Courtney Love defied expectations by turning in an articulate, self-effacing appearance at Grey’s 8th Annual Music Seminar with Tor Myhron. While the subjects of advertising and drugs were off the table, Courtney gladly spoke at length about her chequered music career. “I’ve failed twice with records, and it leaves a shitty taste in my mouth,” she says. “I want to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”
In order to stay motivated and inspired, Courtney turns to such diverse subjects as Ancient Egypt, numerology and quantum physics, in addition to listening to “superior” songwriters like Dylan and Cohen. “I’m driven by competition,” she says, and cites PJ Harvey’s The Last Living Rose as an example of a beautifully composed song which she wishes she could have written.
In addition to creating and performing new material, Courtney is also considering returning to acting, although she is profoundly aware of the differences between the worlds of filmmaking and rock’n’roll. “It took me twenty years to bury the hatchet with Dave Grohl,” she says, “and me and Billy Corgan have had our public ups and downs.” But the pressure of being the star (or business asset) of a film is that you are obliged to tell everybody that your director or co-star is a genius, “even if he was smoking crack in his trailer the whole time.”
Confidence and optimism were crucial in Courtney’s early career. She recalls approaching Andy Warhol when she was a total nobody, and asking that he take her picture. Something about her “moxy” appealed to him, and he obliged. It was this same certainty in her own specialness that led to Hole getting rave reviews, even when they were just an opening act for Nine Inch Nails. “When you’re young,” she says, “the gods are really listening.”
Touring with Nine Inch Nails gave Courtney a keen insight into how artists can scope out their competitors and find vulnerabilities. In the case of the tour, it was the complexity and spectacle of Nine Inch Nails’ meticulously designed and stage-managed live shows. As a supporting act, Courtney and her band could mix up their set lists, engage with the crowd, and give each audience a more unique and authentic experience.
A lot has changed since then, of course. While her personal life has always been under the spotlight (according to her daughter Frances, being part of Kurt Cobain’s family legacy is “like being related to Santa Claus”), these days every celebrity is expected to manage their image on a panoply of platforms. Courtney admits that she doesn’t consciously work on her brand, and that social media has been something of a learning curve. “After calling out a lawyer for being a crook, I had to work hard to make my Twitter feed more user-friendly,” she says. “And look! Now I’m DMing with Miley.”
Courtney ended the session with an acoustic rendition of Never Go Hungry Again, and some words of wisdom which can be applied to artists and advertisers alike: “Everything that becomes true starts with a manifesto.”