Chappell Roan

Ryan Clemens

“Blacklights & A Mirrored Discoball,” America’s Favorite Pink Pony Girl Tells All.

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,” LGBTQ+ 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 f*ck you / Baby, I will ’cause I really want to.”

The 26-year-old breakout star, who released her debut studio album, The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess, last year, is a long way from her conservative Christian upbringing in Willard, Missouri. Now, if you google “Chappell Roan,” Google will ask you, “Did you mean: your favorite artist’s favorite artist?” No, really. Try it.

Born Kayleigh Rose Amstutz, Chappell was destined for superstardom. She took acting classes and started playing piano at age 12 and was known in high school as “the singer girl,” but repressed her sexual identity – which resonates in her work. “My music is an outlet for me to feel safer and give other people a space to express their queerness,” she tells GO.

At only 16, she penned the folky “Die Young,” which caught the attention of major record label Atlantic Records, who she signed with just a year later. Ironically, her most popular song “Pink Pony Club” (now streamed 40 million – yes 40 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 during one of her SOUR tour dates. 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.

Since then, the queer pop icon has gone on the road with Rodrigo once more, opening for the U.S. leg of her GUTS tour earlier this year. The exposure sent Chappell’s popularity flying online. Over 20,000 TikTokers have filmed themselves doing her YMCA-inspired “HOT TO GO!” dance.

She made her first-ever festival debut at Coachella in April serving the ultimate look in her signature over-the-top, drag-inspired regalia. The festival was a gay fever dream: the cast of The L Word introduced Reneé Rapp, who kissed her partner Towa Bird onstage, Billie Eilish teased her new gay anthem ‘Lunch’, Ludmilla danced with her wife Brunna Gonçalves, and Victoria Monét pretended her mic was a strap-on. Chappell put the cherry on top of the queer sundae, performing while wearing a harness and dedicating a song to her ex. Coachella was the first stop on Chappell’s Midwest Princess Tour, which began last fall and will wrap up in August. She’ll be taking the show across the pond this September to Paris, Amsterdam, London, Manchester, Glasgow, and Dublin.

 Chappell Roan performs at Coachella (Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

“I identify with the crowd I am singing to – in a way that is beyond just being another woman,” Chappell says. The Rise & Fall of a Midwest Princess is described as a semi-autobiographical origin story, and as Chappell tours the US and Europe through fall 2024, fans can expect singalongs, campy costumes (onstage and in the audience) and multiple genres ranging from acoustic angst to country-pop. Chappell has unsurprisingly amassed an (enormous) 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. For example, concert attendees pull out marabou robes and matching silk sets to dress 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: Do you really have a crush on Regina George? I’m more of a Janis Ian girl myself.

Chappell Roan: Oh, my god! I just love the movie Mean Girls.

GO: What is your favorite Lana Del Rey song? Are you referring to 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: 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: The release of “Good Luck Babe” marks a new chapter for your music. What was the thought process behind the song’s release and what do you hope fans take away from it?

CR: The process of releasing this song was 2 years in the making — we started in 2022 and didn’t finish it until this year. I wanted to release something on tour, so we did that and didn’t really expect what happened with the fans and the reactions. It just has so much praise and so much movement around it and I am just really grateful for it all.

GO: How did it feel to perform at your first ever Coachella? Did you have any pre-show rituals?

CR: I mean, it was horrifying and amazing at the same time. With how many variables could go wrong, it went great! I wouldn’t change anything. I had a blast both weekends. Awesome. Great! My pre-show ritual consists of me drinking tea and stretching. Sometimes I use AI to create a speech to pump my band up.

GO: 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: You are at the forefront of the new era of lesbian pop music. Can you talk a little bit about the “lesbianification” of culture today and what you hope your influence will have on it?

CR: There has always been Lesbianification of pop music – it hasn’t ever gone away. It’s just now being magnified. I just hope that I put out music I like and it honors who I am actually, and not someone that I am not. And that people genuinely relate to it.

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. Tell us what your summer camp was 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’s something about you that would surprise us?

CR: I have nightmares about guinea pigs once a week.

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, the next time you’re in New York, GO would love to take you out for a redo.

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 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.

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