This year must seem like a dream to drag star and musician Trixie Mattel, a.k.a. Brian Firkus. Viceland extended the program The Trixie & Katya Show, Mattel released sophomore album One Stone, and she was crowned winner of RuPaul's Drag Race: All Stars’ third season.
Now her comedy-meets-country music tour Now With Moving Parts is in progress, stopping at The Van Buren on Friday, June 22. Phoenix New Times chatted with Mattel by phone to talk country music, the Midwest, and of course, hindsight.
Is Now with Moving Parts a concert or comedy show?
It’s about 75 percent stand-up, and 25 percent music. I like to do stand-up and punctuate sections with chunks of original music that sort of marry with the jokes. … Because it’s a drag show, there’s obviously costume changes, and reveal, and video … but the meat and potatoes is me, my guitar, and my jokes.
Was country music played at home or did you discover it?
I grew up learning to play guitar at the kitchen table with my grandpa on George Jones, Roy Orbison, and Johnny Cash … but I hated it. Thought it was totally lame, thought it was boring old-people music. The music I heard with guitar in it was more of that ’90s, acoustic-driven pop music, so think Sheryl Crow, Michelle Branch, Avril Lavigne.
Then when I got older, 24 or 25 — a complete 180. Folk music became like when you get off a treadmill, and you get that giant jug of water, and you just chug it till you can’t breathe … It was like a light bulb turned on, because I heard that music my whole life, but never really got it. Then all of a sudden, this is the only music.
Who are your folk and Americana favorites?
Jason Isbell is one of my favorites. Aimee Mann, love her. Michelle Branch is one of my all-time faves — cuppa throw back. Obviously I love Dolly Parton. [The late] June Carter Cash is one of my favorites. She is such a good songwriter and she plays the autoharp.
June Carter and Dolly both have a great sense of humor. I’ve always related to June Carter because she’s a great songwriter but she really makes everything interesting with the way she tells stories and jokes to frame the music.
Do Midwestern influences sneak through in your music?
My sense of humor is really dry, which is a Midwestern thing.
Any non-country influences?
Well now that I’ve won Drag Race I have to say RuPaul, of course.
Your songs mention growing up, dresses, and going through things in life without warning. Are they autobiographical?
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Oh, they’re all about me. I can’t write about anything that hasn’t happened to me. It’s also hard for me to write about anything good. Like right now, I just won Drag Race, and have a great boyfriend, so I’m probably not going to be able to write music until I get hit by a bus.
A lot of my music is about hindsight. About being mature enough to know you’re not the victim, you probably brought it on yourself.
I love "Little Sister." My siblings are 18 and they live where I grew up — very small. That song is cautionary. You’re young, and beautiful, and you’re 18, so you think you’re grown up and know everything. But I have 10 years of wisdom on you and I’m telling you, you have seen a fingernail clipping of what the world has to offer you.
Trixie Mattel is scheduled to perform on Friday, June 22, at The Van Buren. Tickets are $35-$99 via ticketmaster.com.