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We love Todrick Hall, and we were honoured to speak with him ahead of his upcoming tour of Australia.
Todrick Hall is one of many talents. With the Übermensch of Ru Paul’s Drag Race set to tour Australia, we spoke with him to discuss his music, his inspiration and the prophetic words of his mother.
TBS: For those at The Big Smoke who may not be across your visual albums, can you please tell us how you approach your music and the art of storytelling?
Todrick: I have a very big musical theatre background and I love storytelling, so most of the time in my projects there is a very strong narrative and storyline. It’s not like an album with different concepts for each song, it very much all goes together. So in some ways it’s cool and in other ways, it’s difficult as people hear a song and they are like “I am so confused, what does he mean, what is he trying to say?” So I strongly suggest that if people are going to come to the show they watch an entire visual album or one of my visual albums so they understand how it works.
For this album, it’s imagining America in a world where everything is flipped from social statuses to what is acceptable and whats not, and it is really cool to be able to see what the world could potentially look like if it were illegal and an abomination to fall in love with someone of the opposite sex.
With the current political and social climate in the United States influencing your work, what do you wish you could get across more in the message of your work?
I think sometimes a lot of what I have to say and how I feel about the world that we are in politically can be summed up in the song Heaven. I think its so sad that we are in a place right now where people use religion to divide people, where it was created in my opinion to connect people and bring us together.
I just wish people could find a way to wake up and look for the positivity in life and try their hardest to understand where people are coming from. Ego is the worst quality to have, where people refuse to admit when they are wrong or change their mind because everyone believes they are so right. I wish people could try and make the same amount of effort to respect each other and love one another.
We’ve heard stories about the process you go through in terms of how you come up with a concept and film it and produce it all. Can you explain the creative process you go through from the start of an idea?
Generally I come up with something that’s been on my mind and bothered me for some time. From there, I think how would I tell this story or how would I say this in a way that is not accusing people or beating them over the head with a bat to convince them my opinion is right, but would challenge them to rethink something they think they know so well. I think if you can figure that out then you as an artist have done your job.
Can you tell us how you sustain your creative inspiration?
I am just constantly inspired by so many things. I am always listening to musical performances and watching documentaries, or reading up about new things that are happening, or things that happened many years ago that I am uneducated about. I try to find ways to tell those stories in new and exciting ways, so I am trying to constantly surround myself with people who are gong to challenge me to write better songs or create better choreography. I am really good at challenging myself to compete with myself now, as opposed to compete with other people and other artists which used to be one of my biggest flaws.
What’s your favourite old school musical that you think is underrated? (Ours is On the Town.)
There is a musical called Parade that I wish I could have seen. It’s written by Jason Robert Brown and it’s beautiful. I saw it produced one time regionally and I just fell in love with the show, and thought it was so amazing and so moving, and I was in tears by the end of it. I don’t know how successful or non-successful it was on Broadway, but I don’t think it got the credit it deserved and I am hoping and praying that sometime in my lifetime it will come back to Broadway.
Your song B really speaks to those who are going through the emotions of being betrayed or a breakup. How do you navigate those times and what advice do you give?
Being in a breakup or going through a tough time is really hard, and no matter how many times you do it, it never gets easier in my opinion. I think you have to be able to move on and realise that sometimes it’s better to cut the cord and start a new chapter with someone who recognises how great you are and how good an asset you are to them, as much as they are to you.
When you are in a lop-sided relationship or someone doesn’t really realise how amazing and special you are and takes you for granted, sometimes you have to move on to someone and let them figure it out in their own time how much better their life was when you were part of it.
With the RuPaul Musicals each season where the queens collaborate on a production, what season has the best musical? Our is the AS3 Divas one, but we loved the Kardashian one.
It would have to be a tie between those two as well. I love the Divas one, I thought it was really really fun, and I love that it was the divas singing renditions of RuPaul songs. I would have to say that was probably my favourite.
What other artists are killing it right now?
I love Kehlani. I love her so much, I think she is amazing. I obviously love Taylor Swift and what she is doing – she always writes such beautiful songs, and even though she isn’t a country artist anymore, she still tells stories with her pop music in the same way country artists tell stories with their songs. I love that every time she writes a song I immediately see a visual, whether she has given me one or not. And also Hunter Hayes, he is one of my favourite, favourite people.
What are you looking forward to this tour when you come to Australia this year?
Last year all of our shows were so close together, so I am really excited. I got to explore Melbourne but I never really got to spend a lot of time in Sydney. I’ve never been to Adelaide before and I really want to soak it in and explore the cities and get to really feel like I know Australia as opposed to just going there, doing a show then hopping on a plane to the next city.
With all of your experience, and how you have evolved as an artist, what advice would you give to a 15-year old Todrick Hall?
I would say, keep doing what you’re doing, listen to your mum because she loves you – all of her advice is going to come in handy one day.
I would say be fearless, and look at all the things that you are so nervous to promote or the things that make you special and unique, the things you want to hide the most; exploit those things, embrace those things and love those things about you. Because other people are going to love them, and you are going see that by truly accepting who you are.