Chappell Roan Heals a Broken Heart With ‘School Nights': PopCrush Presents
Many of us have experienced what it's like to find young love and then eventually lose it. While it usually means endless spoonfuls of ice cream and piles of tissues, Chappell Roan was able to harness those feelings into something more artistically fulfilling: her debut EP, School Nights.
The five-track record feels a little bit like an album from Lana Del Rey or Lorde, but don't get it twisted: these songs are all Chappell, who exudes an air of teenage mystique and emotional rawness all her own.
In October, we had the chance to chat with the 19-year-old singer and songwriter from Missouri following a special performance in New York City. Find out more about the artist on the rise, below.
You've been working with Atlantic Records for a while and have performed for them in the past. What did it feel like to get in front of them with this new body of work?
For me, it was really strange because the last time I performed for them was when I showcased. So now performing for my label is just very... it's a weird feeling. It's like finally I have something that I've worked on for so long to present to them that they've been waiting and waiting to hear. It's just very heartwarming. It was just very full-circle, and it made me feel like, "Wow, I did it!"
Looking back, how do think taking your time on School Nights helped the project?
Well, the hardest part of making the EP, School Nights, was making the sound. All the songs were written. They were acoustic versions, and I needed to find the right sound that wasn't too Lana. That wasn't too Lorde. That wasn't too Adele. And that just took a couple of years. I could have totally released it, but it wouldn't have been me.
And I'm so grateful that I took that time because one, I was signed when I was 17. I am still young, but I was definitely too young then to release music. I'm learning to handle it now; so I couldn't handle it back then. But overall, I needed those two years, and I'm grateful my label gave me that time to develop as an artist.
You mentioned looking for your sound. What's the inspiration behind the lyrics?
Basically, the whole record is the documentation of my first relationship and falling in love and then falling out of love, getting my heart broken. It was [about] my first boyfriend and what it was like for me. I took it very seriously. I loved this person more than anything...So that's what I pulled from. And the pain from losing that was the most intense pain I've ever felt. That's what inspired the whole record.
But sound-wise, Lana Del Rey and London Grammar inspired it. Honestly, there are songs from the '60s where I loved the drum patterns and was inspired by the sounds of them. Just a lot of inspirations.
Since this album is so personal to you, which song was the most difficult to write or perform in front of people?
I would say "Meantime." It was a really weird song for me to write because I didn't know exactly what I was feeling. [It's] just about knowing you want to be in a relationship, but you know you need to work on yourself to fully commit to that other person: I will love you in the meantime while I figure myself out. That's what the song is about. It was hard to write because I was so confused. And singing it, well, vocally it was hard because it's huge. And it's very emotional to sing that.
Your voice is very unique because there's so many layers: soul, classical, etc. Which singers influenced you, especially when you decided you wanted to become a vocalist yourself?
When I started singing, I was 13 or 14. I would literally try to mimic Stevie Nicks and Karen Carpenter. I would try to mimic them and then mix their voices. Then it just turned into my sound.
The "Good Hurt" video is visually interesting. It's beautifully shot but also has many creepy elements. What's the story behind that?
I didn't create the concept for that video. One of my directing friends, Griffin Stoddard, created the concept where it's a dark spa where you go to get treatments to feel that good hurt. It's like a replacement for that person in your life who's giving you "good hurt."
Even though your songs can be so emotionally open, there's still a mystery about you. What do you hope these songs will convey to listeners?
Honestly, I like that mysterious vibe. That's kind of what I always wanted. But also, I just want people who hear my music to just see me and understand me as a genuine person. I'm not trying to do anything that anyone else has done. I want to do what I think sounds good. I dress the way I like to dress and write what I like to write. I just want people to know that all of this really happened, and this is how I feel. I just want people to understand me better, and I also want them to know what they're feeling, they're not crazy for that. It's okay to love someone and also hate them and not understand what you feel. I just want to connect that with them.
We're releasing a new video for one of the songs, but I'm not sure which song yet. And we're releasing an acoustic version of the EP, so I'm really excited for that.