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She won our hearts – and the $100,000 – as “RuPaul’s Drag Race” All Stars 3 winner in 2018, became a makeup mogul with her line of Trixie Cosmetics and shot to internet fame with her co-host role on “UNHhhh.” Within the drag world, Trixie Mattel has always been something of an oddity. Not in the Yvie Oddly kind of way. In a wholesome, Dolly Parton circa 1975 in her big blonde wigs and glittering outfits kind of way. Perhaps it’s because of that unique sense of style and glam that Mattel has been able to turn her entertainment brand into something closer to an empire.
In-between a jam-packed touring schedule of Trixie Mattel: Grown Up, her latest tour that will be at The Royal Oak Music Theatre on Thursday, Feb. 13, the queen of country folk drag sat down with Between The Lines. Mattel filled us in on what makes this show special, the joys of doing stand-up and polishing a brand-new set of jokes.
The Rhythm of Touring
This tour follows in the wake of several similar and successful ones over the past few years. Mattel first appeared on “RuPaul’s Drag Race” before her All Stars appearance in season 7 where she came in sixth place. Following her season on the show, Mattel began recording music and traveling to support it. Grown Up is a 30-city tour, less than half the size of 2018’s Now With Moving Parts. But that’s by design, Mattel said. She said many dates do not always make for a perfect show. It’s about finding a golden medium.
“I love touring because it really gives my life meaning and purpose,” Mattel said. “Being home all the time, I have a million different projects and I’m being pulled into a million different places. When I am on the road I am singularly focused.
“My whole day is about my show and I love that. it gives me rhythm,” she continued. “Each day I get into a new city, go a new gym on a day pass. The part I don’t like about touring is that I’m sort of a loner and I’m sort of antisocial. So, I need to strategize to make sure I get time to myself. And if I can go on stage and make a little money every night and have fun doing it, that’s the sweet spot.”
Developing New Styles
With Grown Up and her third and latest album “Barbara,” Mattel is has moved further away from the country and folk path she has forged in recent years.
“I was writing this show and these songs and kind of conceptualizing it while on my last tour,” Mattel said. “I had early inklings. When I get an idea, I don’t get a full idea but I get pieces of it. So, I was definitely feeling like the ’60s with my look. I knew I was kind of stepping out of the cowboy boots and into the go-go boots.”
That goes for sound and style, too.
“’Barbara’ is my third record and this one is sort of a concept album,” Mattel explained. “Side A is sort of a day at the beach, bright and sunny, early ’70s pop AM radio sort of sound. And then side B is a little more around the campfire with a guitar, maybe somebody drinking and smoking weed. It’s a little more storytelling. So those are kind of the two vibes. People know me for my folk music, so side B ties that in and that way I can get them to listen to side A, which is new ground for me.”
Like, totally new ground.
“Side A of this recording you would have never thought listening to my older music that it’s the same artist,” Mattel said. “You can tell the songwriting is me because it’s very guitar-driven and very lyrically driven.”
When asked about her process, Mattel said she doesn’t write songs like a lot of songwriters do, starting with a hook or a beat.
“I know that this unique, but I basically write top to bottom,” she said. “I write the song first, lyric first. I write it linear, which is kind of weird. I know a lot of people don’t do that.”
Other Creative Priorities
Just released, “Barbara” is already making iTunes charts for pre-sales. But music is just one small part in the Trixie empire. She’s just released a book and runs a successful cosmetics line.
“The book is called ‘Trixie and Katya’s Guide to Modern Womanhood.’ It’s basically a home economics textbook and etiquette guide for young women. We talk about things like hair and makeup, but also things like being broken up with. You know, life essentials.”
Between all the projects Mattel has started, it’s no surprise that it’s difficult to keep a balance between them. She said that running Trixie cosmetics from the road can be something of a challenge.
“I’ve been doing a lot of extra time at the office trying to get ready for tour,” she said. “I’ve hired some great new staff this year, so I feel like it’s in very good hands while I’m gone. But we have weekly meetings via Skype. I’ll still be in the office. I’ll just be in the office while on a tour bus.”
On stage, Mattel is not only an artist, she’s a crowd-killer, too, combining her charming tunes with standup.
“In the beginning, you’re a little uncertain, you’re kind of dabbling and finding out what gets laughs,” she said. “Now, my vision of Trixie is so clear. I know exactly what kind of jokes work. I know exactly what the appearance of Trixie allows me to do and say. I’m very aware of how the look permits me to do and say certain things.”
Mattel said her work on her YouTube series and Netflix special has also contributed to making her more polished.
“You really get better every time you get in drag. I wasn’t even doing standup five years ago. When I first started doing drag, I was a drag queen who was a funny person. But I had a career lip-syncing, so it didn’t even occur to me to be a comedy drag queen,” Mattel said. “When I finally started doing standup it was like, ‘Oh, my God! How have I never done this? I was made to do this.’”
“Trixie Mattel: Grown Up” will make a stop at the Royal Oak Music Theatre, Thursday, Feb. 13. Tickets are $39.50 and can be purchased at royaloakmusictheater.com.