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Mrs White's daunting debut

Karen Elson teams up with husband Jack for new album

  • 29/04/2010
  • Rodrigo Davies
Karen Elson (photo by Kate Elson)

Jack White’s wife Karen Elson says recording her debut album with her husband was “daunting.”

The Oldham-born model turned singer-songwriter has recently completed The Ghost Who Walks, with the White Stripes man on production duties.

Elson told 6 Music she’s been writing music for many years, but it took a long time for her to link up with her other half.

“Jack is who Jack is, and I was very nervous to even play him my songs at first.”

“Jack would overhear me over the course of a year and wouldn’t tell me. Eventually he said ‘play me the songs, we’re going into the studio tomorrow.’”

She was originally part of a cabaret troupe called the Citizens Band in New York, but decided to take up recording seriously when she moved to Nashville, where she now lives with White and their two children.

“When I moved to Nashville I wanted to start from scratch,” she said.

“I’d been writing songs for quite some time. I made a bunch of really iffy demos on my four-track, but I’d never play them for anybody because they’d laugh at me, probably.”

But finding a place to begin working on her own music away from the prying ears of friends and Jack proved to be extremely difficult, Elson revealed.

“I have a walk-in wardrobe and that’s the only quiet place in our house. It was the only place I felt peace and quiet where nobody could listen.”

Elson’s first major recording was a duet with Cat Power on a cover version of Serge Gainsbourg’s I Love You (Me Neither), released on a tribute album to the French chanteur in 2006.

White’s skill in the studio was decisive in persuading her to complete her first album with him, according to Elson.

“He’s brilliant in the studio and he challenged me. He handed me a guitar, stood me in front of a mic with a bunch of brilliant musicians who I’d known.”

“Jack records all to tape, he doesn’t use any sort of gimmickery, so a lot of the takes on the record are live takes. Jack forced me to do it, but it was the best medicine.”

The album features White on drums, The Dead Weather’s Jack Lawrence on bass and My Morning Jacket’s Carl Broemel on pedal steel guitar.

White first met Elson when she featured in the video for the White Stripes’ song Blue Orchid – they married in Brazil in June 2005.

Despite some initial scepticism though, Elson said she has no regrets about working with her husband.

“It sounds like it could have been a recipe for disaster, but ultimately it was a really great time.”

“Him teaching me how to drive was much worse. I think he’s still scared when he’s in a car with me.”

The Ghost Who Walks is released on May 25th on Third Man Records.

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