Midwest princess turned L.A. pop superstar, Chappell Roan is as inspiring as her music is catchy. Her upbringing in the Midwest, specifically in a conservative, small-town environment, played a major role in shaping her perspective on life and her artistic identity, often incorporating elements such as cowboys, cheerleaders, clowns, and devils, drawing from her experiences in her hometown. Her persona is both a celebration of queer culture and a noncompliance confrontation against those who rejected her. Projecting the future she wants to see in the world is at the centre of her ethos, it’s in her music and at her shows which remain a safe environment for everyone and anyone to express themselves freely. And one other thing about Chappell Roan? She does not take sh*t from anyone. Don’t come for her character, because she will respond with a simple, classy report & block, as she should.
In all her campy charm and glory, Chappell Roan talks to me about playing arenas, her personal mission to create a safe space for the girls, gays, and theys in the face of drag bans, and shares her sweet advice for aspiring artists.
The rise of The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess:
It has taken four years to get to where it is now. It reflected my life in a campy way. A lot of the songs are, well, all of the songs are inspired by true events and true feelings. There’s not one song that is completely made out of thin air. I think it just reflects my journey of finding myself, moving to L.A., and discovering what makes me happy. And what doesn’t make me happy as well. They inspire different concepts and then I pull what’s exciting to me or what sounds good and mesh the two together. It’s very inspiring to be discovering new parts of yourself and I channel my feelings and big events into songs. It’s a really natural process.
Her formative years in the Midwest and choosing music:
I got signed as I was growing up when I was 17. It was a very big part of my teenage years, music was my whole identity. I’m the girl who sings in school. I started in eighth grade, I was 13 or 14. Even before this, I was a very angry, difficult child because I was very mentally ill and I feel like there wasn’t really a game plan for children who are mentally ill. People just perceived me as a brat all the time. Really, I was just severely bipolar, very defiant, and grew up in a place where there were a lot of rules. So, of course, I didn’t fit in, there was a lot of, “Oh, girls act like this and girls are with boys, and after high school, you get married and you have a baby by 23 and there’s God—God is everything. And Jesus!”, whatever la la la. It was really difficult for me growing up there because I felt like I was never enough. But, I’m glad I grew up there because I understand the culture of the Midwest and I think a lot of times people just like to label it as one thing. There are a ton of queer kids there and a ton of trans people who really need help, visibility, and uplifting.
On fostering inclusive and safe spaces for self-expression in the face of drag bans:
I mean, it’s kind of my whole thing. I want to make concerts where people can dress up and feel safe. I can only try my best with these things and it’s really up to the audience at my shows to be accepting and gentle with each other. I think it’s the most important thing, especially right now, there are a lot of weird drag bans going on that just don’t make any sense and it’s just a complete ban on self-expression in general. In states like Tennessee, you can’t dress up as a drag queen. If you are a man, you can’t dress up as a woman. It’s pretty crazy. What it is is just an attack on trans people, straight up. If it says male on your birth certificate, then you better dress like that and act like that, or else you can go to jail or get fined. It’s so crazy. My show tonight is 18 plus, adult vibes only because it’s like cabaret, a sexual performance which is crazy because drag’s not even that, I don’t know. I’m telling you, It makes no sense for a reason. I just want to create a space where self-expression is celebrated and you should be able to bring whoever you want, kiss whoever you want, and feel safe for the couple of hours that you’re spending with me at the show and I try my best to create that. I think that’s kind of what drives this whole project honestly.
Unleashing playful, campy pop music:
I want to make fun songs that are bold, very campy, and honor whatever my inner artist wants to do. A lot of the time it’s just silliness. It’s pop music, why do we need to take this so seriously? Why do we need to pretend that this is life or death? I’m just trying to have fun. I read a comment that was like, “This is Cocomelon music,” and I was like, “Girl, you don’t know what the word camp means”. There’s a lot of editing within my music, these songs take years and we rewrite them and the song kind of does at the end of the day write itself in a way and if it happens to be funny or really serious, I write it.
How she deals with “this is Cocomelon music” and other troll-adjacent comments:
Report and block. I’m not dealing with it. I don’t have to, I can’t read them anymore. It really makes me upset because people will attack. I don’t care if they attack the music or whatever. It’s art. It’s supposed to be critiqued, but it’s when they attack me as a person or the audience in the video. You don’t need to do that when they come for your character, it’s way out of left field.
Working with Dan Nigro:
I love working with Dan. I’ve been working with him for five years and what I love about him is that he always pushes me to be better. He has such good ideas and I feel like our relationship has just gotten better and better over the years where we both bring such different perspectives to the table. It just works. I think that’s what makes us really strong is how different we are and when we come together it feels so easy and natural to write music.
On spilling her guts on the ‘GUTS’ Tour with Olivia Rodrigo:
I’m just excited to play in this big of rooms. This will be 20,000, 30,000 people. I’ve never played that before even when I opened for her in San Francisco last year. It was about 9000 people and I was looking out thinking that was a lot. I’m just so excited to play arenas. This has been a dream of mine forever. I’m excited to just be silly. I love opening because the pressure is not on me at all and I get to be silly and do my little 40-minute set, and then she can go be a pop star after. We’re trying to work on some remixes for clubs of some of my songs and I’m trying to get back into the writing vibe on tour—it’s very difficult to find time to do that. Right now I’m just trying to tour.
Her sweet advice for aspiring artists:
I would say, be gentle with yourself and allow yourself to write songs that you maybe don’t think are great or not even songs — to create pieces of art. I would say just try not to critique yourself the way that you were taught to critique yourself. Be really gentle and allow your inner artist to be whoever they want to be. Whether or not you think it’s good or bad, just you have to let her speak for herself.
Chappell Roan is currently on her tour for “The Rise and Fall of A Midwest Princess”. See her perform in a city near you:
Hollywood Theatre — Vancouver, BC.
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