Trixie Mattel on her Viceland show, her folk album, and winning ‘Drag Race’

Trixie Mattel is dominating the drag scene right now. She has her own show The Trixie and Katya Show on Viceland with fellow RuPaul’s Drag Race alum Katya Zamolodchikova (and later Bob the Drag Queen), a stellar folk album called One Stone, and recently took home the title for RuPaul’s Drag Race All-Stars 3.

The drag queen, born Brian Firkus, embarks on her own headlining U.S.-wide tour called Now with Moving Parts, a reference to lyrics from her folk album.

I spoke on the phone with the multi-talented queen while she was on tour for the Haters Roast about all of the aspects of her blossoming career. You can tour dates, as well as purchase tickets, to her upcoming tour here.trixie mattel header

Thanks for taking the time to talk to me.

Of course! I’m just laying in bed with my feet up and just jerkin’ off! Nah, I’m just kidding.

Well, that’s exactly what I’m doing. I’m glad we’re on the same page.

[Trixie is gagged]

What city are y’all in right now?

I’m in Boston. I got in this morning and took the red eye.

Before I get started, my sister forced me to tell you that she loves you. Both in and out of drag. Especially the Brian and Brian segments on the street.

Oh, wow.

She misses those. She wanted me to tell you.

She must like milky white guys from the Midwest because that’s what I serve.

That’s exactly what she loves in life.

So, the first season for Viceland’s The Trixie and Katya Show ends tonight [March 28th], right?

Yeah, it’s the finale episode. And the question on everyone’s mind is: will we actually ever do anything entertaining.

Oh, I think this is the best show that has come out recently.

I was just kidding, of course. I think it’s so fucking funny. I don’t know if I am a sociopath, but when I watch it and laughing because I’m relieved that people are laughing.

I have friends who have never been exposed to drag who I show it to and they think it’s really funny. You do a tremendous job of making the humor mainstream.

It’s always been important to me and Katya and me and Bob. We want to make something that is primarily a comedy show. Then secondly you think about it being technically a drag show. The costumes and the look is what keeps people from channel surfing past us. Even if you don’t know drag, you’d have to stop and go “oh my god!” Then if you listen you’ll actually laugh.

What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned about doing a full-on season for television?

Well, I had done Drag Race.

Of course. I meant your own show you’re in charge of.

You know what’s funny, when we did the YouTube series it was 60 episodes. When we changed it to a TV series, it was surreal because it didn’t feel different or special. We filmed it exactly the same way with more cameras and more lights and a slightly bigger budget. For us it was like going back to work in the same office.

Did you have a standout moment that you’ll look back and think was the best moment of season one?

There was a moment where Katya was blindfolded and I got to put deer urine up to her face. In the finale there was a segment called “Big Baby Bob” where Bob is wearing a giant baby bonnet and a giant bib and he taste tests baby food.

I loved doing the comedy sessions, but those games make me laugh so fucking hard.

I love the green screen interviews where your heads are just floating in the background. I’m dying watching those.

When we were doing the YouTube series, I had that idea. I asked how much green screens were and figured we could just get catsuits and be floating heads. There’s a YouTube channel dedicated to that – I think it’s just called “Floating Heads” – and it’s just dedicated to that.

Looking forward, is season two something that’s in the air?

Oh, yeah! We’re definitely discussing it. It’s been a really great run. It has a great, strong viewership. Viceland loved it.

Do you have any topics that you didn’t get to in season one that you’d love to cover in the future?

Yeah, if Katya comes back I would honestly love to do a brain scan and just look at what’s going on in there. We can have a full hour-long special.

There were some ideas that we didn’t get to do because either the joke was too far or it was too much. We wanted to talk about suicide, but I don’t think the network fully trusted us. Katya and I laugh at things to process them. We need to laugh at things that are difficult because that’s how we endure. We believe that we could have made it respectful and funny.

With that show, we try to discuss the monsters. With mental health and suicide, talking about it and joking about it is sometimes a good medicine. We always want it to be hilarious. We did get to talk about god and all kinds of stuff that for other shows might be too hot button.

In addition to being one of the funniest queens to have ever appeared on Drag Race, you’re a really good musician. Like, really good.

Thank you!

When I saw that One Stone was coming out, I didn’t really know what to expect. But it’s legit one of the best folk albums I’ve heard in the past couple of years.

Oh my god, you are so sweet. I have been a folk musician much longer than I have been a drag queen. I always wanted to be a musician and I didn’t really try drag until I was 19. Before I was a white guy with a guitar, which turns out is not that special, music for me was just a hobby. I hit a fork in the road in college where music either needed to be my hobby or my career. I figured it could just be my hobby and I didn’t need to do it for a career.

I was still songwriting, but I wasn’t trying to sell it. When I was in drag and doing standup, I started incorporating music. In the late ‘90s, comedians started using music and it was like a lightbulb went off, like how wasn’t I doing it. I

Originally, I underestimated people being able to follow Trixie singing singer folk music. It turns out they proved me wrong.

I thought it was going to be sort of jokey, tongue-in-cheek folk album, but it’s really heartwarming and touching.  You’ve been into folk since you were a kid then?

