Pop is glittery, girly and gay again thanks to Missouri-native Chappell Roan. She just released her first full-length album, The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess, on September 22.
Some of Roan’s popular tracks include “Pink Pony Club,” and this summer’s cheerleader inspired anthem “HOT TO GO!” The songs are thematic, dramatic and glamorous, with call-and-response hooks, sensational synths and dancefloor worthy beats. Roan shares playlists online that contain songs that inspire a few of her singles. I was delighted to find Fiona Apple, MUNA, Smashing Pumpkins and Ethel Cain, a few of my favorites with a completely different sound from Chappell, scattered throughout those playlists.
When I saw that her current tour brings her through Florida — Orlando and Fort Lauderdale — I knew I had to see a performance live. Every few stops have a theme that relates to one of her songs, for example, Orlando’s show encourages the audience to come dressed as angels or devils for “Guilty Pleasures,” and Fort Lauderdale’s is red and black for “My Kink Is Karma.”
I had the chance to speak to the Midwest Princess via telephone, and we talked about the planning and logistics of her tour, her preference for independent venues, the need for inclusivity at her shows and more. It was an enjoyable, sometimes emotional, conversation. Below are highlights.
How have local venues helped you while building out your tour plan and starting your career?
Local venues just rock so much more than massive company buildings. The smaller venues are much more fun to play. A lot more personal, you can see everyone in the room and really just get to know the staff more since it’s so much smaller. We’re very lucky to have so many promoters with open arms and allowing my show to happen. It’s very very cool.
I noticed that on past tours you had local drag queens open for you. Do you plan on doing that on this tour?
Yep! We have local Orlando and Fort Lauderdale queens. That’s probably one of the most fulfilling parts of the tour, seeing the queens and giving them the platform. They really are just the best openers. I don’t have to do any work getting the energy up for the crowd. When they walk out on the stage, it’s the most exciting fun party feeling. Everybody usually knows the songs they’re performing. It’s really fun to see that, to create the space.
It was truly a joy to find out about your tour. When you see another small-town queer person “make it big,” it’s encouraging, even if you’re not from the same state.
I think that’s the whole point of this project, honestly, just creating that fun space that you and I really needed.
If you could give any piece of advice to younger teens or artists that grow up in these areas [Midwest and the south] what would it be, or what was the advice that you learned that helped you during that time?
The thing that helped me was knowing good art always rises. It’s very true. I think that when you’re young all you’re doing is just making art because you need to make art, and then as you get older the more critical you get of yourself. For young people in the Midwest, just get to know yourself. I think that’s what I found very hard, just letting myself try different forms of art because I was so embarrassed.
There are so many communities online that would love to have a young queer person from the Midwest as part of their group. For me, it was really difficult to feel accepted. That’s ultimately why I left to [go to] LA. It didn’t feel safe for me there. Obviously, it’s not possible for everyone to leave their hometown for various reasons. I guess just allow yourself to be gentle. Make art that you don’t need to criticize as much. Let the critiques come later. Do what makes you feel good, that’s also what I wish I would’ve done. I don’t know if you’ve listened to much of the older discography?
It’s way darker. It didn’t make me happy to sing, it didn’t make me happy to write, it just wasn’t even fun to perform. Once I started doing things that made me happy it felt like freedom. That’s where my career started flourishing. And I wish looking back, that’s what I would’ve done in the first place, you know?
Anything else you want your fans in Florida to know about the shows here, especially considering the current anti-LGBTQIA+ rhetoric in the state?
I don’t want them to feel like I don’t recognize how hard it is. I know what they’re going through right now, like I understand. The governor of Missouri is not far off. I feel the pain. When I come to Florida, just know that this is meant as relief for that. If you end up coming to the show, just know you will be okay there, you will be accepted, not only will you be accepted, but you’ll be celebrated for who you are. Drag will be there and celebrated. And I want you there no matter what you dress up as or no matter what you identify as. Everyone will be excited to see you, even if they don’t know you.
It’s so amazing and exciting to have people like you touring through our state, sometimes artists just skip it completely, so it means a lot.
I know, it’s hard to get in and out of Florida, but I’m the Midwest Princess! I have to uphold my Southern and Midwest cities, because a lot of people skip over those cities and a lot of times it’s hard –
It’s for the kids in the small town who can’t leave, who are gay, who need these concerts the most, and it’s so easy to skip over there because “oh it’s not a big enough market.” I don’t care. I am one of them so I need to see them. I’m very very excited for Florida, I haven’t played it in years. I can’t wait to see you guys.