Andrew H. Walker, Getty For many people, All Hallow's Eve is a time to…
- Posted on Jun 13th 2012 3:30PM by Dan Reilly
Joshua Black Wilkins
Chatty, friendly and a bit jittery from ingesting a few cups of coffee, she sounds more like an up-and-coming artist rather than someone who's recorded with Jack White, toured as Wanda Jackson's bassist and appeared on "The Colbert Report." And, as Jean assures us, their image isn't just some artistic put-on.
"Across the board, we all have this long black hair and bangs look," she says. "And one day there was a broom in the studio, and we were like, 'We should just do witchy things' [laughs]. No, I don't know how it came about. We all like the gothy thing going on. We don't poke fun at it but we think it's a fun image to grasp. It's just natural for us."
Prior to the Black Belles, Jean was recording as a solo surf rocker under the moniker Idee Fixe, and first met White in Detroit when she was 19.
"I went to go see a Dead Weather show and I was handing out albums [laughs] in the audience and somehow it got to him," she says. "He liked my solo stuff, so he asked me to come down to Third Man and play on some session work. That's where I met all the other girls in the band. We just clicked and started playing together and Jack decided to produce our first."
Well before they released their self-titled album, the Belles found themselves exposed to a national audience, thanks to their Colbert appearance. On the episodes, they worked with the host to record a new version of his new wave song, "Charlene (I'm Right Behind You)" and donned matching Colbert-like suits.
"Yeah, we were really excited about the suits," Jean says. "He's a very nice person but the way you see him on TV, that's his personality. He's super funny, but he's really nice and was super open-minded to all our ideas. He seemed really excited to be in the studio. The personality you see on his show doesn't stop off-camera."
Aside from that performance, Jean also performed to larger audiences as a bassist for Jackson and White's ex-wife, Karen Elson.
"I think it was also to help me get a little experience being in front of those types of crowds because this is somewhat new to me, this whole world," she says. "It was a great experience and I'm glad I did it, and he knew I love Wanda Jackson, so it was like a giant present to be able to play bass with her."
Thankfully, Jean hasn't felt any resentment or jealousy from fellow musicians due to White's help.
"We don't really think about that. We're just doing what we like to do," she says. "If questions arise about what it's like to work with Jack, we love working with Jack. He's been nothing but helpful to us. He's been a friend and mentor since the beginning, but I don't think other people think it's weird that we've had this upper hand. We all played music before we started this thing and we're just doing what we love and we got given a really huge gift by being able to be part of this project and we just work really hard and we try to share that with other bands. We're trying to work hard and if Jack's going to be behind us and help us and support us, we just look at in a positive light."
Now, all the experience is paying off, and Jean is growing as a frontwoman.
"I've become a lot more comfortable with this band because we've recently started touring more. It's still really intimidating sometimes to play in front of some of these size crowds," she says. "But we're having a lot of fun and we're improving more and more the more we play, trying to give the people a good show."