The Vanderbilt Hustler

Q&A with Chappell Roan, up-and-coming musician with powerful vocals

Kathryn Hamilton

Chappell Roan is an emerging 19-year-old musician from a small town outside of Springfield, Missouri, where she says there are “more cows than people.” Roan brings a combination of raw vocals and pop ballads to the studio. Her voice has been compared to stars including Sia and Lana Del Rey. Having toured with Vance Joy last year, Roan is now on a national tour with English musician Declan McKenna and the two artists are bringing their talents to Nashville’s Mercy Lounge on Monday, Feb. 5th. Roan plans to release a lot of new music in 2018, starting with her latest single, “Bitter,” which was released on February 2. Her other singles include “Good Hurt,” which debuted in August 2017, and “Die Young,” her rebranding of a song she originally wrote when she was 16 years old and just getting started. Check out her singles and EP, School Nights, here.

The Vanderbilt Hustler had the chance to sit down and speak with Chappell Roan regarding how far she’s come and where she’s headed.

VH: Who are your biggest inspirations, both professionally and personally?

CR: I really love Adele, and how she has handled her success and how she’s very genuine, interpersonally. I strive to be that way myself all the time, and just do what I know is right. And professionally, she’s so successful, and has her head on her shoulders really well, so I strive to also be grounded and have integrity like her.

VH: So what are your favorite and least favorite things about being an up-and-coming artist?

CR: I think definitely, things are hard right now, and I know one day they won’t be like this. Everything that’s happening I will learn to appreciate, so I’m appreciating the journey that being a new artist brings. My least favorite parts are just, I feel like sometimes being a new artist, people don’t take you as seriously, or don’t think you know what you want because you haven’t been doing this for a long time. So I mean, there’s pros and cons to it.

VH: So how did you find your music style? Did you know you wanted to create this kind of music from the beginning?

CR: No, finding the music style was a long process, but in the end, rewarding. We would just start out and it would sound too much like Lana Del Rey, or too much like Lorde, and I just felt like, “No, this isn’t right.” I mean I love them, but I don’t want to be a replica of them. So, it was a lot of trial and error, and it took a couple of years. But now, it’s just perfect and unique to me. And I never expected it to be sounding like this, but it’s perfect to me.

VH: When did you start shaping your image and your brand?

CR: I guess about a year ago is when it really started, and it’s hard to brand yourself, just weird to be like, “What am I?” But I really love, like I said before, being very genuine, but also I know I wanted to have mystery involved in my brand, and just have a little bit of “Well, what does she actually look like? Where is she from?” I like mystery, and I also love haunted, witchy vibes. I love stuff from the 1800s and very feminine but dark at the same time, and it’s always evolving. I don’t know, my brand is like this now, but it could totally change next year.

VH: So, what’s an experience you’ve had that has driven your music or one of your songs specifically?

CR: When I had released “Die Young” for the first time, someone had told me that that song helped them not want to kill themselves anymore, and I was like, “Whoa.” That’s when it hit me that music has so much impact on people’s lives, and this job is more than just singing. That’s when I was like, “Wow, this is helping people through stuff, and I need to really take this seriously.” This is obviously very deep, but some people’s lives revolve around music. And I’m not saying that I’m responsible for them, but a song could save someone’s life, you know? From that moment on, I realized that this music has a lot of power and it’s important to use that power responsibly. So that was kind of a turning point.

VH: In your mini-documentary, you said you were born to do what you do. What does that feel like? Knowing you were born to do something?

CR: I think it provides, for me, security. It gives me purpose. There’s nothing else that makes me happier than having purpose in life. Having a goal, having something to look forward to, something to work hard at. This is amazing to know that what I’m doing is right, and I’m just so grateful. It’s hard to explain how grateful I am, and I just feel so lucky to have this job. I never thought I would have this.

VH: What can everyone expect from your performance at Mercy Lounge on Monday, and what are you looking forward to for the rest of 2018 in terms of your music?

CR: Well, on Monday, I’m going to perform some songs that I think people will know and will like to dance along to and sing to, and some songs I’ve never performed before, so they’ll get to see brand new stuff. It’s going to be a fun show. Declan’s a fun show. For 2018, we’re releasing lots of new music. We’re releasing a new song tomorrow (“Bitter”), and more videos, and more shows in general. I hope to do festival stuff in the summer.

Photo courtesy of Atlantic Records

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About the Writer
Kathryn Hamilton, Author

Katy Hamilton ('21) is a writer for the Life section of the Vanderbilt Hustler. From Barrington, Illinois, Katy is majoring in Psychology and Human &...

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