Yeah, my grandfather was a country musician. I learned guitar at home. Like George Jones, Conway Twitty, and Johnny Cash. I didn’t really enjoy folk music at the time because I thought it was dry, old people music. I liked the radio music in the late 1990s and early 2000s was that pop rock. Things like Avril Lavigne, Oasis, or Green Day. When I was a teenager getting into playing I was playing radio pop. I think my music now sounds more like old folk/country than anything. This music is built to be simple because it’s about emotionally complex lyrics.

That’s exactly why it’s my favorite genre of music. The layers of instruments on the album really impressed me.

It’s simple, but it’s structured in a way that the lyrics and songwriting are important. There’s a level of cleverness that you can bring to life. What sort of rhymes or metaphors are you using? You know? Like “Ring of Fire.” It’s about being in love so much it’s like being on fire. It does it so well that you don’t even realize it that’s what he’s talking about.

Your song “Red Side of the Moon” is about a woman named Judy, but I read that Judy might mean something else. [Specifically, that ‘judy’ is slang for a best friend in the queer community.]

I wrote those lyrics so people could interpret it any way they wanted. I wanted to write a song about how difficult it was and the sacrifice of someone who loved someone in the spotlight. The song is about how much Judy loves this person and no matter where Judy is she’s in a room with people who say they love that person.

It’s a story song and ultimately the relationship doesn’t work out. It was written at a time when I was feeling like this career was going to keep me from having a successful relationship.

I actually picked the name Judy because people are obsessed with the idea that Dolly Parton is a lesbian and in a relationship with her best friend Judy Ogle. I don’t think that’s true, but it’s hard for me and my boyfriend with me doing what I do. Imagine what it would be like for someone who is a real superstar like Dolly Parton. What would it be like to be with someone who is that famous, iconic, and loved?

The whole “red side” comes from when you sit behind a spotlight there is a white light that comes up, but at the back of the spotlight, there is this red ring. If you’re sitting behind the spotlight watching someone you love, you’re on the other side of the spotlight. The sadder side.

Wow, I love hearing stories like that about songs.

I didn’t want it to be too literal because I want people to take from it what they get from it. I love Joni Mitchell and she said that if you hear her songs and picture her signing, you’re not getting everything you can from it. You should see yourself and see your world in it.

With “Red Side of the Moon” I wanted people to picture themselves in it.

In addition to your show and your album, you’re currently on the Haters Roast tour with other queens, but you also have your own tour starting soon.

I did my tour in the U.K. and I have 40 dates coming up.

What can fans expect from the Moving Parts tour?

I named it Moving Parts because it’s a show that has a lot of elements for it. There’s video, I play guitar, there’s a lip sync, and 75% of it is standup. I like my shows to be very funny, but I also like to have a few surprising emotional moments.

I’m really good at making people laugh and I’m really good at making people cry.

For example, I do a big chunk of stand up about how caucasian I am and I make fun of white people. Then I punctuate it by singing the most white version of a club hit with my guitar. I like to punctuate my stand up with musical moments.

I also like to interact with my audience. I accompany myself with my guitar so I can just stop in the middle of a song to tell a joke or if someone in the audience is doing something funny I can build on that. If someone just yells “Wonderwall” in the middle of a song, I can transition right to that.

I can’t wait to experience it.

I’m so proud of it. I have to tell you that every day when I was on tour in the U.K. I had freeze frame moments on stage where I couldn’t believe I get to do that.

You’re at that point where your stardom is skyrocketing. You won All-Stars 3, you have your own sold-out Funko Pop! Vinyl doll now-

Yeah, that’s nuts.

Are there any thoughts on filming a Moving Parts special?

Oh, yeah. We talked about that. We talked about filming it as a special for something like Netflix. That’s in the works. Like most things, I like to produce things myself and then sell it later. Like my albums, I write and produce all of them myself.

I’m actually doing a documentary right now. I haven’t announced it because I am rolling it out officially but I feel I can say it now. I had a camera crew following me since January first and they are following me all the way through DragCon, through All-Stars. I have had a camera up my ass at all times, which has been so great.

There is going to be a filmed comedy special, and there is also going to be a tour documentary that will be a snapshot of what it was like to record the album, release it, and to win All-Stars. It’s been a very intense few months. It really wrecked my fucking nerves.

With All-Stars, everything was almost the worst kept secret. BeBe’s reveal was known. A lot of people felt you were winning based on whatever subtle clues in the community. How hard was that to keep quiet?

Well, I didn’t know I won. I only knew I made top two.

Oh, wow. That’s how they do it.

They filmed three endings. The filmed both me and then Kennedy winning and then they filmed a tie. I didn’t know it came on TV. I didn’t know until it came on TV. I was in a bar with 750 people and they all jumped to their feet. Confetti fell from the ceiling. I was crying. I was sitting next to Willam and I couldn’t believe it.

The thing is All-Stars was crazy. At the risk of sounding like an asshole, I do have a strong career outside of Drag Race. I knew going into filming my fans would expect a lot from me. I knew the queens would see me as a threat. It was a lot of pressure that didn’t help me. It hindered me. If you watch the season, you can see right around Snatch Game that the pressure was getting to me and I was at my breaking point. It’s easier going into All-Stars as a Tatianna where you’re being introduced to an audience for the first time and you can only surprise them because they have no expectations.

In this season when I hadn’t won anything by episode two, I thought about if I was disappointing people because I hadn’t won anything.

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