A few years ago, it seemed like whiskey-throated roots rocker Elle King was sitting on top of the world, thanks to her rollicking 2015 debut disc “Love Stuff” and its twice Grammy-nominated hit single “Ex’s and Oh’s.”
Her persona was a blustery one, equal parts Mae West double entendre and tattooed, trash-talking good old gal, both crackling with defiant confidence.
Reality was something else entirely. By the beginning of 2017, she says, “I was in a really destructive place, my life was falling apart, and I was snowballing quickly to rock bottom. Just spinning right out of control.”
King, 29, still isn’t certain how she rallied to make her spunky — and diary-confessional followup album, 2018’s “Shake the Spirit,” which she’ll tout at the BottleRock festival in Napa this weekend.
She only recalls how she began ducking calls from her label RCA, who were eager to discuss making that sophmore effort.
Unbeknownst to her benefactors, however, she had met a man in London, and — without informing her parents (comedian Rob Schneider and model London King) — gotten married after a three-week courtship, which included a Bay Area sailing excusrsion.
It ended in divorce a year on, in 2017, after she filed domestic abuse charges against him.
“It was a pretty destructive relationship,” she says. “But I don’t think either one of us was in a particularly healthy place, and two unhealthy people cannot make a healthy marriage.”
King won’t go into detail on the ill-fated romance. But she did find herself writing about it, in cathartic “Spirit” songs including “Shame, “Chained,” “Talk of the Town” and “Good Thing Gone.”
Her label suggested songwriting sessions with renowned collaborators, but only a couple worked out: Greg Kurstin and Ben Gibbard co-helmed the standout “Naturally Pretty Girls.”
But eventually King — diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder — gave up her New York apartment, rented a house in Los Angeles, and grew so reclusive she accepted no visitors but her band, The Brethren.
“My bandmembers would fly out every couple of weeks, just to make sure I had food in the fridge,” she says. “I was dealing with so many struggles, mentally, I couldn’t physically leave my house. But they shacked up there and wrote the record with me.”
Getting outside help was crucial, she says. Through therapy, she conquered PTSD and its attendant depression.
Her music did the rest. “Making the record really helped me navigate through so many personal and mental things, and my renewed belief in hope, love and self-love,” she says. “But I wouldn’t have made such a powerful record if I hadn’t gone through everything I went through.”
IF YOU GO
Presented by BottleRock Napa Valley 2019
Where: Napa Valley Expo, 575 Third St., Napa
When: 1:40 p.m Saturday at Jam Pad; 3:15 p.m. Saturday at Jam Cellars Stage
Tickets: $159 one-day general admission
HEADLINERS on Jam Cellars Stage
OneRepublic at 6:15 p.m.
Imagine Dragons at 8:15 p.m.
Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats at 6:15 p.m.
Neil Young + Promise of the Real at 8:15 p.m.
Lord Huron at 6:15 p.m.
Mumford & Sons at 8:15 p.m.