If you could bottle the millennial American dream – fame, fortune, love, and the risk of losing it all in an instant – you’d probably get Kim Petras. When she burst onto the pop scene in 2017 with single ‘I Don’t Want It At All’, she was debuting as a pop star that had spent over half a decade writing songs for other artists, and the first taste of Petras pop we got was a bubblegum ode to superficiality and sugar daddies.
She spent most of her first ‘era’ singing about everything she wanted to be, but on her first full length – not album – project, Kim is ready to open up more.
“My first era was when I didn’t think I could ever be a pop star,” she says from across the pond on her US headline tour. “I was just a songwriter for other people in LA, and I wasn’t feeling confident in myself. I didn’t think I was good enough; I didn’t think I was pretty enough. I didn’t think my songs were good enough, all of those things. I love all of those songs about what I’ve wanted to be like, like this super confident, bratty pop girl. I was blown away when people reacted well.
“Once I found my fans I felt more confident and was like ‘ok people actually wanna listen and hear what’s going on in my brain’, so this one, ‘Clarity’, is much more of that. Obviously, it’s still larger than life; it’s not depressing. I was going through something, I’ve been cheated on, I felt really bad, and for me, I’ve always gone into the studio, reflected on what’s happened to me, and figured out how I actually feel. I’m just hoping people can relate to this, that people who are going through the same thing can enjoy it and not feel alone.”
She’s right. It’s not depressing, she hasn’t lost the hyper-catchy choruses that caught our attention, ‘Got My Number’ is quite easily one of the biggest bops of the year, ‘Personal Hell’ is so ‘Blackout’ Britney, and ‘Clarity’, ‘Icy’ and ‘Meet The Parents’ are real bad bitch anthems. “Face facts, I make more than your dad,” she sings on the latter; that’s growth.
“I feel like I’ve grown so much. I’m a much better songwriter than I was, I mean I’m always trying to improve and trying to write better songs, but I’ve evolved, for sure, just evolved into a different person, and I feel real confidence now, and that’s one thing that’s really amazing.”
But of course, the first single from the project was ‘Broken’, and there was a lot of rubbish Kim had to go through, mostly while on the road with Troye Sivan late last year, to get back to herself.
“But at the same time, I don’t feel confident all the time, I feel like trash sometimes, and that’s something that’s really important to say, I’m not always happy, and nobody is, and I think it’s a good thing to know that. I want my fans to know that.
“I started feeling lost, and in my personal life, I didn’t know what to do. When I wrote the song [‘Clarity’], I felt like I’d found a clarity in my life and what I wanted to do, and found that the only place I wanna be is in the studio and on the road. I would not let anything else bother me, just my interest and my drive and my career. This project was like getting back to myself and not letting relationships define me, and finding out what I wanna be and what I wanna do.”
If you were wondering why we heard so much of the project before its release, it’s because Kim wants you to hear it all NOW. She knows exactly what she’s doing too, quickly building her Bunhead army by releasing songs every month in era one, and upping it to one a week for the ‘Clarity’ project.
“We were feeling adventurous. I felt like putting a song out every month until the project came out. I did a song a month last year, and it worked well for me, it was a really good concept. During the age of streaming, it’s changing so much that to constantly release new music, for me as a new artist it works better as a strategy to just drop something because it keeps you on top of people’s minds.
“So I decided on one a week, and when I’d decided on the twelve songs that we wanted for the album, we’d just finish them and put them out as fast as possible, so we put one out each week. At the beginning of the year, everyone was like ‘don’t do it’, but I felt like it was a good thing.”
It’s part of the reason she’s stayed independent; she doesn’t have to answer to anyone other than herself.
“Also labels were unsure about working with me because I’m transgender, so signing to a label wasn’t a great option for me, everyone kind of had a problem with me being transgender, or wanted to make it a big deal. I’m independent, so I’m making my own art, and I can be in charge of my own career, and I can do my own work because I don’t have a huge machine behind me doing everything and writing my songs, so I really get to do it exactly the way I wanna do it.”
Rest assured, this is not the last we’ve heard of Kim Petras this year either. ‘Clarity’ is a ‘project’ because her full-length album is still to come. “It’s my first body of work, so I’m calling it a project, later on, I’m putting out as an album, but I just wanna see how this does before I put anything out there calling it an album,” she says. So with ‘Era 1′, ‘TURN OFF THE LIGHT VOL. 1′ (a Halloween EP she released in 2018), and ‘Clarity’, she’ll have released effectively three albums worth of material without ever releasing an official album. The other pop girls are TRULY shaking.
You’ll be able to catch her on her ‘Broken’ tour in the UK over the Summer, at her London headline show, Manchester Pride or Reading and Leeds.
“Well, I’m gonna sing all of my songs, pretty much. It’s my first time on a headlining tour; it’s my first time doing the tour I’ve always wanted to do, after being a supporting act for a really long time for other people. I’ve been a sub for a long time, going on club tours, so this time I get to make it my own show, which is really exciting.” Woo ah!
Taken from the August issue of Dork. Kim Petras’s new project ‘Clarity’ is out now.
Words: Abigail Firth