When you left foster care your biological father became your legal guardian in Billings, Montana, eight hours away. It was there where your love of music grew deeper. What are your memories of that time?
“My dad is a football coach, but he also liked to drink, and he loved to go to the karaoke bar. One stipulation of my allowance was that I’d come to the bar and sing karaoke for his friends. He didn’t want to leave me home by myself, I guess, so it became part of our routine, me singing in these bars. For a few years of my life, every week I’d be down at the karaoke bar until all hours. And because he’s a coach, he would yell at me to sing louder and harder – in a positive, loving way. There were a lot of drunk, grown men, there was a lot of cigarette smoke, and a lot of shouting at me. It was a tough environment. In a weird way, I grew up performing in bars.”
Given the challenges you faced in your youth, did performing onstage empower you and instil a sense of confidence?
“Yeah, I think it did. To this day, I still hear my father shouting in my head when I sing. I wanted to impress him. I wanted to make him proud.”
Was it always music or bust, or were you into other stuff, too?
“I was also really into wrestling. My uncle was a wrestling coach and my first cousins were all boys, who were state champions, so I really wanted to be like them and compete, but because I was a girl, I couldn’t. I wanted to play football, but I couldn’t do that either, once again, because I was a girl. And I wanted to be in a band ever since I can remember, but finding other eight-year-olds to start a band with is hard (laughs).”
How frustrating was it not being able to pursue your passions?
“It really pissed me off that I couldn’t do stuff just because I was a girl. So when I discovered punk, I was so sick of people telling me I couldn’t do things that it was like, ‘No, I’m doing this.’ Rebel music is my soul. Punk was the perfect thing for me. Seeing The Specials, then No Doubt and Save Ferris around the same time, was this perfect storm. It was like, ‘Okay, girls are invited to this party!’ I felt like I had found my calling. I knew what kind of music I wanted to do, but I couldn’t find the band. I actually ran away from home when I was a senior because I had a boyfriend back in Missoula, where I was originally from. So I moved back in with my mom and I finished high school there. That’s when I first got a band together. I had a couple of bands there in the end. Then I went to college for a year, I studied Women’s Studies, I wanted to be a DJ and I played shows. I even recorded a demo, and it wasn’t what I wanted, but it was as good as I could find and it was a step in the right direction. Then I decided that I needed to move to LA when I was 18. So I drove my car to the Hollywood sign, I parked up and then I was like, ‘Oh, damn, now what?!’ I didn’t know anybody.”
That’s a huge leap of faith. Was it a scary move?
“Well, anything was better than where I was from. I felt like I had nothing to lose, and this was my life’s dream. So I walked into restaurants with my resume and ultimately got a job waiting tables, working 10pm ‘til six in the morning, which was perfect for me because I can’t sleep anyway. For tips I would sing songs. When I had days off, I would walk Sunset Boulevard, asking people if they wanted to start a band because I wasn’t yet old enough to get into the bars as I was only 19. I eventually found the members of the band No Motiv, we played a show that Randy Jackson [American Idol judge and music entrepreneur] was at and he was like, ‘I’m gonna help you get a record deal.’ Long story short, I ended up signing a record deal in New York with Elektra, because No Motiv were tied to another contract.”