The Truth About Trixie Mattel's Music Career

Trixie Mattel, the doll-inspired drag persona created by Brian Michael Firkus, first made her mark on the world in Season 7 of "RuPaul's Drag Race." (The star is comfortable with she/her and they/them pronouns as Trixie and any pronouns as Brian, per Fandom.) She later won the third season of "RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars."

Since her big win, Mattel's brand has exploded. She hosts a podcast and a web show and has written a book with her "Drag Race" co-star and friend, Katya Zamolodchikova. The reality star also took part in her own biographical documentary, "Trixie Mattel: Moving Parts," and spearheaded her own makeup line, Trixie Cosmetics (per Mattel's website).

And, though Mattel sits in a judge's chair on "Queen of the Universe," a singing competition that's been streaming on Paramount+ since 2021, her own music career remains relatively unrecognized. 

However, as Mattel's music evolves and transforms, it has brought more attention to the sonic talents behind the stunning drag persona.

Her musical style might surprise you

For someone already familiar with her larger-than-life persona on "Drag Race," hearing Trixie Mattel's music for the first time might result in a bit of cognitive dissonance. 

In her most popular song on Spotify, "Heavy Crown," you might recognize the lyrics as reflections of her glamorous life in drag. However, the soft acoustic accompaniment and twangy vocals feel straight out of a folk or country record. Think James Taylor covering Lana Del Ray (which Mattel is wont to do) or the vocals of a less-gravelly Bob Dylan.

Mattel described her first album, 2017's "Two Birds," as "very country," per Them. She also discussed her follow-up album, 2018's "One Stone," saying it was separate but related to the first, featuring a different texture. "I think of the first as studded rhinestone leather, and the second as a '70s burlap pouch," she said.

On these albums, she also began expanding into a soft rock sound that reflected her teen years, infusing "Two Birds" and "One Stone" with an early 2000s influence. She talked to Esquire about her sophomore album. "On the radio at that time it was Fountains of Wayne and Avril Lavigne and Weezer and Blink 182, and I think you can definitely hear in this record that that's kind of what I learned on," she said.

Trixie Mattel draws inspiration from other eras in music

Trixie Mattel's most recent forays into music have had a pop rock vibe, with her sound and style distancing her from her previous guitar-centric vibe (per Them). Mattel explained to Esquire in 2020 that her broad range of influences is a product of her childhood. "I was very influenced by country music as a kid, but I learned to play guitar at 13, 14, 15 and what was I learning on? Of course I was listening to power pop," she said.

For 2020's "Barbara," Mattel's third studio album, she leaned into an entirely different era: the '60s. "It really influenced this record because for Trixie, for drag, '60s pop has such a sense of humor to it," she told Esquire. "Everybody's in a wig. ... There's sort of a camp to it."

In addition to writing her own songs, Mattel performs killer covers, including versions of the Violent Femmes' "Blister In The Sun" and Johnny Cash's "Jackson." Opening up about her songwriting process to NPR, she shared, "I write these songs for my own human development — I'm looking for answers myself when I write this music." 

She thought her drag persona might hurt her music career

Trixie Mattel told Esquire in 2020 that she worried her drag career might derail her music career. "Honestly, I thought drag would prevent me from being taken seriously," she said. "I thought, 'Well, kiss your music career goodbye because once you do this, you're just going to be seen as a drag queen, not a musician.'"

In 2018, Brian Michael Firkus (pictured above) discussed his performance background with NPR. "I always wanted to be a songwriter and a singer ... But while I was finishing college, my drag became lucrative, so I had to pursue what was going to pay the bills — and doing comedy as Trixie was something that I was able to market." 

He pointed out that Trixie's uniqueness garnered more attention than just another singer-songwriter would. "Being a white guy with a guitar was, as it turns out, not that special," he said.

So, the performer had to find a balance between Brian Michael Firkus and Trixie Mattel. "I let Trixie have the musical skill of Brian, and then when I'm writing my music as Brian I can pull from the life experiences I've had traveling as Trixie," he said.

Trixie Mattel is taking over more than just the music industry

Besides regularly releasing music; writing a new book with Katya Zamolodchikova (pictured above right); and co-hosting "The Trixie and Katya Show," released by Viceland, Trixie Mattel's new renovation show, "Trixie Motel" will be produced by HGTV and stream on Discovery+ in 2022. 

Mattel even gave Bustle the scoop on what viewers can look forward to: "The only thing I could compare it to would be it's a motel in drag," she said. "That's what it is. Every room is in drag."

Despite her incredible success, the star opened up about work-life balance with ET Online, explaining the difficulty of putting away work when it brings her so much joy. "I am so deeply, over-the-top committed to my work that it has helped my reality check that I can't work all the time," she said. "If it was up to me, I would be in drag all day every day, working all day every day."

Thankfully, her boyfriend, filmmaker David Silver (who produced her documentary), helps her stay connected to reality. In a 2018 interview with Them, Mattel shared that her song "Moving Parts" conveys a vital aspect of her career and personal life. 

"Everything good that happens to you is also going to come with bad things," she said. "You can't have everything." Still, Mattel expressed confidence in handling both the ups and downs of her red hot career. "I feel built for it," she told Them. "It never bogs me down."

The star still has unmet goals

Trixie Mattel still has quite a few items on her bucket list, despite all she's accomplished. She told Bustle in 2022 that she aims to perform on late-night TV. 

Mattel would also love to buy another bar, in addition to This Is It!, the historic Milwaukee bar she co-owns, per Them. She said that drag bars are rarely owned and operated by drag queens themselves and that she hopes to change that part of nightlife culture.

In fact, Mattel thinks that America's general lack of queer spaces — an issue worsened by mass closures during the pandemic — is deeply troubling and something she wants to counteract going forward.

"Not to be sentimental, but the gay community has afforded me a wonderful life, an amazing career going on a decade and a half," she shared. "If there's an opportunity for me to preserve a space that gave me that, I have to."