My Life In Music: Machine Gun Kelly

My Life in Music: Machine Gun Kelly | Soho House

The American artist reveals the influences that have shaped his own unique blend of rap rock

Friday 7 October 2022   By James Williams

American rapper, singer-songwriter and actor Colson Baker, aka Machine Gun Kelly, is having a moment. The 32-year-old, who hails from Cleveland, Ohio has cornered his very own genre with his unique blend of rap rock, collaborating along the way with everyone from Pusha T and Wiz Khalifa to French Montana and Travis Barker. He’s prolific too, having produced six albums in the past decade alone, culminating with the Favourite Rock Star accolade at the 2021 American Music Awards and a recent sold-out European tour. 

And if that wasn’t enough, he’s engaged to Megan Fox. Together, the pair have a combined social media following in excess of 20 million. Here, Kelly sits down with Soho House to reveal all the artists, songs and albums that have made him the world-beating performer he is today.

Can you remember when you first discovered your love for music? 
‘Probably when I was watching Wayne’s World for the first time as a kid and Bohemian Rhapsody came on while they’re driving in the car. They are all banging their heads and singing in unison. The song was like a rollercoaster in tempo and vibe – I was like, I want to feel whatever they’re feeling.’

What was the first album you ever bought and do you still listen to it?
Hybrid Theory by Linkin Park, and hell yes I still listen to it. Great music never ages. I was fortunate enough to tour with them before Chester passed away and got to sing a song from that album with them.’

Are you from a musical family? 
‘Neither of my parents were musicians. My dad listened to Celtic music and Elvis, but my mom had a more eclectic catalogue – I can’t remember specifics though.’

What’s your ultimate comfort track? 
‘“If I Ruled The World” by Nas and Lauryn Hill or “Under The Bridge” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.’

Do you ever listen back to your own music? If so, which track means the most to you and why? 
‘All the time. You can’t have fans if you aren’t a fan yourself. The song that represented the way I always felt as an outcast was “Papercuts”, which featured on my most recent album, Mainstream Sellout. But “Lonely” and “Glass House” are the two songs that put my personal issues and losses into words.’ 

Who would you say were your key musical influences?
‘On the guitar, it would be Prince and Kurt Cobain. With my songwriting, Nas, DMX, Robert Smith, and too many others to name. And with the melodies, all my peers currently.’

If you could play one instrument that you don’t currently play, what would it be? 
‘The accordion. Duh.’ 
What’s your favourite gig memory?
‘Crying from an outpouring of gratitude and nervousness in front of a sold-out stadium in my hometown of Cleveland.’

If you had to pick a soundtrack to your life, what would it be?
The Prince Of Egypt.’

What’s your pre-performance ritual?

‘I pick out which crystal I’ll keep in my pocket for the show. I roll a couple cigarettes. I touch the ground near the stage and ask permission to bring a legendary show that night. And my bandmates and I put all our hands in a group circle backstage and scream the same song lyric together every night.’

Machine Gun Kelly’s album, Mainstream Sellout, is available now.

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