Multi-platinum selling, Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Elle King is hitting the road following the release of her most recent single "Drunk (And I Don’t Wanna Go Home)," featuring Miranda Lambert. It's her first headlining tour since her Shake The Spirit Tour back in 2019.
She will hit 29 cities across the U.S. and Canada, and cap off at Los Angeles at the renowned The Fonda on March 28. To find out more, Variance's Ethan Ijumba chatted with King to discuss her expectations for this tour, her new life in motherhood, as well as her excitement to return to the road with all the new changes.
Be sure to read the full interview below and see the full tour schedule here.
Ethan Ijumba: You are a huge anomaly of different genres, from punk, country—you mix a little bit of rock into it, some traditional blues and a lot of different genres that have a huge versatility and range where you really can't be labeled. Right now, you have a new tour that's going through 29 cities across the U.S. and Canada ... How does it feel to return on the road since it's been a while since your last tour?
Elle King: I'm psyched! 2020 was when the pandemic kind of shut everything down in the spring, and I have not done a headline tour since spring of 2019, so that's almost three years of not doing a full-blown headline run. I'm also nervous because even though I love support tours, it's almost less pressure on you. After all, you have one job and it's to pump everybody up for the headline act and I love that, but I love the headline tour because people are coming to see me. But I put a lot of pressure on myself too. Thoughts like, "How much do I play the songs that everybody knows and in what way do we weave and integrate new music?" It's been three years since my headline tour and I also have a lot of new music. I worked really, really hard to make as much of a record while I was pregnant so that I could have time, at least a few months, to just be a mother and just devote my time and energy to my baby—then it's back to rock and roll! But I'm excited to just see my fans, not to introduce my music to people who aren't necessarily there to see me, but to these people who are coming to see me, they want to hear my old songs, and I hope they want to hear my new songs. It's gonna be a very, very different tour for me. I'm bringing my family; it's not like I'm gonna leave my kid, since apparently, they need food and stuff, but I'm excited and I can't wait. I have such a wide gamut of a fan base that if people ask me, "Who are your fans?" I'm like, I couldn't pinpoint one. I think just music lovers and people that like to have a good time. So I can't wait to be there and be with them and do what I feel like I was put on earth to do, which is perform, play music, and connect with people again.
EI: Having such a great deal of experience in touring, are there any specific highs and lows, such as favorites and dreadful parts that you like and dislike about touring?
EK: You know, you learn very early on from touring whether you're made for it or not. I think maybe like the '80s and the '90s or even the '70s, touring was just a big party and blah blah, and in a lot of ways, it is very much and it has been very much like that for me. For me, I love to travel. Before I was six months old, I was traveling with my mother and my father, and I grew up in comedy clubs and I've been touring and traveling since I was like 18, 19 years old and playing live shows, so I have that wandering spirit. I’m actually more comfortable in my touring routine than being at home. And I've never had this much time to be at home, let alone being a mom and figuring out stuff like, what's the dishwasher? Or how do you do laundry? What's a routine that you can get into? So, touring is like, I can do it but now it's going to be extremely different because I have a little baby that really needs me. So I'm going to have to work at trying to find my balance of, "How do I be rowdy rambunctious Elle King and how do I be Lucky's mom at the same time?" I don't know, that's why I'm bringing somebody else with me to help take care of him. But I'm really excited to do what I do best and I have favorite spots in every city. I remember specific venues that have cool dressing rooms. I'm also looking forward to going out during the daytime and being in different cities with my baby and showing him different things and trying different foods because he's about to start eating and I'm excited. I've always really admired people who tour with their families and I always really wanted to be that and now I get to experience that and it's exciting.
EI: Checking back between being a mom and also being the rambunctious Elle King, would just finding that balance be the difficult part?
EK: I mean, I haven't toured with the baby yet, so ask me about my highs and lows next time. But sometimes it's really tough. People are very respectful, that's why a lot of people who tour with you are people who toured together for a very long time and it is 100% and wholeheartedly a family on the road. It's really hard to have a personal space and carve out time for yourself, so you have to like the people that you're with, otherwise, you're gonna be a miserable prick and you're gonna be unhappy and if one person on the bus is unhappy, you feel that energy, you know? So it's hard to have personal time. It's not always super comfortable to sleep on a bus but I think that the highs outweigh the lows and as I said, you're made for it or you're not. So it's hard to be away from family, I miss my animals all the time, but it's such a massive part of my life that I love so dearly that you just gotta put up with the lows.
EI: To go along with that you said, how excited you are to take your baby to these new cities and try these new foods, but are there any favorite cities of yours, specifically, or any venues that you're most excited to play and just overall experience again and get to visit as well?
