Chappell Roan has just started watching Drag Race – which is surprising, given the rising pop star cites drag culture, the club scene and camp among her biggest creative influences. Her favourite contestants? “Kim Chi, she’s awesome. And I love Bob the Drag Queen so much.”

The artist is speaking to Broadsheet days ahead of her first Australian tour from a studio in LA where she’s been working with frequent collaborator Dan Nigro, a producer best known for his work with Olivia Rodrigo.

Roan, who the Los Angeles Times recently called “LA’s queer pop superstar in the making”, and who counts Elton John as a fan, is playing solo shows this weekend in Sydney and Melbourne. She’ll also be the closing-night act at Brisbane’s Melt Festival, an annual celebration of queer art.

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It’s the first time the Missouri-raised performer has been to Australia. But she has a fondness for Aussies, who are often the first to hear new releases thanks to our advanced time zone. “They’re the fans who always give me the first response because they get the songs before everyone else,” Roan says. “So I’m like, ‘Oh, Australia likes it so far!’ I love Australia for that.”

She also loves our queens, and has tapped performers from the local drag community – including Karna Ford, King and Hollywould Star – to open her shows this weekend. Audiences can also expect big, club-inspired pop music, and a “full spectacle” that includes some audience participation.

Roan says she wrote most of the songs on her debut album, The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess, with a crowd in mind. Femininomenon involves a call and response, and she leads a cheer-squad-style chant in Hot To Go.

Then there are the outfits.

“One thing about the crowds, if you’re not dressed [up], everyone’s, like, looking at you. So it’s very, very encouraged”, she says. Roan even chooses a theme for each show. In Sydney, it’s Space Cowboy (“alien girly vibes”); for Brisbane, Slumber Party Kissin’ (“which is like, you show up in your pyjamas”); and in Melbourne, My Kink Is Karma (“kinky red and black attire”).

Her shows are part pop extravaganza, part drag show, and she says being exposed to drag and queer culture, and taken under the wing of members of those communities when she moved to Los Angeles in 2018, had a significant impact on her work. “Everything is sparkly and on fire and amazing,” she says of the scene. “My lyrics and my concepts and my outfits have to live up to that. And, if anything, it’s what made my music good. When I started writing about queer experiences, it got good”.

While Roan’s confidence in her art and her ability as a performer is evident, you don’t make it far in the world of pop without attracting some critics. But the star, who is set to tour with Olivia Rodrigo next year, is unfazed. “Some reviews have been like, ‘Oh, this is like a tasteless attempt at pop music.’ It’s like, ‘No, it’s not. You just don’t know what camp is,’” she says.

“It’s art. It’s meant to be judged. If people hate it, at least they fucking care about it. Like, the worst thing you can do is put out art and people are indifferent to it … I worked really hard on it, and I don’t give fuck what anyone else says. It’s good. You don’t like it? You’re hating from outside the club.”

Stream Chappell Roan’s debut album online.