Interview: Kim Petras Talks ‘Clarity,’ Touring & Dream Collaborators
Armed with a seemingly never-ending collection of bops, Kim Petras has established herself as one of the brightest talents in a new class of pop stars. Since making her debut in 2017, every song she’s released has been a gem. And this year the 26-year-old really took things to the next level. Back in April, she kicked off her second era with “Broken.” What followed was an ambitious roll-out schedule that saw her dropping a new song every week for 9 weeks. From rambunctious bangers including “Got My Number” to tear-jerking ballads such as “Another One,” it’s been some of her best work to date.
On the tenth week, she capped it off by gracing us with Clarity. The 12-song collection housed the previous nine tracks and three new ones including her latest single “Icy.” And that’s not all she’s been up to. The ascendant pop princess also embarked on her Broken Tour. She recently finished up a US leg of the show and performed at New York City’s Pride Island 2019 during World Pride. Next month she’ll launch a European leg of the tour, and there are already plans for a sequel to her Halloween mixtape Turn Off The Light Vol.1.
Last week I had the opportunity to catch up with Kim, and she filled me in on everything that she’s been up to. The pop-saving angel opened up about why she chose to drop a song a week and spoke about several of the highlights on Clarity. She also shared some insight on her headlining tour, meeting Madonna and Demi Lovato, goals of collaborating with former tour mate Troye Sivan, her feature on Charli XCX’s new album, an iconic list of dream collaborators and so much more. Dive into our interview below to learn more about what she’s been up to.
I wanted to start by congratulating you on Clarity. It’s such a great project, and the way you handled the roll-out was really unique.
What made you decide to approach it a song a week like that?
I kind of wanted to continue on my roll-outs from Era One where I was dropping a song every month and just pick up the speed and do it even faster. Also, I kind of like that it was like a TV series. Every week on a certain day a new song dropped. I thought that was really cool, and I really liked it. I connect a lot to TV shows because of that. Like I spent the whole week like “thank God, Thursday it’s a whole new episode that comes out.” Sometimes it gets me through the week. I don’t know. I just wanted to do that for people and try something new.
That’s a really interesting comparison. I’d never thought of it like that. My next question is more of a two parter. Why did you decide to start the era with Broken? Then was there a method you used to pick the songs that followed for the release schedule?
The storyline that there was… I knew that the first single would be “Broken,” and then it would lead to Clarity. Because that kind of describes the whole experience well, of me kind of going through a breakup and feeling really hurt, and really down and lost. And feeling broken. To clarity, which is me figuring out that all I need to do in my life is make music that I love and kind of go with it. And that it is enough if I have myself. That I’m good. You know, by myself.
But everything in between that was kind of whatever songs we finished. We had the 12 songs. We wrote 47, 48 songs or something for the era. For the whole thing and then narrowed it down to 12. We had the songs and were kind of like whichever ones we’re finishing first are the ones we’re going to put it. So it was just playing catchup with the release strategy.
Do you think we’ll ever hear any of the other 48 that you worked on for the era? Would maybe any of them pop up on Turn Off The Light Vol. 2 or anything?
Maybe. Not Turn Off The Light Vol. 2. That’s a completely different vibe. I’m going to finish and continue the storyline off Vol.1. So that’s kind of a separate thing. But definitely, I think there’s some ideas and some really good hooks out there that didn’t fit on this record. I really picked the best listening experience for this as a project.
And I kind of picked on what would complement each song the best instead of what could be a single or anything like that. I completely ignored that and was just like what would make the best project and cohesive listening experience. So I definitely think there’s some bangers from the songs that I didn’t use that are going to come out eventually. But I don’t know when. I’m also always writing new songs so who knows. But there’s definitely some that I’m still obsessed with that just didn’t fit the storyline of Clarity.
That’s great! Obviously, the thought of new music is always exciting.
Speaking of the tracklist for Clarity. You mentioned that it does tell a cohesive story, but sonically it’s a little more diverse. It’s also a little more diverse thematically in that it covers a couple different feelings. You’ve got bangers like “Got My Number” and “Do Me.” But then there are ballads like “Another One.” That one in particular hit me really hard because it is so vulnerable. I was wondering if it is ever hard for you to work on songs like that knowing that eventually other people will be hearing them?
