Born and raised in Springfield, Missouri the singer, songwriter professionally known as Chappell Roan is the people's Midwest Princess. The now LA based artist is truly the next multi-faceted force in pop music. Her bold pop sound with honest songwriting and unique drag queen inspired campy aesthetic has captured the hearts of listeners everywhere. Her career started when she was only 17 after being discovered after posting videos of herself singing covers on YouTube, she was signed to Atlantic Records. Now signed to Island Records, in 2022 Chappell released one of her most popular hits, “Pink Pony Club” racking up 16 million streams on spotify the synth-pop smash hit about a small town girl who dreams of the queer wonderland of West Hollywood, with lyrics: I heard that there’s a special place, Where boys and girls can all be queens every single day. Now 25, she has released her debut EP The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess and is opening for Olivia Rodrigo and Fletcher on tours across the country.
Roan is known for cultivating a welcoming and accepting environment for the crowd through her electrifying performances. With the upcoming tour she has set dress up themes for each date creating a interactive experience that makes her shows so community oriented . I recently attended a press conference to celebrate the release of her debut album and she spoke on how inspiration stuck to include these themes & drag performers in her tour. Chappell said, “I have always wanted to do themes, like for the drag queen aspect I got that from Oravell Peck, I saw him perform at the troubadour in west hollywood and he had this drag queen named Meatball who is actually in the Pink Pony Club video. He had her open and I was like ‘oh my god I am doing that’ it was like 2018 and I was like I have to do that one day, and I did and it's so fun. But along with that if kind of goes along with all the campiness I love dressing up. Halloween is the only day that everyone gets to do that, and I was just like there are so many places in the country the only day they get to wear rainbow is at pride. Or they can’t in any other way or even like kink- kink is karma [the song] encourages people to wear what makes you feel hot, what makes you feel sexy, something that's not appropriate to wear anywhere else. The themes are an opportunity for everyone to dress up and the show is not only on stage it's in line, at the merch table, next to you, front row it builds such a community. I love it so much!"
Chappell's unique campy style is one of the aspects that makes her such a stand out in today's vast world of pop music in music videos, and cover art so how does she navigate creative freedom when working with her label? Chappell said, “it's interesting now because I have less obstacles, but when I was independent I had freedom but there were limitations with money, and I was creatively free. I feel like I am definitely steering the ship like, I don’t have anyone telling me what I can and can't do and now that there's no monetary restrictions it is almost like theres so many options i’m like- it’s kinda crazy I feel like I have such a solid identity within my project and what feels good and what I know is right and what my gut is telling me. And that's what guides my creative partners, the outfits, the color palettes because I am free to do that even with being signed to Island records. I was very upfront before I signed just saying I will be doing what I want so just know that and it works! I don't really have to answer to anyone because it works and it [her creative vision] has proved to work the last two years. So yeah I am all for artist creative control but you definitely have to know what you want that's the #1 thing."
How does she navigate representing her sexuality while also trying to amplify other lgbtq+ voices? She discussed, “I am in the lgbtq+ community so having a voice that's being supported by other people is like- even just having someone that pushes through
as a queer person I think is really amazing. Obviously queer people right now are being targeted in every way so I don't expect other queer artists to do anything more than just live, but because there is pressure especially for women and queer people to do more than just being simply queer. My art is queer and my crew is mostly queer on tour, I work with mostly queer directors, like I obviously have drag queens opening for me, I donate a percentage to for the gworls which is a black trans charity. Queer people have each other's back, I don't expect other queer people to do what I'm doing. I just want to see queer kids make it out alive right now. That is what I want and I can do the best I can but at the end of the day as long as we are here and we're queer! [laughing] its kind of how I look at it.”
Chappell's real name is Kayleigh, so with having this larger than life alter ego that evolves asked, how do you navigate the Chappell Ronan we see on stage and the person that exists between shows, do you create boundaries for you and your art? Or has the lines become more blurred the more you perform or write more? She thought for a second and responded, “I would love to know the answer to that. To know how to create boundaries. Personally I don’t know of any artist who has that answer down perfectly. I think that has to do with any work job, like it is like drag like i'm in drag I do drag but it just happens Chappell is my drag name my real name Kayleigh. I'm in drag every night doing and performing my own songs. The hard part is finding peace and stepping away because it is so much larger than life and it is so exhausting to be this character and to be so extravagant and loud and sexy and my personality is a sliver of that, so I think as I have gotten more, consumed in the- as i've become more consumed in my work it is harder and harder the busier I get the harder the boundaries become to uphold. Every artist I think struggles in finding a healthy balance and everyone in general struggles with a healthy work-life balance cause we really aren’t supposed to be working all the time but we are you know it's like i'm struggling with that I don't know how- the lines are blurred for sure right now. But when I'm off for holiday breaks it's very like nope- but the rest of the year it's… blurry [laughs].”
Chappell's debut album The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess, available to stream here is a collection of unique and fun pop music that feels like nothing on radio now in the best way possible. Roan's uniqueness shines through in each song, the diverse collection that is her debut creates a tone for the future of her career that assures her a spot among the stars.