DEBORAH AMOS, host:

Now we're going to hear some music from a performer better known for her looks. For more than a decade, Karen Elson has appeared on magazine covers and runways as a top fashion model. But these days, it's her voice that's attracting attention.

(Soundbite of song, "Pretty Babies")

Ms. KAREN ELSON (Singer, Model): (Singing) Got me hanging on a string, honey. Got me hanging for dear life.

AMOS: Elson's debut album was produced by her husband, the rock musician Jack White. They married in 2005, and when she describes her home life, it's easy to imagine how she got into the act.

Ms. ELSON: Jack built an amazing studio in our back garden. So, you know, on any given day, there's always a collection of rascals and musicians sort of traipsing in and out of our house.

(Soundbite of song, "Pretty Babies")

Ms. ELSON: (Singing) All to you, you take my breath, my last request...

AMOS: In fact, Elson's been cultivating her music for years. Modeling carried her from a gritty English factory town to New York, where she started performing. She sang cabaret and performed backup vocals for the likes of Robert Plant. And she started writing songs, but she kept them private - even after marrying White.

(Soundbite of song, "The Birds They Circle")

Ms. ELSON: (Singing) The birds, they circle in the sky...

I don't know. I felt really anxious about sharing them with anybody - not just Jack, because I felt a lot of insecurity about maybe me being a model, also, me being Jack's wife. But Jack overhead me quite a few times singing my songs, and eventually, he accosted me and said, let's go into the studio and record them. Stop being so self-conscious.

AMOS: So the couple headed to the back garden and started recording. The result: a roots-rock album with a bit of a dark side.

(Soundbite of song, "The Ghost Who Walks")

Ms. ELSON: (Singing) The ghost who walks, she's on the prowl.

We recorded, I think, "The Ghost Who Walks," first of all. And it's a story about a woman who's madly in love with a young man and ultimately, he takes her for a drive to the lake. And under the moonlight, he kills her, which...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. ELSON: ...obviously isn't about my life. But I love a good, Gothic tale.

(Soundbite of song, "The Ghost Who Walks")

Ms. ELSON: (Singing) She looked at him with pleading eyes. He softly spoke, my dear, the love has died.

AMOS: Elson says she knows her music career is bound to raise eyebrows, but she plans to tour and continue recording, and keep modeling, too.

Ms. ELSON: I think there's room for both. I really do.

(Soundbite of song, "The Ghost Who Walks")

AMOS: Karen Elson's album is called "The Ghost Who Walks."

(Soundbite of song, "The Ghost Who Walks")

Ms. ELSON: (Singing) The ghost who walks, she's on the prowl, wanders in the moonlight, she's crying to herself 'cause his eyes never once looked cruel, but the moon in the blade, it shimmered like a jewel. She looked at...

AMOS: This is NPR News.

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