Yes. It’s definitely like putting my emotions out there. You know… That song specifically is really like my insides. It’s always weird when it comes out and people hear that. But to be honest I make music that I have to make and that I want to make. And it’s kind of really selfish when I make it. Because I just talk about what’s going on in my head and in my life. And I kind of feel like I have to talk about it in order to move on from it. So when I’m creating it, it feels really great. And it’s really rewarding. I feel lighter after writing something like that. But then when it comes out I’m always super nervous.
That’s the benefit of being a creative, though. You kind of get to work through what you’re going through and put it out there.
Yeah, for sure.
I’m sure it changes, but do you have a favorite song on the tracklist right now?
“Icy.” Yeah. I mean “Icy” has been my favorite for a couple weeks now. Just really love it. And now that it’s out… I don’t know. Songs always hit really different when they’re out for some reason. So that one. And also because it seems like it’s a very collective fan favorite. So I’m happy people really love that one.
I also wanted to talk about touring. I saw you on the road with Troye Sivan last year. I was at your Philadelphia show, and it was great. But how does it feel now to make the move from opening to headlining?
It feels incredible. I mean I’m so thankful for Troye for letting me on his tour and kind of introducing me to his fanbase. That was so amazing of him, and I don’t know if I can ever repay him for that. Because it was incredible. And I’ve been performing in clubs. Like every club I could perform in for the last three, four years. I’ve just been nonstop performing anywhere, and people didn’t know who I was. And I kind of learned how to convince people who have no idea of who I was of my songs and to get into to my music. So this is a whole different thing. These people come knowing my songs, and they want to sing every single word.
And I know so many of them. A ridiculous amount of them. I’m friends with a lot of my fans. I have their numbers, and I text with them. And I meet up with them before concerts or after concerts or randomly. So for me it’s like my favorite people just all coming together and partying. That’s my favorite thing about my show. It’s that it’s a party. People like get cray and get really lit at my shows, and it’s like a party. Which I love.
And also just making the stage what I wanted to make it for the first time. Obviously there’s so much room for improvement, but it was the first time I had set pieces. The first time I had screens, the first time I had visuals. The lighting I wanted. So it’s only going to keep getting better. But this tour was such a dream for me. It was intense. It was very… a lot of my songs are very high-pitched so vocally it was intense. But it was so rewarding and so much fun. And I cannot wait for the next one.
I really would love to see you again. I live in Cleveland and travelled to see you and Troye. But I hope that you’re on the road again really soon because it would be so great to see you again.
Yeah. I’m for sure going on tour again soon. Like sooner than later. I’m going to announce something soon, and I’m going to for sure be in your area.
Oh that’s so fantastic.
Speaking of performing, you just did a set at Pride Island. How did that go?
It went really well, but a lot of events lined up that were crazy. I went through my set and by “Heart To Break,” halfway into the song the sound went out. And there was a weather warning. All the screens were like “a storm’s about to hit. It’s about to thunder, it’s about to rain.” Then one of the sound guys ran on stage and fall and broke his arm on stage. Literally like cracked it open. And it was nuts.
I didn’t really realize it was happening because I had my in-ears in. The sound was off everywhere on the speakers, but in my in-ears it was still going. So I didn’t notice in the beginning. I was still singing super loud. So the end of it was crazy. But the beginning of it was really great and really amazing. Especially because it’s World Pride. It felt really special. But it was nuts.
On Twitter you mentioned that you got to meet Madonna who also performed that weekend. And last week you shared a picture with Demi, who’d seen your show. So how does it feel to be meeting idols. Not just meeting them but performing on the same stage as them or having them in the audience for your shows?
It feels amazing. It’s so cool. I mean, not too long ago I was covering Demi’s songs on YouTube. So it’s crazy that she came backstage and was like “I’m a fan.” And sang every single word on the Instagram story. I was so flattered. I’m such a fan, and she’s so fucking talented. You know, it’s very crazy. I definitely never saw that part coming. That they would actually be fans of me. So it’s really amazing. Same with Miley. When I met Miley and she was like “oh, I know who you are. Of course.” That was crazy.
