“I’m not going to dance around the edges of not talking about how much it sucks to be cheated on, or how bad it sucks not knowing who you are.”
“People would always ask if I had a plan B, and he never asked,” says 20-year-old Chappell Roan in her mini-documentary about her late grandfather. “He just knew I could do it, and so I decided to name myself Chappell after him.” Roan, an alternative singer from Willard, Missouri, signed with Atlantic Records in 2015 as a rising junior in high school and toured with “Riptide” singer Vance Joy in 2017. The “Die Young” singer is currently doing a national 45-show tour with English musician Declan McKenna, where she performs moving songs of heartbreak and healing from her EP, School Nights. Critics compare her to Lana Del Rey, Lorde and Sia, but Roan has always focused on her own authentic sound. She aims to remain as “genuine as possible” as she continues to write and release more music.
Associate editor-in-chief Patrick Rosemond had the chance to interview Roan and discuss touring with Declan McKenna, self-care habits and new music. Check out the full, online-exclusive Q&A with the up-and-coming singer below.
COULTURE: Since signing with Atlantic Records in 2015, you have toured with Vance Joy, Amy Shark and are currently on tour with Declan McKenna. How has this journey shifted the rhythm of your life?
Chappell Roan: Tour is such a different beast than anything else in the industry that I have experienced so far. It is so exhausting, but it’s also really fun, especially when you’re with fun people. Touring with people who are my age makes a world of difference because you can relate on things more and you’re still figuring things out like how to be an artist. No one really knows what they are doing. It’s kind of nice to have that security. Also, Declan and his band are so sweet, so it makes so much fun.
How would you describe the feeling of standing in front of those huge crowds and performing your music?
It’s a feeling that I have dreamed about for a long time. I’ve put so much hard work into babying every song and writing every song and making sure every production is right. To feel it all come together, it’s almost not real. I don’t even think it’s hit me yet that my music is actually out. Performing it is a dream. It’s amazing.
You have been called “the next Lorde” and have received many comparisons to Sia and Lana Del Rey. Why do you think listeners have been drawing these comparisons?
For Sia, she sings really loud and has a huge range, and I can go loud too. Lorde and I have similar writing styles—it’s almost like a certain type of poetry. For Lana, we both have deep vintage voices, but I don’t ever think that I am really like those artists. I can see why people see that, but personally it’s just an honor to be compared to all of them because I look up to them so much.
Who do you personally draw inspiration from in your music?
I really love Beach House and London Grammer, but growing up I listened to a lot of Fleetwood Mac, and I really loved Lorde and Lana when they came out. They really inspired me. I really love the song, “Stay,” by Rihanna. That song kind of inspired me to write.
What is your creative process like when you are writing your music? Is it a dark place? Are you working on anything new at the moment?
It kind of depends on what the song is about. If it’s a song that is really emotional and sad and I’m in a lot of pain, then usually the process is like that as well. It’s me crying a lot and giving up and not even listening to the song for days at a time. Other times, if it’s a nice happy love song, then it’s simple for me because there’s not as much pressure. It kind of depends on every song. Every song is so different because I draw inspiration from different things, and I’m in different moods. I don’t really write that much just because it is so painful for me most of the time and I’m also very self-critical. I think everything I write is bad at first, but then I grow to love it. On tour, I just want to sleep. I don’t want to write because it takes so much time, energy and thought.
You guide your listeners through stories of heartbreak, inner conflict and healing in a very moving way. With being on the road and performing late nights, how do you balance this all-out and practice self-care?
For me, it’s really hard to practice self-care. We’re doing 45 shows – it’s not an easy tour at all. If I feel like I’m going crazy or homesick, it’s like the tour makes it to the extreme because you’re using so much energy every day to do each show. I do try to work out and eat healthy, but sometimes the hotel doesn’t have a gym or sometimes there is no healthy food. Also, you don’t get your own space. I love everyone I’m on tour with, but when you don’t have mental alone time to sit and think in the quiet, you go crazy. I’m OK now, but last week I was crying in the streets of New York because I get overwhelmed so easily.
From your mini-documentary to the songs on your EP, School Nights, you welcome listeners to see a very deep and personal side of you. Do you have a message or goal that you hope to achieve through your music?
I’m trying to be as genuine as possible. I don’t want to look like I’m trying to be something that I’m not. I write songs that are deep, and I write songs about stuff that people may be uncomfortable talking about because that is what people should know. I’m not going to dance around the edges of not talking about how much it sucks to be cheated on, or how bad it sucks not knowing who you are. This is very real, and no one really explained that to me. When I wrote these songs a couple of years ago, I thought I was crazy for feeling these things. When I put them out, a lot of people felt the same things. They’re not crazy and I’m not crazy. It’s all about being myself and being genuine.
What can we expect in the future from Chappell Roan?
I have a new music video releasing Monday for “Sugar High,” which is a song on my EP, and then I have another song coming out March 2, I believe, called “School Nights.” I am really excited to release that. As far as right now, my schedule is booked until April with this tour. I don’t know what is going on after this, but I do know that more music is coming out.
Photo Courtesy Atlantic Records