Courtney Love Explains How Timbaland Dealt With Her Limited Vocal Range On Empire

Girls star Jemima Kirke interviewed Courtney Love for the latest issue of Citizens Of Humanity, and if you’re familiar with Kirke’s character Jessa on the show and Love’s reputation, then you know that they’re an ideal duo. Kirke asked dozens of questions on a variety of topics, but it’s especially interesting to read what Love had to say about working with Timbaland to prepare for her role as Elle Dallas in the popular FOX series Empire. Apparently, Timbaland had to tweak a lot of the songs that he produced for Love’s character in order to suit her voice:

I saw you in Empire. Courtney, you were so fucking good! I was blown away!
Oh, thank you!

It’s just your singing—you singing was my favorite part. It was your voice, it was your style, it was the way you sang painfully, you know, so that was awesome. When you got sent that role, did you immediately want to do that?
Yeah! I didn’t get sent that role, though.

Did you pursue them?
I didn’t pursue — more like stalk. I wrote Lee Daniels and said: “Hi, I’m a big fan. Love, Courtney Love,” and like two minutes later my phone rings and it was Lee Daniels and he said: “I’m doing this little show; no one knows if it’s going to be a hit or not, but will you take a part on it?” and I said: “Absolutely, what’s the part?” and it was supposed to be R&B, and I can’t sing R&B. It’s kind of a really funny story: Initially, he wanted me to sing this Patti LaBelle song that not even Patti LaBelle can sing anymore, with such crazy high Mariah notes, right, and there were like four or five Fox executives on the phone and I sang it to Lee and Lee said, “That’s great,” but I sang it to these Fox executives. It’s called “Messing with My Mind.” It’s not a hit, it’s like a deep cut, and they were cringing, like, “Oh my god, you can’t sing that.” I was so bad at it. So then they sent me down to Timbaland to Hit Factory and we came to the compromise that I would sing “Take Me to the River.” So I came down to Hit Factory in Miami and the first night Timbaland was all, “What is the deal with this girl who can’t hit notes?” and he’s very musically intelligent, but I was like, well, “You know, think Patti Smith, think Bob Dylan,” and he said, “OK, I get it, I get it,” but it was really funny for the first two hours. He was like, “Well, can you hit this note?” and I’m like, “No, I’ve never hit that note.”

But I think it’s great that you took it on knowing you probably couldn’t deliver on it and you made it you. I think a good actor is not somebody who can do anything they’re asked to do, but someone who can take it and make it doable for them.
Yeah, it did de?finitely change the character to a rock singer more like Joplin or Stevie Nicks more than a Mariah singer.

You can check out the rest of the very conversational interview over at Citizens Of Humanity.