How Did Elle King Become a Country Singer?

Elle King has quickly become one of the biggest new names in country music. To say she’s a breath of fresh air in a genre that can sometimes get a little stale is an understatement. Despite how natural a fit she is here, though, country music wasn’t always King’s calling. Prior to her chart-topping and CMA win, she was active in a different genre altogether.

Elle King smiling
Elle King | Christopher Polk/Getty Images

King’s initial fame didn’t come from country music

King seemed primed for success almost from birth, given her famous actor father, Rob Schneider, though the eventual country singer has made it a point not to rely on him to get ahead. She’s tried to hack it on her own and, to her credit, did just that. Initially, this success wasn’t in country, but in rock music.

Her music career started around ten years ago with the release of The Elle King EP. Ironically, the four songs included were much more country than most of her other early music. In particular, the song “Playing for Keeps” (used as the theme for the show Mob Wives Chicago) has a sound that’s every bit a quintessential folk classic.

It wouldn’t be for another few years that she’d really start to get attention, however. Her song “Ex’s & Oh’s” was the most popular of her new songs and marked a turn in the rock scene. By 2016, it received two Grammy nominations.

After some early success, she made the jump into the new genre

While King was still undeniably going strong in the world of rock, it wasn’t where she felt most at home. Switching things up, she jumped straight into the deep end with her song “Different for Girls” with Dierks Bentley. Despite being her first country song, it was a chart-topping hit that garnered no less than six award nominations, going on to win the CMA for Musical Event of the Year.

From there, the path forward was set. King’s new success in the genre prompted her to shift gears away from pop and rock. As good as her previous work was, it was undeniable that her country songs were even better and got her the acclaim she deserved.

Her second award win came in this period a few years later when she took her the ACM for Music Event of the Year for her collaborative cover of the classic “Fooled Around and Fell in Love.”

Most recently, her song “Drunk (And I Don’t Wanna Go Home)” has blazed past any of her previous successes. A duet with country legend Miranda Lambert, it became King’s second song to hit #1 on the charts upon release, as well as her second song to earn her a Grammy nomination for Best Country Duo/Group Performance.

Now that she’s established her sound, King says she’s found a home in the genre

Any artist who’s seen such huge success in a genre would naturally want to stick around for a while, and that’s exactly what King has said she intends to do. In a talk with Country 102.5, she discussed her successes and her plans for the future.

King expressed shock at how far she’d gone in the genre. “Never in a million years would I have ever thought that a song that I wrote when I was about 24 years old would ever have the life that it has.” She also gave a shoutout to Lambert, who she’s since become good friends with, in addition to musical collaborators.

She ended the interview with a decisive declaration, “I’m in country. Elle King’s here to stay.” With that in mind, we can definitely expect even more hits from her going forward.

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