Same with Madonna. I watched the Truth Or Dare documentary like five hundred million times when I was feeling low in life. She was an inspiration through my life and somebody I look up to so much. And have looked up to in dark moments so much. Her music has meant so much to me. I remember buying Confessions On A Dance Floor. It’s crazy meeting those people and having those people recognize you as an artist is nuts. I don’t know how to explain it. But it’s amazing, and I feel very honored.
That kind of leads to my next question. In the last two years you’ve already achieved so much. In my review of Clarity I mentioned that your discography is really expansive, and you’ve done so many things. What would you say you’re most proud of accomplishing in this time?
I just think that my whole discography is really good. And there’s no like skips. I really focus on every single song. And of course taste differs, and some people are not going to like certain songs. But I am proud that I’m on my way to becoming an artist who has fans who are here for the whole discography and not just because of one hit or one song.
I built a real, legit, die-hard fan base for putting in the work and not sleeping and going club after club and not stopping. And putting out good music. I just feel like great music will always find a way to come through and to shine. That’s my number one thing that I’m proud of. I think I’ve put out really good music overall.
As a writer, I feel like I keep getting better as a songwriter. And that’s my number one priority, like in life. I want to become one of the greats of songwriting. And I want people to be able to say “oh, that’s a Kim Petras song. That totally sounds like it.” I want to have a signature thing about me and my songs.
That’s such a great goal moving forward. Speaking of a signature, how did you come up with “Woo-Ah” as your sign-off or sign-on?
I was looking for a producer tag back in the day. Like four or five years ago or something. And it just randomly happened in my mom’s basement one day when I was making a demo. Yeah. It’s just stayed ever since then. And I don’t know why I picked it. But it’s just so good. It was undeniable. I really have no idea what it means, but now it means so much. You know?
It’s always cool to see it on Twitter. Like you have created a movement, even just with that.
Yeah. It’s amazing. So cool. And even though it means nothing, it’s really powerful.
I have one kind of selfish question. You and Troye are easily two of my favorite artists, and I’m really curious. When you were touring together, did the thought of a collab ever come up?
Yeah. We were talking about that, and we have to do it. I’m really good friends with Leland. I adore him. He writes a lot of the Troye songs with him. And I adore Troye as well. So I really want it to happen. But so far I haven’t really… When I was back in LA making my record, he was still on tour. And now he’s going back on his Australian leg. So as soon as we’re both in the same city we totally want to collab. And I adore him, and I would love to. But we really haven’t found the time yet.
That’s something to look forward to. And you already have a lot more. Because you’re also on the Charli XCX album.
Oh yeah. I’m so excited about that one. Charli’s such a prolific writer. She’s been very inspirational to me before I even met her or before I was on a song with her. I just admire her talent. She’s an incredible songwriter. I don’t know. We’ve just become friends over this year and a half now that we know each other. And I absolutely adore her as well.
It’s great to see that you’re working together repeatedly and that you’re starting to have a collection.
I think that’s the coolest shit about Charli. She’s just finding people she fucks with and kind of building this network of artists around her that completely inspire each other. And through her I’ve met so many amazing artists. She’s put so many new artists on my radar. I think that’s cool about her. She always shouts out new, fresh up-and-comers and gives people a shot. And introduces them to her fan base. I think that’s a really amazing thing to do.
I totally agree. I hadn’t really thought about that. But I’ve met so many people from listening to Charli. I have one last question. Are there any dream collaborations that you’d like to nail down moving forward?
One million percent. Daft Punk. Post Malone. Kylie Minogue. And probably Cher.
Oh my god I love it. All of those need to happen pretty much right now.
Right? And Rihanna! Damn, I think… I’m so fucking impatient. I want the Rihanna album fucking now. Where is it? She’s the only hope for music. We need her. And me, obviously. But we need Rihanna.
I could not agree more.
I’m so mad. It’s taking so long.
We need it right now.
Thank you so much. It was so great to talk to you.
Have a great day and thank you so much.