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Friday, December 08, 2023
Chappel Roan Q&A
Courtesy of Ryan Clemens

The Midwest Princess is Back

A Q&A with “slumber party pop girl” Chappell Roan

Part-time popstar, full-time princess Chappell Roan is finally giving the Midwest the attention it deserves. Roan’s first full-length album “The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess” debuted on September 22. Now, Roan is back in the Midwest from Los Angeles for the first leg of her tour, which started last Friday. 

Roan is quickly rocketing to pop stardom, but her path to success has not always been an easy one. She grew up in a small town in Missouri without the queer representation she later found in LA. Following a cross-country move and the release of her hit single, “Pink Pony Club,” Roan was dropped from her label and forced to move back in with her parents. 

“The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess” took four years to create, but the result is a perfect 49 minutes of music that blends cheeky relatability with cool-girl anthems you’ll want to listen to on repeat. 

The album starts off with a song that proves Roan isn’t afraid to be extra. “Femininomenon” is campy and fresh, putting into words how we all feel about “online love.” 

But Roan doesn’t only do pop anthems. “Kaleidoscope” is a soft ballad Roan wrote alone that showcases both her vocals and songwriting ability. 

“It just kind of proved to me that I can write songs by myself that I love,” Roan told The Daily Cardinal. “And I’m just really proud of it.”

The Midwest Princess tour brings the West Hollywood vibe that Roan originally left Missouri to find to cities all over the country with rotating themes, local drag queen entertainment and high-energy performances.

The Cardinal spoke with the queer popstar about her songwriting process, impeccable style and drag persona. She shared advice for other queer people growing up in small towns, revealed her inspirations and discussed her plans for the future (more fun shows!). Roan brings her glittery collection of pop songs to The Rave in Milwaukee on Tuesday, October 3.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. 

How does it feel to be coming back to the Midwest?

I think it’s only the right thing to do. Considering the tour name and the album name, and it's where I was born. I feel it’s very important to consider the Midwest because a lot of tours don't hit it. I know on this tour I'm not hitting a ton of places, but the Spring Tour, I’m definitely hitting a lot of the Midwest. There are a lot of queer kids who need this, too. So I think it is very important and very exciting.

This tour is your second headline tour ever. What are you looking forward to? And what should fans expect? 

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It's a blast. Last tour was super fun. I learned a lot. Every night genuinely feels like a party. I have a lot of fun. We're doing themes again, so you get to dress up. I have a lot of outfits that I travel with. I mean, I just love doing shows. I also love touring in general. I'm really lucky that I like it. 

Can you describe the environment at one of your shows?

It's pretty similar across the board — it’s a feeling of party fun. We have local drag queens opening every show, and they get the energy up immediately. The feeling is very electric. Everyone's dressed up, so it's a very collective, fun vibe.

You've said before that Chappell Roan is almost like a drag persona to you. How is Chappell different than Kayleigh? 

I think that Chappell is a very confident, sexy, loud version of myself, Kayleigh. I'm very introverted. I like a lot of quiet time and alone time. I don't dress super loud outside of travel. It's honestly a drag version of myself, a kind of theatrical party girl, I would say.

How do you approach the songwriting process?

I just get inspired by daydreams that I have or fun words that I’ll pick up and write down. Super Graphic Ultra Modern was in an Architectural Digest video that I heard someone use to describe a design. I was like, “Ooh, that's cool.” I get inspired by movies or relationships or words. I try to just keep a lookout for everything around me that seems inspiring.

Would you say that your sound and your approach to the songwriting process has changed over the years?

I think I was really hypercritical of myself as a writer when I was younger. As I've gotten older, I've become more gentle and understanding, and my sound is vastly different than when I started. I was very dark, heavy, angsty, ballady pop. Now I'm more of a slumber party pop girl. I think that changed as I got happier and felt better about myself. The music just changed with that.

Who is this album for?  

I had Midwest queer girls in mind. Girls like me who needed this when I was younger. [I wanted] someone who grew up in a town that wasn't very accepting [to know] that there was someone that understood them and celebrated them. I believe that the album will reach whoever it's meant to reach. I wrote it for whoever needs to hear it. I think specifically the queer community who maybe doesn't have a community in their small town. 

Do you have any advice for people who might be in a similar situation growing up in the Midwest and being queer?

There are more people in your town that are like you than you think. It's going to be okay. Don't feel pressure to stay. There's a big world outside of where you're from, and there are communities where you can be openly queer and safer and accepted. 

Is there any song you're particularly proud of on this album? 

I'm proud of Kaleidoscope. I wrote that one alone. It proved to me that I can write songs by myself that I love. I’m really proud of it.

You have such impeccable style. How have you developed your personal style and how do you think it reflects your music?

I'm really inspired by Hannah Montana and Bratz dolls and things that I would have loved when I was little. Glitzy, sparkly, loud colors. Campy drag clothes. Very extra. I'm inspired by my 10 year old self. 

Has there been anything that's been particularly challenging in creating this album? 

It's been four years. I think the most difficult part was being dropped, running out of money, moving back home with my parents and balancing part-time jobs. Persistence was difficult for me. It's really hard to keep going when you just have no idea what's going to happen. 

What does the future look like for you? 

I’m gently moving into writing again. It's difficult on tour to kind of settle down and do that. Next year I’m opening for Olivia Rodrigo. And in between shows I’m doing some headline shows. We have festivals lined up for next year. There’s a lot of fun shows lined up for next year. I try not to think too much outside of touring just because I genuinely don't know what's going to happen.

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