Kim Petras is to Halloween what Mariah Carey is to Christmas. Well, if not yet, she should be soon.
Earlier this month the 27-year-old pop star released a 17-track, “dark pop,” horror-themed album, Turn Off the Light, a follow-up to last year’s eight-track Turn Off the Light Volume 1. “I always wanted to combine [them],” Petras explained of her made-for-Halloween chapters. “I just felt like there shouldn’t be a break. They belong together to tell the whole story of Turn Off the Light.”
The singer-songwriter also released her highly-anticipated debut album, Clarity, at the end of June, an album that Petras’ estimates she wrote about 50 songs before cutting it down to its final 12 tracks.
Us Weekly spoke to her days before she embarked on her Clarity Tour, which will take Petras, Turn Off the Light and Clarity across North America and into Europe.
For insight on the “Death By Sex” singer’s two new albums, dating, getting naked on camera and more, read below:
What can we expect specifically from the Clarity Tour?
I’m excited for people to see the show. It’s going to be a huge step up from what I’ve done before. Way bigger venues. More outfits, more lighting, more songs that I’ve never performed. A bigger stage — the stage is sick! It’s really some real pop star shit s–t now. I’m not playing around now. This will be the best tour and stage set up that I’ve ever done. I’m just excited. I’ve been planning it for so long. Obviously, I’m also, like, always a little bit scared.
The video for “Icy” is so hot and the sexiness is cranked up to a level fans didn’t see in “I Don’t Want It At All” or “Heart to Break.” How did it feel to do that? Is it empowering or do you feel vulnerable getting naked in a video?
No, I honestly love it! [laughs] I feel like I always get naked for stuff now. I don’t know why but I just do. It’s a thing in my life. [laughs] I just really feel like, this past year and Clarity and building my fan base, and knowing that my fans love the s–t that I make has given me so much confidence. I just really feel like, in “I Don’t Want It At All” and all those videos, I was just really not confident at all in myself. I was kind of making up a character. This was the first video where I feel like it’s actually me and it represents me as a person. So, I’m really proud of it. I also had a director that I really trusted and I love all of his other work. It was just the moment to kind of let go and just, like, feel the song and really get into it. I definitely consider this my best visual.
For many artists, and for women especially, because there is a double standard, is there a mental process before going topless or getting naked for a project?
It’s not a big deal for me, personally. Because I feel, like, probably because I’m European [laughs]. We are just way more fine with nudity and that stuff. I feel like it’s a big part of self-expression for me. I don’t think sexuality or nudity is anything shameful. It’s like when I’m in the moment with people who share that same thing it’s just, like, no big deal but yes, there’s definitely going to be people that kind of suck. There’s still a long way to go with women’s bodies and people objectifying and over-sexualizing women’s bodies. I’m a big believer that it shouldn’t be such a big deal and that it’s something to embrace and it’s something that’s cool.
“Broken” was inspired by a breakup, but between cranking out all this music and working on these tours, is it possible for you to date?
Absolutely not at all. I feel like I can barely see my friends … and my friends are like my family and I love them. I make time wherever I can but this is kind of go time for me and I don’t mind it. I’ve been waiting and working towards this moment in my life where I’m just so busy every single day of the tour, like, my whole life. I’m really happy and satisfied with my life right now and I’m not looking for that. I don’t miss dating or anything right now. I’m just happy to be around my team, to be on tour, to be doing my job. Kind of … music is like my boyfriend anyway so, that’s chill for right now.
Was the breakup you sang about in “Broken” the same one that inspired “Icy?”
The whole Clarity record is the same breakup and the same being cheated on for the first time, and coping with that and getting over that. A lot of the songs … the demos were much darker, it was going to be much more of a complete emo record, just like, “life sucks.” Halfway through I just found my, like, spark again in the studio with my friends, just turning it around. Because after a breakup always comes going out with your friends and all the fun stuff. So, I feel like I found myself through writing this record. And I feel like it really represents that really well. I feel like it’s, like, a night out with me and then going home and crying over dudes. If you listen to the whole thing, that’s what hanging out with me is like. That was my personal purpose of this record. I wanted my fans to really get to know me and to be able to relate to me. Because the first era, I was kind of writing songs about how I wished my life was, and I was writing songs about designer clothes and money and fame, which is so fun and I always loved doing that, but it was more of a character. I was, like, living on a futon with four other roommates and wrote songs about wanting all designer clothes. I feel like that came out of a place that I hadn’t really found much confidence to write about my feelings. I feel like that’s really hard for me in general to let people into my feelings. So, Clarity is that, and it felt really cool and also really nerve-wracking to write stuff that’s really personal and really real.
You said when you were writing those first songs you were coming from an insecure place where you felt like you weren’t sure if anyone would like you. When did you start to feel secure?
I’m a big overthinker and I was kind of just always like, “Am I pretty enough?” “Is anybody going to listen to me?” “Is my voice good enough?” All this stuff that, if you live your life or are becoming an artist and a pop star and you’ve worked really hard on it everyday, you think all of those things and you don’t know if anybody is going to like you once your single is coming out. It’s scary. So, I really felt like once I found my fans and felt they liked me, and that I’m literally friends with them, that’s when I felt like “OK, there are people out there who love me and need to hear what I have to say and relate to this because they’re going to go through the same stuff.”
You’ve talked about the struggles you’ve faced with people in this industry being transphobic and ignorant. How much has that improved since your initial breakout and how much do you still experience of that?
