Q&A: Kim Petras talks sex, stardom, and Grindr
If you’re anything like me, you’ve been obsessed with Kim Petras since the debut of her single “Heart to Break” last year. The song became a Top 40 staple, broke 16 million streams (adding to Kim’s more than 140 million total streams), and was named one of the best songs of the year by “Paper,” “Noisey,” and “Billboard,” among others.
At just 26 years old, this new international pop icon is storming the globe and bringing a refreshing twist to pop music. She openly identifies as a trans woman and her visibility and support of the LGBTQ+ community have lead to her recent nomination for a GLAAD Media Award. Kim was featured in H&M’s “Pride Out Loud” campaign (in partnership with OUT) for the brand’s new LGBTQ-themed capsule line and, in December, partnered with Saks Fifth Avenue to appear in a five-look spread for the holiday season.
I was lucky enough to have a conversation with this superstar just hours after the release of her new single “Do Me,” and before embarking on her “Broken” tour, which hits Minneapolis for a sold-out show at the Fine Line Music Café on June 21.
(This interview has been edited for clarity and length.)
Felix Foster: First off, your latest single, “Do Me.” Very good!
Kim Petras: Thank you!
I was just wondering what inspired it…
Um…well…getting fucked! (laughs)
(Still laughing) It’s definitely about sex but I feel like it’s inspired by just, like, rock-sex anthems. It has an ’80s thing going for it—really big stadium sounding—with some rock ’n’ roll Steven Tyler-esque ad-libs on it. So yeah, that inspired it. I love that kind of music so it was a blast making it, I had a lot of fun. But it’s definitely, like, a whole anthem.
It’s just one of those songs that you put on and get in the mood.
Yeah, totally. I feel like it was something I needed to add to my discography and I love it. And I feel like the feedback has been really amazing so far.
Yeah, what was it like getting tweeted by Grindr?
Yeah, totally. Me and Grindr are just like homies on social media now (laughs). I hope they pick it as their theme song; I think it should be Grindr’s official theme song.
What’s your favorite of the singles so far?
Damn, making me pick?
Honestly, it’s always the last one that came out so every week it changes. So right now it’s “Do Me,” but there’s some songs coming that are not out yet that I’m super excited about. And definitely “Blow it All” and “All I Do is Cry” are really special to me. “All I Do is Cry”—I wrote that last year on the Bloom tour [with Troye Sivan] and it was kind of the first song that we went to the studio with and recorded after we came off of a long tour. So that one is really special to me. And “Blow it All” just makes me feel really good. So I love all of them, but right now it changes daily, to be honest.
So these are another collection of singles rather than a full album drop, right?
Umm… Don’t say that yet! I can’t announce anything, but I’m going to announce something. There’s definitely a plan, and it’s leading up to something. But I can’t announce anything yet because then nothing is a surprise and you’re just waiting. I just want to keep it interesting and keep it fun.
[Editor’s Note: Kim has since announced a 12-track project, called “Clarity”, will be released on June 27.]
I love this method—I loved having a new song every week to listen to and get into and have time with.
Awesome! I’m glad you like it. We just thought it was fun to do, we were just like, ‘Yo, let’s drop a song a week.’ Because last time with the last rollout we [put out] a song a month, so we had to, like, step it up. But I think it’s really good, because it constantly gives you new things, and it’s not like you just drop one thing and then you’re gone for a year. So I just want to keep it going and make it fun.
Definitely, and I think it’s nice leading up to the concert to be able to learn the lyrics and get to know the songs a little bit rather than having to memorize an entire album in like a week before the show.
Yeah, totally! With this one, it’s only two weeks till tour starts so there’s still a little bit of time. That’s definitely a plus.
I’ve seen you talk a little bit in a couple of interviews and on Twitter about how this music is a little different than some of the older stuff. Can you talk about your feelings on that and changing it up a bit?
I’m pretty selfish, I always write the music I want to listen to. I’ve been going through some shit in life—bad relationships and breakup stuff—and it’s been pretty heavy on me. And when I came off tour, I was singing my songs all the time that were, at the time, like, super happy—like club super ‘up’ songs—and I was like, I need to write these songs about how I feel. It was really natural, not like, ‘Oh I’m gonna do this.’ It was just the music I wanted to make.
I mean, I’m really happy about it because I want to change it up every single era; I don’t want to repeat what I’m doing and also I feel like I don’t want people to box me in to anything, so I always want to surprise people and be like, ‘Yo, I also have this side to me that you haven’t seen or heard yet.’ So yeah, it just kind of happened, but I’m really obsessed with it and it’s a lot like the music that I listen to, and I feel like you can really get a good idea of who I am as a person or as a friend. A lot of my friends have said these songs are a lot more like hanging out with me and having a night out with me.
So that’s just kinda what I want to do; I want to connect with my fans, I want to chill with my fans and let them know what’s going on, and I hope my fans can relate to this feeling.
What are you listening to right now?
I’ve been listening to a lot of older Rihanna albums. I’m a huge Rihanna fan so I’ve been preparing for her reggae album to come out and listening to ‘Loud,’ ‘Good Girl Gone Bad,’ ‘Rated R’—all my favorite Rihanna albums on repeat. ‘Dangerously in Love’ by Beyoncé—that album is amazing. ‘808s & Heartbreak’ by Kanye West. ‘Astroworld’ by Travis Scott.
We’re really excited about your upcoming show in Minneapolis. Have you been to the city before?
Yeah, a bunch! Actually ‘Heart to Break’ had the biggest reaction on the radio in Minneapolis, so I did a bunch of promo there; I was there on the Troye Sivan tour. I love Minneapolis.
We’re looking forward to having you back then! What can we expect from the show?
Well, it’s my first headlining tour so it’s gonna be exactly what I want it to be, which is nice. You can expect the stage to look how I want it to look for the first time. I’m going to sing a bunch of everyone’s favorites that I’ve dropped so far, and I’m gonna sing some that aren’t out yet. At the end of the day, it’s gonna be really fun, it’s gonna be a blast, and I just hope that everyone can forget their problems for an hour-and-a-half and just have fun, dance, and scream, and woo-ah!
Your show in Minneapolis is the first night of our Pride weekend and a lot of your tour is lining up with different Pride festivals. Was that on purpose?
It totally was not. It happened to be that way and I think that’s really amazing because that means the parties are gonna be extra lit and everything. It’s perfect, honestly.
I definitely want to show young trans kids that you can be anything you want to be and that’s super important to me. I think it’s important to inspire and I know that the LGBT community is especially good at that, at inspiring people. I think it’s amazing that LGBTQ members can have mass appeal now. But I definitely take it very seriously—you know, being a transgender pop star I always want to support the community. It feels so formal saying ‘the community,’ because they’re my friends, my family. I’ve always only gone to gay clubs. Like, it’s just my whole life is that.
It’s been a huge year for you. Are there any major highlights that stand out?
Yeah, for sure. I mean my first song on the radio Top 40 was huge for me. I didn’t think that was gonna happen, so it felt really amazing. But in general this last year has transformed me into a different person and I feel like I’m much more confident.
And last year my fan base really came together and I feel much more confident that there are people out there that actually want to listen to my music and what I have to say. Before that, I was really obscure and I always thought I wasn’t good enough to be an artist and all of those self-doubt things, so I think it’s affected me on a personal level. This last year has transformed me in a very positive way and made me stronger and better. And this year I’m just going to continue that, and grow stronger and further.
Felix Foster is a board member of Twin Cities Pride.