There’s the type of girl who side eyes you from across the bar, and the type of girl who brazenly saunters up to you and buys you a drink. Chappell Roan’s music, if it were a girl in a bar, is the latter. With so much of queer music and media riddled with subtext and “easter eggs,” LBTQ+ women have become experts at decoding and theorizing our way through pop culture. But Chappell Roan doesn’t leave queerness to the imagination. No, you don’t have to dig for the meaning. Yes, she really did just sing, “Long hair (No bra) / It’s my type (That’s right) / You just told me / Want me to fuck you / Baby, I will ’cause I really want to.”
The 25-year-old breakout star, who just released her debut studio album, The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess, is a long way from her conservative Christian upbringing in Willard, Missouri. Born Kayleigh Rose Amstutz, the singer signed with Atlantic Records at just 17-years-old. Ironically, her most popular song “Pink Pony Club” (streamed well over 10 million times on Spotify) didn’t perform to Atlantic’s standards, thus getting her dropped from the label in 2020. After that, she moved back from LA to her hometown, began working at a Scooter’s coffee kiosk, unaware that stardom was just at her fingertips.
Then things took a quick turn. By 2021, she was signed by Sony Records and had opened for Olivia Rodrigo. Chappell wrapped her debut headline Naked in North America tour last March and sold out all tour stops including New York, LA, Chicago, Toronto, and more.
Now, the queer pop icon is currently on her North American headlining Midwest Princess Tour, already sold out in 23 cities including two New York shows.
Chappell has unsurprisingly amassed a cult following with her maximalist style, bombastic music, and unapologetic queerness. Each stop on her tour has a theme in accordance with a song off of the record. GO had the pleasure of speaking to Chappell the morning after she opened her tour in Roseville, California, where the audience dressed to the nighttime nines to pay homage to a sleepover theme for her song “Naked In Manhattan.”
In it, she sings, “Pisces who knew that we were so aligned / When I sing that Lana song, it makes you cry / Mean Girls, we watch it every night / And we both have a crush on Regina George / You love peach and ice cream / Bedazzled, Chanel rings / In New York, you can try things / An inch away from more than just friends.”
GO Magazine: How was the first show of your tour? Did the queers deliver on the slumber party theme?
Chappell Roan: Yes, they did. It was very fun. It was very loud. It was a blast. I was up on stage, but it was a smaller room, so you could feel the energy in the air.
GO: Cool. Can you describe the feelings you had when your debut album, The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess, came out?
CR: When it came out, I just felt at peace, and I felt a lot of gratitude and love. That’s what I felt over excitement and nervousness. I was just at peace. It was so nice. I haven’t felt that peace in a really long time.
GO: Beautiful. What is your favorite Lana Del Rey song? Are you referring a specific Lana song in “Naked In Manhattan?”
CR: In “Naked In Manhattan,” I’m referencing “Ride” and “Mariner’s Apartment Complex.” But my favorite Lana song is “Carmen.”
GO: Do you really have a crush on Regina George? I’m more of a Janis Ian girl myself.
CR: Oh, my god! I just love the movie Mean Girls.
GO: So many queer references in pop music are coy and coded. Meanwhile, your music is loudly and undoubtedly gay– one of the many reasons that so many of us relate to you and love your music. Can you talk about your lyric writing process?
CR: I, for the most, part co-write, so it’s really fun to bounce ideas off of my co-writers. I usually go with the rule, “if it’s not bold, then it’s not worth it.” Who cares? If art’s not bold, then it’s boring. I like to do things that are tongue-in-cheek, a little campy.
GO: I read that you started liking yourself when you became a drag version of yourself. Can you talk a little bit more about that?
CR: I think Chappell Roan is very much the version of myself that is confident and comfortable with her body and her looks and her voice. And I think that Chappell helps me with loving myself more because I feel free being a drag artist.
GO: Got it. Can you tell us about your first night at The Abbey?
CR: It was very spiritual for me. I felt similar to how I felt in church whenever I felt the Holy Ghost. It was my first gay club I’d ever been to, and it was just magical. It felt so right, and it felt like everything that I was taught was false. That’s what inspired “Pink Pony Club.” I was just in awe the whole time.
GO: Wow, that’s stunning. Summer camp seems to come up a lot for you. What was your summer camp like? Any hot dykey counselors?
CR: Ha! My summer camp was very much me exploring what it was to be a creative kid with other creative kids, to grow up with them, and I was so lucky that I got to have that. Summer camp changed my life. I mean, I work with all my friends from summer camp. We all work together still to this day, so it was monumental to my creative career.
GO: Very cool. Can you tell us about your earliest girl crush?
CR: I was very obsessive over my girlfriends growing up. I always had one really close girlfriend that I wanted to be with all the time and stuff like that. Fourth grade vibes.
GO: What is your favorite song off of your record and why?
CR: “Guilty Pleasure,” hands down. Because it’s, like, my indie baby. It’s really weird to me, and I really love strange music. There’s, like, gibberish in the beginning, and I just think it’s so fun. I love it.
GO: What is your favorite city to play music in? And what is your favorite city to party in?
CR: Oh, God. What’s my favorite city to make music in? I’ve made music in New York and LA. I mean, mostly in LA. And Missouri. And Seattle. I don’t know. I love Seattle. LA is fun, though, because it feels like pop. And then New York to party.
GO: Can I ask where? Are you a cubby hoe or– ?
CR: Um, actually, they wouldn’t let me in. It was so funny. I was like, “but I think you all play my music.”
GO: Are you serious?!
CR: No, it’s so funny. I want to go there, though. I love it. I was like, “y’all, whatever.”
GO: Well, I’m so sorry that happened. The next time you’re in New York, GO would love to take you out and make up that horrible experience.
CR: I just have fun being in New York. Like, I don’t care. I’ll party in the street. I think it’s so fun.
GO: Yeah, love it. The whole West Village is just fun. Pieces–
CR: Pieces! Pieces. I love Pieces.
GO: We loved seeing our friend Zolita post behind the scenes content from your upcoming video “Super Graphic Ultra Modern Girl.” What was making that video like?
CR: The whole thing was so funny. My makeup was melting off of me. I was wearing latex all day. It was so fucking hot outside. It was just ridiculous. And to be on a Hollywood tour bus, double decker, was just fire. It was just silly.
GO: Sounds like a lot of fun. I remember hearing “Bad Romance” for the first time and thinking that I was witnessing pop music history in real time. I haven’t gotten that feeling again until I first heard “Pink Pony Club.” It feels so much bigger than itself, like something that’s going to live in the pop music canon, especially for queer people. How does that feel to have created that? Do you feel that impact yet?
CR: I think it’s really hard for me to kind of conceptualize it. I don’t see it that way. I just kind of see it like, “oh, it’s a song I wrote.” If they want to make it, whatever they want to make it, that’s totally fine. I don’t feel like a queer icon myself just because that feels weird to me.
GO: Girl, stop being so humble.
CR: I don’t know! I’m just, like, this random girl. Genuinely. That doesn’t mean that I don’t love myself, because I do, but I am genuinely just another random girl. With “Pink Pony Club,” what I’m very grateful for is that it got me where I am, and I think that it’s connected a lot of people, especially through the pandemic, and that’s what fuels my fire. It’s not so much that it’s, like, my biggest song or anything.
GO: Do you still feel like the same “random girl” you were working at Scooters, compared to where you are now?
CR: I feel the same. This is just my job. I like to do things outside of music, and I constantly try to separate the two– work life balance. I don’t feel like I am that different.
GO: Yeah. I mean, that’s all we could ever ask for, is to feel like ourselves.
CR: Yeah, totally. I feel like myself.