I do experience some of it but now I know how to cope with it. If I get asked an unacceptable question that’s just f–ing rude, I have no problem any more saying, “No, I won’t answer that,” or walking out of the interview. In the beginning, I was kind of just trying to do a good job and would explain myself. I just want to be an example for other transgender people that they don’t have to take s–t from anybody and that they don’t have to explain themselves to anybody if it’s not in a nice, respectable way. For example, a lot of international interviews, like, I just literally get asked about my genitals. And I’m like, “bitch, what the f–k?” I won’t answer that s–t no more. Things like that suck sometimes. I just want to be a great artist and I kind of want the trans thing to be a footnote. I love being transgender and I’m proud of it, and I love talking about it and educating about it and being an ally obviously. I love the trans community and I feel constantly inspired by other trans women and trans men and the trans community, but it’s just been hard to balance that because it became everything people wanted to talk about at some point, and that sucks. So, now I feel like it’s getting better just because I won’t take no s–t no more. [laughs] I’m like, “I don’t have time for none of that bulls–t.” But yeah, I’m also really proving something. Because at record labels a lot of people would just be like, “Oh, you’re transgender so you can never be a mainstream pop act, you’re always going to be niche.” So, I’m [dis]proving that!
Turn Off the Light as an album has so many fun non-vocal tracks interspersed between the vocal ones. Can you explain why you put these in the album?
Turn Off the Light I’m probably most proud of because the transitions are f–ing epic. I definitely want people to listen to that front to back and never any other way because I’m really proud of how they bleed into each other, and how it’s almost like an infinite loop of all the songs. I just love the dance tracks because I’ve always wanted this to be the soundtrack for Halloween parties and I just know that when people get drunk, people don’t want to remember every single word to a song, and people just want to dance. So, it was a good moment to just incorporate some sick instrumentals that I put on when I go to parties. I love listening to just beats. I feel like that’s a huge part of why it’s a Halloween party soundtrack now, is that you have those dance tracks and you have those moments where you don’t have to know any lyrics and you can just forget yourself. [Laughs]
Were any of the songs you wrote on Clarity or Turn Off The Light intended for other artists but songs that you kept for this album?
No! I’m completely 1 million percent a selfish bitch right now and I’m just writing for myself. I would love to write a song for Ariana [Grande], I would love to write a song for Rihanna. I love writing songs with, or for, JoJo, one of my favorite people. There’s a lot of people that I’m obsessed with that I feel like I have songs I can give them. I just don’t have time to go into a studio and finesse them right now. But basically, my life goal, I’ve written so many songs in my life, is to write a song for Rihanna. I have to do that, there’s no way around it, it’s gonna happen.
Will you always be this prolific with your album output? After Turn Off the Light Vol. 1, Clarity and now a full album of Turn Off the Light, it leaves us wondering when we’ll get the next big project from you.
Well, this is definitely it for a little bit. I know what I’m doing next and I have a very clear vision of what I’m doing next. I love writing songs but they have to feel right and I have to be inspired. I never want the quantity to be above the quality. I’ll drop music when I think the music is perfect, when the music means something to me. I want to keep it interesting and I don’t want to repeat myself. If I’m not writing the sickest s–t that I’ve done yet, and if it’s not better than anything that I’ve done then, I don’t want to put it out.
We’ve heard you guest on Charli XCX’s “Click” and various others’ work, but the only named collab between Turn Off the Light and Clarity, in terms of featured talent, is Elvira. Were there others you did that didn’t make the cut?
Well, there were a lot of people that I reached out to that it just didn’t work out with because we finished Turn Off the Light so close to the deadline. But I’m excited to do more collabs in the future. There are so many people I want to collab with. Most importantly, I want to collab with Daft Punk. I would kill to do that. That would be the sickest thing ever. I really want to have a collab with Post Malone. I just feel like we both have that crazy sheep vibrato. We have to do it.
You’ve caught a little bit of criticism for collaborating with Dr. Luke but have continued to work with him on both these albums. Have you considered walking away from the partnership?
I, unfortunately, don’t talk about this anymore because I feel like it’s really insensitive getting into people’s business with that. So I don’t allow myself [to have] an opinion on that because I respect both of the involved parties.
Ok, let’s move on, let’s talk about Turn Off the Light. Why Halloween when so many artists do Christmas?
Well, Halloween is Christmas for the gays and for me! To me personally, the more important holiday is Halloween. I geek out so much. I love going to haunted houses, I love watching horror movies with all my friends, all of October for me is the best time of the year. There are so many Christmas albums and so many Christmas songs coming out everywhere and I was like, “Let’s make an album for my personal favorite holiday.” Then a lot of people just really liked it, which was surprising because my whole team was like, “What the f–k, don’t make a Halloween record! Who the f–k is going to listen to that?” And people did! So yeah, I’ll probably never make a Christmas song but I have a full Halloween record that I’m really proud of.
This is Halloween-themed, but is the goal that this is a year-round album too?
The purpose of it is definitely that you can listen to it whenever the hell you want. I never wanted it to be like the “Monster Mash. It’s still crafted pop songs that can stand on their own. It’s more horror-themed than it is Halloween-themed. But I think around Halloween, it’s the most magical to listen to it. I feel like now, every Halloween I’m going to try to perform the whole thing somewhere, the night before Halloween, and now I’m starting this year at The Shrine in L.A. My first time, performing the whole thing. I want to make that an annual thing in L.A. for Halloween that I put on the Turn Off the Light show.
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