EK: You know, looking at my full tour schedule gives me a little bit of anxiety. So I haven't looked at every single venue because the ones that I did look at, I was like, those are big venues. Oh my gosh, are people gonna come? I have no idea. So I like going to the Twin Cities. They have this burger called the Juicy Lucy where they put the two patties and they cook it with the cheese in the middle when you bite it. What I know most about every city is what kind of food I can get there. So yeah, I'm excited for that. I'm excited for a Philly cheesesteak. So it's mainly the food, but I’m excited to experience cities in a new way of like, is it warm enough where I can take my kid to a park or is there a mommy-and-me music class that I can go to and fit in before soundcheck? So it's exciting in a very new way.
EI: Is there anything that you normally like to bring or any traditions or rituals that you have before a show or just when you’re on tour?
EK: My main routine is to hold off as long as I can until 5:00 and then start drinking. So I'm gonna have to find a new routine this year. But I don't know, everything is so different. So I know that this is gonna be a completely new and very eye-opening experience. My normal things that were my biggest anxieties were like, how many jackets can I fit in the suitcase, or how many pairs of boots can I really bring on the bus? Now it's like, where can I ship the bouncer to and can I find a high chair on wheels? It's super-duper different and it's quite the transition.
EI: Earlier you mentioned that you did tours with a lot of artists, such as Ed Sheeran, Maroon 5 and Miranda Lambert, among others. Is there anything just in terms of advice that you've received from them that stuck out and resonated with you when it comes down to just touring in general, or anything that you may have learned from them?
EK: Mostly everybody has been super sweet to me. Not every tour is like this, but a lot of times the headliner will bring me out on stage and I just get very paranoid and, like I said, personal space is something so rare and so important. So like, it's not always a party backstage and I try to be like, believe it or not, I’m rowdy but respectful because my biggest thing is, I always want someone from me down to the lowest person on my tech, my roadie, my crew—everyone is a representation of me and I always want someone to say, "Elle King and everybody that works with Elle King is great. I would love to work with them again." So I never really try to bug anybody about things like, "Can you give me advice on this," because I always want to give people space and if they want to talk to me they'll—you know—they'll invite me into their room and stuff so we usually just talk about life or funny stuff. But Stevie Nicks—I did ask her one time, because I was so nervous, and when Tom Petty was Person of the Year for MusiCares, around the time of the Grammys…
EI: Bless his soul.
EK: Rest his soul, bless his soul, rest in power, love Tom Petty so much. I was asked and invited to come to sing “American Girls.” So it was all these people coming out to do a tribute for Tom and I was so nervous because I was playing with his band and I definitely hid behind my instruments because you know that whole joke, "What do I do with my hands?" And I got to meet Stevie Nicks and I was like, "I'm so nervous, I don't know what I'm gonna do, like on stage, I'm just like, what do I do? Just stand there and sing?" And she goes, “Why do you think I played tambourine? You think I'm just gonna stand there and look like an idiot." So I asked for a tambourine on stage and it gave me something to do, and that was one thing that I'll never forget, not to name drop and say that I know that Stevie Nicks, but yeah.
EI: No, it's a good, subtle flex of a story, but speaking of stories, you said yourself you’re rowdy and respectful. At the same time, you have that energy where it's like, let's get drunk and have a good time. So if you could give me a spark noted version of what's the craziest story that you ever witnessed or experienced on the road that just always resonates with you or with your band that you’re able to share.
EK: There's not a lot that I'm willing to share that doesn't incriminate people that I love and I was a horrible influence on. It was never them, it was always me.
EI: So safe to say you weren't the mom friend of the group?
EK: No, no, no, no! I'm two devils on people's shoulders at times! I will say this, I was on tour with Miranda Lambert, and Miranda is so cool and she's the first one to invite people up on stage, and it was her idea to have all the women on stage. It was an all-female fronted tour—all the openers, her, everything. She said, "Well, why don't we all do a recording of a song? We recorded “Fooled Around and Fell in Love,” it's a promo of the song for which we later won an ACM.
EI: But the Grammys are on the way though. I know it’s pending!
EK: We'll see, you know. It truly is just not gonna be nominated and I feel like I'm going whether I win or not, I'm gonna go. Like Beyonce, I want to see everybody!
EI: Not to mention the collaborations and the overall experience.
EK: It's an incredible show that people work hard on. However, I was going through some stuff on tour and I had only been on one freaking country song and Miranda just liked me and she invited me on tour. Miranda likes to have a good time and as I said, you want to have people on the road that are fun and uplifting and not a sour bad apple, and I'm pretty positive that she brought me on the road just because I'm fun and like to party. So at that time, I was going through some stuff and this is not a proud and shining moment, but this is something that we laugh at and that I had to be reminded of by Ashley McBryde. So it was Ashley McBryde, me and Miranda Lambert and then at the end, we would come up on stage with Pistol Annies and we would all sing “Fooled Around and Fell in Love.” One particular night, I had “exercised my elbow” a little too much and I guess I fell asleep eating a piece of pizza...I shouldn't tell stories like this, but I was eating a piece of pizza and my tour manager was like, "Elle, you have to go on stage, it's time to walk. She's doing 'Tequila Does,' it's your favorite song, we've got to go out there and we gotta get you mic’d up." So I was out there and I must have been stumbling around and Ashley McBryde—who is so funny, so sweet, I love her to death—she came up to me and she was like, obviously, I was hammered, and she said, “Elle, if you want, I could sing your part,” and I looked at her and apparently I said “sing my part,” and they had to push me on stage. Apparently, it was the best that I sang my part the entire tour and I walked off stage confidently and I walked straight into a door and fell backward. So I don't remember any of that, but all of the openers and Miranda's entire band, my entire band, and any friends that were backstage saw that. I don't remember that, they had to tell me that and it's horribly embarrassing, but I will say I killed it on stage.
