We caught up with Chappell Roan on her meteoric rise, being on tour, and her complicated relationship with both places she calls home.
Self-described Midwest princess Chappell Roan, who now resides in Los Angeles, has a love-hate relationship with both locales. They often crop up in her lyrics and are the focus of much of the mythos of her art.
“I go home as much as I can because I don’t feel at peace in Los Angeles. I feel very — I always feel like I want to leave. But then when I get to Missouri, I also want to leave. That’s what I mean by the rise and fall. It’s not necessarily about who I am; it’s that the rise and fall is lonely.”
Roan is of course referencing the title of her first full-length album, “The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess.” Released this September to much acclaim (and many subsequent TikTok trends), she caught up with a virtual room of writers on her day off from her “Midwest Princess” tour.
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Although her feelings toward Los Angeles and her native Missouri may vacillate, her feelings for the fans and the energy they bring to the room each night never do. She’s been selling out shows, and crowds have been singing every word to every song new and old (at least at her two sold-out D.C. stops at 9:30 Club earlier this year).
“It’s a blast every night,” Roan says, smiling. “There’s more and more people who know the words, so it’s been really fun. I love seeing people’s costumes. I love hearing which lyrics people scream louder than others. I always think it’s really interesting, and I’m just like, ‘I didn’t think people would even care about that line.’ It just kind of expands the world for me. It’s so fun to sing with a crowd that knows every word.”
Roan skyrocketed into the public’s playlists in 2020 and well into 2021 with her sleeper hit “Pink Pony Club,” a rollicking, disco-tinged odyssey about a girl who finds her place in the world as a dancer in a mythical California club, and the aftermath of loved ones finding out about her job.
In the years between the success of the song “Pink Pony Club” and the release of “Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess,” the world grappled with the Covid-19 pandemic. The song was initially released on April 3, 2020, just in time for the world to fully shut down. Roan found artistic escapism in creating more worlds such as the one in her hit single, blurring the lines between the real and imaginary.
“It was a very uninspiring time, I think, for everyone,” she recalls. “So I just worked off my daydreams. That’s kind of what the whole album turned out to be. [The] stories are not necessarily completely fabricated, but [are] kind of just daydreams that you wanted so badly. But I didn’t have a girl in my life, I didn’t have a club to go to. So I just wrote it.”
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Real or imagined, Roan paints a glitter-bombed, queer and earnest world in each song. From YMCA-style dances (“HOT TO GO!”) that crowds do on command at shows to referencing everything from “Mulholland Drive” to Brigitte Bardot to watching the world deal with an unsavory ex without her interference (“My Kink Is Karma”), nothing’s off limits in her world.
“I don’t get scared anymore. I know what it feels like to release a song, and it’s always okay. And people are going to take from it what they want to. They may not even take it how you originally thought they would. I think the only thing I can do as an artist is just be as authentic as I can. If that means writing something that’s vulnerable, I have to do that.”
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