King Princess on her new album Hold On Baby: “I’ve definitely learned to love myself more with this album”

I

n 2018, a six-word tweet changed the King Princess’s life overnight.

“I love it when we play 1950,” he said, paying homage to the 1950 chorus of King Princess’ debut single, which was inspired by Patricia Highsmith’s gay romance novel The Price of Salt. Of course, someone tweeting the lyrics to their favorite song is hardly unusual. But when that someone happens to be pop god Harry Styles, it understandably sends the internet into a frenzy.

Her fangirl tweet was reposted 100,000 times within 24 hours, and the song now has over 500 million streams on Spotify and over 20 million views on YouTube. She later told NME, “For what it’s worth, when Harry Styles tweeted about me, it was a big deal to sign off on a big cisgender male artist. It was a moment for me and the little kids. Did something worthwhile, and that’s what I expect from this level of musicianship.

Moreover, since the release of the R&B slow burner via Mark Ronson’s Zelig Records, things have only gotten crazier. With a 2018 EP, 2019 debut album and countless world tours later, King Princess has become a certified Gen Z rock star. She was originally due to support Styles on the European leg of his Harry’s House tour in 2020 – but of course Covid put paid to that and now she’s joining as she promotes her highly-anticipated sophomore album Hold On Baby. I am very busy, which will be revealed this week.

As a teenager, Mikaela Strauss spent five years writing music before putting anything out. Her father, Oliver Strauss, is a sound engineer who owns the famous Brooklyn studio Mission Sound. “I practically grew up there,” she says over the phone, before recalling the legendary artists who have graced its soundproof halls: Missy Elliott, The National, Arctic Monkeys and Cyndi Lauper in it. “One Flight of the Conchords episode was filmed in Mission Sound,” she says. “It was where they were doing a benefit for dogs with epilepsy, which was hilarious.”

Hands out

Although growing up in the studio gave her the tools to make music, Strauss claims she always sings, no matter what. Everyone has a flair for something when they are born. For me it was to write a song.

After moving to Los Angeles, she majored in pop music in college until she stopped working. Grammy Award-winning producer Ronson got hold of one of his early demos and begged his management to let him take him out to dinner. “It was like a date,” she says of the Los Angeles meet-cute. “I thought he was gentle, sweet and intelligent. We kept in touch until I was ready to sign with him.

As his first signee at Zelig, it was with Ronson (who appeared with him on the Park Stage at Glastonbury in 2019) that he developed his signature sound, which has been performed by everyone from Frank Sinatra to Leonard Cohen and Petty. Smith reimagines popular influences (as well as “Princes and the Freddie Mercury and the Eltons and the Billie Hollidays and the Tina Turners”) into retro-futuristic pop ballads. She leads the production and songwriting and plays guitar, piano and drum parts on all recording sessions. She will fight anyone who tries to diminish her omnipresence.

As for his lyrics, he’s known for their frank exploration – one of his most famous songs, Pussy is God, is a self-penned poem about female motivation that gives a middle finger. sticks to an endless array of songs that “learn about how hard somebody’s dick is,” says the 23-year-old, prompting sighs and “go!”

These days Strauss has a crush on director Quinn Wilson (famous for working with Lizzo). They met on Instagram DMs when Strauss was just 20 and have been together ever since. They live in New York with Wilson’s brother and King-Princess’ best friend. “I’ve built a hype squad,” she says of their living arrangements.

However, being in love comes with its pitfalls. If Cheap Princess was a breakup album full of breakup songs, Hold On Baby is a self-deprecating album full of hard truths.

“I spent a lot of time in my career writing songs about other people and analyzing myself through the lens of talking about someone else,” she explains. “For this album, I’m in a relationship and the things I would traditionally write about aren’t accessible. As a result, I became very introspective. I turned my attention to a bad guy. Focused not on picking up, but on finding it within.

By making herself the bad guy, Strauss had to face all the parts of herself she wasn’t particularly keen on, but it seems to have paid off. “I definitely learned to like myself more through the album,” she says. “I think it’s the ultimate therapy, because I look at this body of work and I’m proud of it. It’s a way of learning how to like yourself, to be proud of what you’ve made.”

There are two songs in particular that were particularly heavy to create. “I think Sex Shop is really beautiful. In it I talk about my body and my hatred for the human form. I feel like gender doesn’t suit me, I’d rather be an unknown gremlin creature. The song was written on a piano in her childhood home, and her father helped record the vocals. “Recording this intimate song about being non-binary and f**ing was weird. Or it wasn’t weird. He was just like ‘it’.

Then I hate myself, I want to party. I ask what inspired him to write bleak lyrics that swell into cathartic belters. “I hated myself and I wanted to party,” she describes a late, whiskey-fueled night playing PS5 in her underwear like a “schmuck” during lockdown. “When I was making this record, I thought it would be good to release those feelings of depression and anxiety. As an artist you want to feel like a star, but you also have this feeling of disability. Which tells you you’re not dirty, which I admit I don’t like to do in front of others.

Earlier this month, King Princess uploaded a candid reel of herself explaining how the album’s lead single, Change The Locks, came about. She had just attended her grandfather’s funeral, and when her management called she would be visiting the National’s Aaron Dessner farmhouse studio in upstate New York the next day. “It was the first song that came out,” he explained on the reel, “and it helped me heal a lot.”

Then, a month ago, Strauss also lost his grandmother. “It was really hard, and it’s still really hard. Both of them were a huge part of me writing this album, because I’m looking for self-love and my true self on this album, and this The truth has a lot to do with them,” she says solemnly. “They are my genealogy, they have taught me a lot and helped me. It’s priceless.” The owl’s appearance in the album’s promo is a tribute to both of them. “This album is kind of finding itself and what I found at the end of the album is something that should be appreciated here. “

The day Hold On Baby comes out, Strauss will celebrate at the Lollapalooza festival in Chicago. “I like to think that when I’m playing shows, King Princess isn’t just me as a person, that everyone is there together,” she says, before clarifying that King Princess isn’t a persona. It is bigger than that. , too

“It’s contributing to the notion that we can create an incredible space for art, to celebrate, to laugh, to cry.” She continues: “I want it to be more than just me and I think it’s a great name for how we all feel inside, which is that we’re all so many, so many things. Shouldn’t make any sense.”

Hold On Baby is released on 29th July. kingprincessmusic.com