Trixie Mattel, drag queen extraordinaire, was introduced to the world seven years ago with a heavy contour and a Dolly Parton-esque blond wig on “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”
Now she’s releasing “The Blonde & Pink Albums,” a double album out June 24 that highlights her new, sunny style.
“If I quit drag tomorrow, I would still write songs for the rest of my life, because that’s kind of my first love,” said Trixie, known outside of drag as Brian Firkus.
Her art form of choice is in the political hot seat, as elected officials from Arizona, Texas and Florida have recently suggested they will try to ban children from drag shows. While she declined to comment on the widening controversy for this article, her trademark humor about the subject is still evident on her Twitter. (In response to a user telling her to stay away from kids, Trixie simply replied “Girl I hate children.”)
The comic, singer and entrepreneur only started playing guitar and singing because she was interested in songwriting. “The artists I liked on the radio all played guitars. It was the era of Avril Lavigne and Michelle Branch and Sheryl Crow and Green Day, and a lot of the music I was listing to was guitar-driven,” she said.
Part of her fondness of guitar grew out of necessity. “I grew up in the country extremely broke,” explained Trixie, who is from Wisconsin. “That’s what poor people play.”
Her first album, “Two Birds,” was heavily folk- and country-inspired because she wrote it about a breakup with a guy she dated back home. But Trixie is a California girl now, and the music from her fourth studio album reflects that shift. “You can just feel the California sunshine in this music,” she said of her new songs, most of which she wrote in her pink-interiored condo.
“The Blonde & Pink Albums” also see a bigger tonal shift than just style: For the first time she can recall, some tracks are written from the perspective of Trixie as drag queen. “In the beginning, I thought there was a fakeness for writing for the character in a way, so that’s why my early records especially are very personal and very somber. … It was during a time when I was trying to prove my musicianship, so I thought that if I didn’t make serious-sounding music, no one would take me seriously,” she said.
“Hello Hello,” about a drag queen picking up a guy at a bar, isn’t something Trixie has actually done. But the latest albums, conceived during quarantine, are filled with fantasy.
“A lot of the songs are imagined scenarios, like ‘Girl of Your Dreams.’ … It’s based on a fantasy of something that hasn’t happened because I spent two years stuck inside,” Trixie said. “You can see that I was using this record as a little bit of a distraction at the time I was writing it, which is why we get out of my head a little more and we get into imagined scenarios or fables or other people’s stories.”
Trixie still mines material from her real life, too. “White Rabbit” was written while she was on an anniversary trip to Lake Arrowhead in California with her partner of six years, producer David Silver. Despite owning a motel with him — the focus of her new Discovery Plus show “Trixie Motel,” which follows her as she renovates the seven-room, pink-laden Palm Springs business — the duo doesn’t live together. “I’m a very difficult person to get close to and, in relationships, when things are going well I tend to panic and look for the door. … I ended up writing a song about a white rabbit being the metaphor of the person checking the clock and looking for the door in a relationship. Head between the knees, ready for impact.”
Trixie’s other long-term relationship, with her comedy partner, fellow drag queen Katya Zamolodchikova, also has its limitations. The “on-camera best friends” have worked together on the YouTube series “UNHhhh,” Netflix’s “I Like To Watch,” the book “Trixie and Katya’s Guide to Modern Womanhood” and are on a comedy tour.
“We save all the magic for the studio, so unless we’re doing podcasting or YouTube or anything, we really keep it concise so when we get together we have something to talk about,” Trixie said. “ … We let our friendship exist sort of within these bounds of when it needs to be showcased.”
Trixie also believes some of the magic from their chemistry comes from their opposite personalities: She describes herself as “terribly ambitious” while Katya is more easygoing with her career. Katya “doesn’t care about being recognized or noticed or accoladed or awarded or whatever, whereas I think I always want whatever recognition or showcasing I can get,” Trixie said. “She really helps me relax sometimes — reminds me it’s not brain surgery, it’s just drag. And I think I always help her commodify the art a little bit. … I’m always trying to succession plan us and she’s always trying to make sure we don’t kill the enjoyment.”
Trixie’s ability to commodify and plan is evident in her own brand. She has her own makeup line, Trixie Cosmetics, her motel and her music. As “Drag Race” host RuPaul told Jimmy Kimmel on the latter’s late-night show, “Trixie Mattel is so rich now. She is so rich. She’s got TV specials and albums and ornaments.” And that’s largely by design.
“Usually by the time something is in motion, I have thought about it or wanted it long enough that I had to force it into motion or pay for it to be in motion,” Trixie said.
Trixie, who is Native American, likens her business sense to putting her ear to the ground and listening for bison. “If I think something is a good idea I usually can’t be convinced otherwise. I need to either see it fail or see it succeed,” she said. “It’s not analytical as much as it’s instinctual.”