, and a lot of people can’t hang; rock and roll can be lonely. I mean, I would never want to date anybody like me!”
IF YOU GO
opening for James Bay
Where: Independent, 628 Divisadero St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. May 12
Tickets: $20 (sold out)
Contact: (415) 771-1421, www.ticketfly.com