When Elle King arrives at the CMA Awards on November 2nd, she’ll do so as a first-time nominee. It’s an honor that came out of left field for the indie-rock singer, who is nominated for Musical Event of the Year for her duet with Dierks Bentley, “Different for Girls.”
Along with being recognized by the CMA, the song also topped the country singles chart and launched King onto the stage of the Grand Ole Opry earlier this month, where she sang “Different for Girls” and Johnny Cash and June Carter’s “Jackson” with Bentley. The experience has prompted the Ohio-reared singer to reacquaint herself with her country roots, especially when she picks up pen, paper and a guitar.
“I write a lot of country songs,” King tells Rolling Stone Country. “And I enjoy writing country music, because it brings out a different type of voice for me. I write a lot of heartbreak songs … I like to sing about getting drunk and getting my heart broken.”
While King can’t say if those new songs will ever see the inside of a recording studio, she admits she is already considering the direction of her next album, the follow-up to 2015’s Love Stuff.
“I would love nothing more than to put out a country album. I put out a pop-rock album – I did that. This record cycle is coming to a close and I’m about to make Album 2,” she says. “It’ll be interesting to see how this change affects me. Because everything affects you as a musician.”
During the promotional push for “Different for Girls,” King and Bentley bonded over a shared appreciation for bluegrass. King has an affinity for the banjo (“I don’t play traditional bluegrass, but I can do rolls and fake my way through it and play fast enough that people think I’m OK,” she quips) and Bentley released the bluegrass-inspired album Up on the Ridge in 2010. His duet partner says that such a risky creative move distinguishes Bentley in Nashville.
“He loves bluegrass. And that is something that is kind of lost,” she says. “But he also loves old-school country. That’s why we get along.”
As for her CMA nomination, King views it as validation – not for herself, but for the unconventional pairing and the song’s writers, J.T. Harding and Shane McAnally.
“It’s something that is really special that shows an awesome effort I made with a new friend. It’s evidence that what we made really is cool,” King says.
Adds Bentley: “I walk into the CMAs this year with my head pretty high, proud of representing a great song – and I have her next to me, so I feel like a rock star.”