EI: You did kill that shit and you lived to see another day.
EK: I sure did, and I'm glad that I don't remember it firsthand, but I'm not super worried about, "How am I going to drink and party on tour and blah blah blah?" I've had, almost 15 years of having wild, insane nights on tour all over the world with stories that I will never tell and take to my grave. Now I'm looking forward to experiencing touring in a new way as a mother and getting to show my son amazing parts of this beautiful country that we live in and I don't feel like I'm gonna miss any of that.
EI: I mean, that rowdy party girl side will always be there, but you don't need to bring it out all the time now. You have nights where it’s just kinda like, I just wanna chill with my son, you know, relax and have a good time, put on some nice little "Johnny, Johnny, Yes Papa" and call it a night.
EK: And I mean, it's important for me because even though this is the “Drunk and I Don't Want To Go Home Tour,” I think it's really important for people to know that if you're sober, I hope you still have fun because sobriety is so important and it's so wonderful and everyone is welcome at my shows, whether you want to get shit-faced and you don't want to go home, whether you're sober and you're there to party and hear live music and have a great time. I want everyone to feel comfortable, welcome, safe, and be in a loving environment because it's so important to me.
EI: So for those that haven't seen you perform live, how would you describe what they can expect at an Elle King show?
EK: A lot of different instruments. I mean, if you've never seen me perform before, you get to see someone who is extremely passionate about music and you get to see somebody shine in their favorite thing that they get to do. You won't come and hear one genre of music. There's something for everybody and I'm very excited to say that I cannot wait to play my new songs for people and to share everything that I've been working on through this crazy time that we've all been together, and I just I hope to put on a good show. People should expect to have fun and just have a good time.
EI: Regarding what's gonna be next after your tour, is there anything that you have planned afterward, whether it's an album, EP, or maybe just take some time off to enjoy motherhood?
EK: No, no, they gave me my time off. Now, it's back to work. My manager sweats when we even joke about getting pregnant with another baby. I'm very happy and have my hands full with one. I don't know if I can share my timeline, but I am slated to release lots of music this year. We already scheduled festivals and I can't speak for the fall, but I do know for a fact that my entire year is going to be full of live performances, lots of traveling, tons of new music, and um, a very excited Elle King.
EI: I'm glad to hear because honestly, it's been a long wait that everyone from your fans to new listeners as well as me myself has been anticipating lately. After all, you deserve the break from everything with motherhood, from personal issues, life, everything that goes and happens. Every artist deserves a break, they need time away from that studio, time away from that stage, time away from just the fans, even as great as they all can be and it's a great relationship to embrace. I think your time that you had before when you just had that break and the time you're gonna have now and hopefully, we just have a great time all together.
EK: Beautiful, I love that. But I'm over this two-year freaking break. I'm ready to hit the road!
EI: And we're gonna all be there. Almost there! The best part is we're getting back, we're getting boosted, everyone's gonna pretty much get their check-ins overall.
EK: Be safe. I will say that if you do plan on going and being around other people, even if you’re vaxxed and boosted, I strongly urge you to take a Covid test because you just never know, and there are breakthrough cases. And for the sake of everyone's safety, I mean, what's the harm in just taking a Covid test? And if anyone is coming backstage for any VIP tickets with me, we do need a negative Covid test because I have to take care of my baby and I also think that it's important for everyone since I previously got Covid from someone who had been vaxxed and boosted. So I mean, it's amazing that everyone is doing that. I just strongly urge everyone to continue to test because what harm can it do? I want everyone to feel safe. I want everyone to feel protected, and I hope that this continues to open up our world. Safety and health are so important and I hope that everyone is learning that I truly, deeply care about the health, wellness and safety of my fans. So I strongly urge everybody to continue to test before you're gonna go out and be around other people.
EI: For the sake of not having any delays or cancellations, I totally agree.
EK: Hell to the yeah! I don't want to get sick. I don't want to cancel any dates, please!
EI: Alright. Well, thank you, Miss King. I appreciate your time. It's been a pleasure talking to you. Love everything and every minute and every second we shared. Congratulations again on being a new mom. I can't wait to see what this tour brings. I hope it's everything you wanted and more—the experience, the fun, the highs, the lows. Hopefully, we get more stories. I hope they go down from TV-MA to rated R if we can do that.
EK: Maybe so we'll get there next time. I'll give you a little bit more!