Rising pop star Kim Petras is heading to Australia for the very first time next month. Matthew Wade caught up with her to chat ‘making it’, her trans fans, and Mardi Gras.
When young trans people approach Kim Petras – the rising singer with an affinity for feel-good, eighties-infused pop – and tell her that they listen to her music every day, it makes her want to cry.
Despite transitioning at an early age herself, Petras says there was a dearth of trans role models in pop culture and music back then, no pre-exisiting blueprint to help her map out her life.
“It feels cool to inspire people today who were like me back then, and let [trans people] know they can do anything and identify however they’d like,” she says.
“It makes me really happy when I meet trans kids who are 11 or 12, and they’re big fans of me… they’re like, Kim’s doing it, so I can too.
“I just want my fans to feel happy, and forget about their problems. I want LGBTIQ people to forget about their everyday problems and live in my pop song for a few minutes.”
Petras is speaking to me over the phone from Hawaii, where a number of her hits have been written and recorded, and it’s hard to believe how far she’s come in the last year.
After releasing “I Don’t Want It At All”, a tongue-in-cheek song about only wanting the finer things in life with an accompanying music video featuring Paris Hilton, Petras’ star truly began to rise.
Over the past year she’s released several upbeat, escapist pop tracks, along with a Halloween EP titled Turn Off The Light, Vol. 1. Her Instagram follower count has grown from 10,000 to 200,000 in the space of 12 months.
She says that while it’s been her dream to become a pop superstar, she doesn’t yet feel like she’s ‘made it’.
“I’ve been performing in empty clubs where nobody knew me for most of my life, so it’s pretty crazy that I can go anywhere now and sell out a club, and people will show up and sing every word to my song,” she says.
“I don’t think I’ve made it, I just always want to keep getting bigger and better.
“I love that I have fans now, and that’s awesome, they get me. But I don’t feel I’ve made it at all, I want to have massive hits and take over, so there’s a long way to go… but I’m just happy I’ve got a platform to build on now.”
Growing up, Petras was surrounded by music.
When she wasn’t singing Disney songs with her two older sisters or harmonising with them on long car trips, her mother would play jazz and her dad would play one of many instruments.
She idolised Freddie Mercury, Eminem, and Cyndi Lauper, but it wasn’t until she saw a Carole King documentary at 13 that she decided she wanted to be a singer and songwriter.
“When I first moved to Los Angeles at 19, I was like okay, I’m going to write a big song for somebody and use that to make my own artist career,” she says.
“So I was planning on being a songwriter until I could be an artist, and I’m glad it kind of worked out like that.”
Her brand of unashamedly feel-good bubbly pop music harks back to the kind of music she listened to as a teenager, music that got her through tougher times, an experience shared by many in the LGBTIQ community.
“For me, rolling up, I was listening to pop music all the time to forget that I hated my life,” she says.
“I thought school sucked, I wasn’t popular, and I was bullied, but pop made me forget about all of that.
“So I set out at a young age to do the same thing for the next generation. And that’s what I want to do. That’s my shit.”
This year, Petras is slated to perform at the Mardi Gras Party in March. It’ll be her first time in Australia, so she’s excited to meet her fans in Sydney.
“I know they’re super passionate but I’ve never actually met them, so that’s the main thing I’m looking forward to,” she says.
She’s also planning to release a number of new songs she “cooked up” while on tour with Troye Sivan last year, as well as a follow up to her Halloween EP.
“My goal every year is to step it up and beat myself,” she says.
If she wasn’t a pop star right now, Petras said she’d probably be designing shoes or work as an imagineer, designing roller coasters for theme parks.
“I could never really be a roller coaster designer, but a girl can dream,” she says.
“I was like, okay you suck at math, let’s be a pop star.”
Along with performing at this year’s Mardi Gras Party (March 2), Kim Petras has announced two intimate sideshows in Sydney and Melbourne.
Monday 04 March, 2019 – The Lair – Sydney, NSW
Wednesday 06 March, 2019 – Northcote Social Club – Melbourne, VIC
Tickets go on sale 10am AEDT on Thursday 21 February via: MJRPresents.com.