Taylor Momsen may be known for starring on the TV show “Gossip Girl” or for playing a young Cindy Lou Who to Jim Carrey’s Grinch, but Miss Momsen was put on this planet to rock. As lead singer of The Pretty Reckless, Miss Momsen has delivered three solid albums — and countless live shows — of powerful, unapologetic, pure rock ‘n’ roll. The band’s latest, “Who You Selling For?,” is a diverse blast of multilayered rock spearheaded by Miss Momsen’s roaring vocals.
In advance of the band’s Friday-night gig at Rams Head Live in Baltimore, the 23-year-old rocker discussed the new CD and the importance of comedy on the road.
Question: The first thing we hear on the new album is you saying, “Get your sh** together.” Who are you talking to?
Answer: I think it was everyone in the studio at the time. [Laughs] I don’t remember exactly why. We were just playing in the studio, putting a track together, and we were going to record it. Something happened, so I said, “Get your sh** together.”
Q: When it comes to the band, are you the leader?
A: It’s a democracy, I think. [Guitarist] Ben [Phillips] and I are probably the runners of it because we’re the songwriters. But when it comes to the band itself, We’re all equal.
Q: When Pretty Reckless started, was it hard to get people to take you seriously as a singer since they knew you as an actress first?
A: In the beginning, yeah, it was hard for people to take us seriously. First of all, when I started, I was 15. And I wouldn’t take a 15-year-old seriously. [Laughs] There was an element of age.
And people were wondering if it was some kind of a vanity-type project or if it was the real thing. Obviously it’s the real thing since we’ve been a band for almost 10 years now. Any questions or doubt have certainly gone away.
Q: Why is the new album called “Who You Selling For”?
A: It’s a song on the record, and when we were going through different options for titles, that one kind of stuck out as an interesting concept: to pose a question to the audience instead of demanding or titling something like we did with “Go to Hell.” I liked the idea of posing a question to the audience.
Q: Are we all selling for someone?
A: Probably. Today I’m selling for you. The reality is I’m selling for music. I love music. So I’ll sell and give anything for it.
Q: Does becoming successful have to mean selling out?
A: I don’t think we’ve sold out because we have maintained utter creative control. We have a very good situation with our record company. When we finish the record, they get to hear it. We’re not on a major [label], so we don’t have a million people shoving ideas down our throats; we can remain independent and control our image.
For me that’s the only way it would work. I don’t work well with the machine. We make the music how we want it and deliver it. After that they can put it out any way they want. That’s not on me; that’s on them.
Q: The CD rocks, but there are also some real quiet beautiful moments. Is it important to show both sides?
A: None of that was intentional. The strange thing about writing is that you never know what’s inside you. We love rock ‘n’ roll so much. Rock ‘n’ roll is everything. Rock ‘n’ roll to me represents utter freedom. There are no limits as to where you can go as a songwriter.
If you put a limit on yourself, then you are stopping yourself. That’s never good. We delved into all kinds of categories of classic rock this time out.
Q: How have you evolved as a singer and songwriter on the new album?
A: Well, I’m older. So that has definitely affected things from the writing to just my voice. If you listen to [debut CD] “Light Me Up,” my voice hadn’t changed yet. It was so high. [Laughs] I was listening to it the other day and thought, “Oh, my God.”
Individually, we’ve all grown as people. That has made us a better band.
Q: What was the recording process this time around?
A: It was very similar and very different. We recorded at the same studio, Water Music Recording in Hoboken, New Jersey. So that was fun for me because it’s very much like going home.
It was different in the sense it was the first time we brought in any outside musicians, which was really fun for us. We brought in Andy Burton to play keys. And we brought in some background singers. They were fantastic.
We really kind of set up in a live setting and jammed very organically to see where the songs were gonna take us. We tried to capture the human element, which I think is missing in a lot of music these days.
With computers you can manipulate it to be perfect. With us, perfection wasn’t necessarily the goal. Capturing the moment in time, a moment that moves you in some way was.
Q: Is it tough to be in a band full of dudes?
A: I don’t even notice it, honestly. Really the only difference is I don’t think you’re gonna see them wearing high heels anytime soon. [Laughs]
There’s no difference. A musician is a musician.
Q: What is the one thing you need to keep sane while touring?
A: Lots of water. That’s essential. And comedy. Comic relief is imperative. At least for our band on the road. As long as we can laugh, the tensions don’t get too high.
We watch a lot of “South Park” and stand-up comedy and make ridiculously crude jokes to each other on a daily basis.
The Pretty Reckless plays Rams Head Live in Baltimore Friday at 8 p.m. Tickets are $23 by going to AXS.com.