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15 Minutes With Taylor Momsen

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I'm watching Taylor Momsen music videos on You Tube, and it's a nice break. I've been writing too much lately, working day and night, absorbed in a world of words with no human interaction. There are projects and deadlines. Editing and re-writing. I'm bleary-eyed, sleep-deprived, caffeinated and feeling damn near mentally ill. Writing in solitude for days straight will do this to you. It twists your mind into a knot and yanks it until your eye sockets widen.

I'm sitting on my couch, staring straight ahead -- through the television and through the walls -- as thoughts explode in my mind: books titles, short story ideas, the structure of a particular paragraph I'm struggling with, my observation that Trader Joe's employees are always happy, and my wondering if I'll find a romantic partner as confused about love as I am -- and if this confusion will be what bonds us?

I'm exhausted, but my mind won't stop. The thoughts keep coming.

I think about art, and my pessimistic tendency to believe the best art has already been created. I particularly feel this way about music. I don't think there's another Paul McCartney out there somewhere, undiscovered and slouching his way toward Bethlehem to be born. That said, I'm pleasantly surprised and quite impressed by Taylor Momsen's band, The Pretty Reckless. They're a solid, alt/metal/rock band, armed with kickass songs and a ferocious attitude. Taylor, who acted for four seasons on Gossip Girl, is the lead singer/songwriter/rhythm guitarist.

Taylor Momsen is a strong vocalist. A badass rocker chick and a committed musician. In fact, she's more committed to her art form than a lot of artists. How many people would walk away from a successful Hollywood acting career to pursue something else? I wouldn't. She did.

I continue watching The Pretty Reckless videos. I don't watch them all the way through. My concentration is shot, so I get the gist of the tune and move on to the next one. This is not Taylor's fault. Her songs rock, and her stripper-boots-and-crazy-black-eye-shadow approach to performing is engaging. Shock value devilishly writhes in her bag of tricks, but so what? It works. It's always been a part of rock and roll, and it's nice to see someone out there keeping the spirit alive. My mind is just too spent to focus on any of it for very long. I need sleep, and I don't think I've eaten since yesterday.

And still I have more thoughts.

I wonder if The Pretty Reckless -- who've opened for Marilyn Manson and Guns N' Roses --would consider doing a hardcore, metal version of "Christmas, Why Can't I Find You?," the song Taylor sang as a kid when she played Cindy Lou Who in Ron Howard's iconic holiday film Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! I wonder if they'd consider kicking the shit out of it the way Joan Jett kicked the shit out of the The Mary Tyler Moore Show theme? I then picture Taylor throwing her stripper boot at me for mentioning Cindy Lou Who, and realize that my song rendition idea is probably lame.

This is what writers do. We think of great ideas, and later realize they suck.

I wonder if Taylor ever talks to Jim Carrey, and what the hell they talk about? I wonder if Jim Carrey has ever seen The Pretty Reckless in concert? I picture him at a show -- wearing jeans and a black T-shirt -- trying to blend in, but sticking out like a throbbing sore thumb. I also wonder why I never saw an episode of Gossip Girl?

I decide these are things I probably shouldn't mention to Taylor Momsen. Instead, I ask her to talk about her music.

"It's hard to describe your own music," Momsen says. "Im so involved with it, I could write a novel about just one song. It's honest. It's written with the idea that the simplest concept is the best one. We care a lot about the quality and the fact that it has to be our voice, our words and our music. It seems crazy to leave it up to someone else to guide your ideas. I hope that our music will help people escape, not just for 3 minutes, but for a whole record. I'd like them to be able to identify a time in their life with our music if it pertains to them."

I ask Taylor what she loves and why she loves what she loves?

"Music takes up most of my life," she says. " If I'm not doing that, then I'm either painting or sculpting. I also love food and wine. I'm not sure why I am who I am. I could analyze all the gory details, but where would that leave me? Probably with a high therapy bill and not much else. I'd rather just play music."

I don't know much about Taylor Momsen, so I ask her to describe herself, mentioning that some people consider her and her music controversial.

"Describing myself would really be me just painting a picture of how I'd want you to see me, whether I meant to or not," Momsen explains. "I'd like to think I'm sensitive and kind. I don't see myself as controversial. If other people see me like that I'd probably say they're a bit stiff. I don't write about myself. I write songs."

I wonder why she finds music more fulfilling than acting?

"Acting is a wonderful art form," Taylor says. "But at the end of the day, you're reading someone else's lines and standing where someone tells you to stand. With music, I sing my own words and stand wherever the fuck I want. Plus, I get to write, which is the most satisfying part of the whole thing."

Satisfying? I've been writing for years and it's rarely matched the satisfaction I get from doing laundry. Writing is a compulsion for me, but I'm glad Taylor enjoys it.

I like Taylor Momsen's music and I like that she wears crazy black eye shadow -- onstage and off -- when she's in the mood. What more do you really want from a rocker chick? What more do you really want from anyone?

I ask her if there's anything else she'd like to say for this blog post.

"Our new record Going to Hell comes out on March 18," Momsen shares. "I really think anyone reading this should give it a listen. You might be surprised."