Mikaela Straus has had a big year. The New York native, known by her many adoring and dedicated fans as King Princess, hit the ground running in January, heading out on the nearly-sold-out “Pussy Is God” tour which made its way to over 20 cities across North America. She released a stunning cover of Fiona Apple’s “I know”, with Apple even on the track, then kicked off the summer with a larger-than-life set at Coachella, all before releasing her fantastic debut album, Cheap Queen, this past October. She also just turned 21 this week.
But music isn’t new to her. Straus grew up among a creative community: her father Oliver Straus is a musical engineer who owns Mission Sound Records, where she would frequently hang out as a kid with big names like Missy Elliot. This inspired Straus to make her own music at a young age, experimenting with different sounds and instruments. She had producers and writers attempt to sign her, but Straus prides herself in creative independence. She waited until she had enough creative control to release her debut album,Cheap Queen, in October. And it was well worth the wait.
Filled with retro-inspired sounds and soft but powerful vocals, King Princess’ debut was worth the wait. Its 13 tracks feature a mix of emotionally-charged ballads, upbeat pop anthems, and fun synth sounds, which highlight Strauss’ talent not only as a singer-songwriter but as a producer and performer. When she sings, she not only captivates the audience, but she cultivates a community like no other. She advocates for younger queer listeners who find solace in her music and its fanbase to make friends of their own. King Princess isn’t just an artist, though. She’s changing the way young people — especially young queer artists — are represented in the media.
Below, our Rookie Of The Year speaks with Consequence of Sound about her debut album, her breakout year, and her upcoming tour with Harry Styles, which is going to be a “fucking party.”
On how creating Cheap Queen was the highlight of her year
The first highlight was definitely putting my album out. That was so fucking crazy. It was my inaugural first full-length album. She’s a big bitch, she’s got 13 tracks, I was very proud of that. I think my highlight, specifically, was producing it. I really got to sit and think about what I wanted it to sound like and make it myself. I think that was really cool, I’m a producer and a writer, but I think the production is what really gives me this kind of confidence and love for the nerdy shit. I’m just a nerd. I love making sounds. It was really cool to be able to do that. It’s really inspired me and given the confidence to never stop doing that because no one could do it better.
On the importance of working with the right producer
I’m interested in somebody who is there to add embellishments to what I’m building. For me, a producer’s job in a session with me is to add something. I’m interested in people who are going to add something that I wouldn’t see. That’s something I learned this year — I really only wanna work with people better than me because then they are able to add something that I could have looked over.
One thing I loved about making this record is that I did work with some producers, but there were no egos involved. Everyone knew that this was my project and they were there to add their specific flavor that I requested.
What I love about the work that I’m fostering, is that everyone that I’ve worked with is part of an arsenal or a family of people that I find super fucking talented, like, “I think this person would be incredible with writing on this one,” or “I think this person would help with the drums on this one.” It’s really specific stuff, and what I like about it is that I can be the master of ceremonies type thing, and I can employ really talented people who I’m friends with, who can come in and work on shit. And that’s a really strong place to be in, especially as a lady.
On Taylor Swift recognizing her during her Billboard’s Woman of the Decade Award acceptance speech
I’m really happy she did, that was very kind. I’m so humbled by that. And I think, knowledge is power, and I think a lot of the artists she named, these are women who have taken it upon themselves to learn their craft. The more you know about your craft, the less other people can come in and fuck with you. And that’s what she was saying.
On her strong relationships with friends and fans
The biggest thing I’ve learned is that you have to have a strong base of friends. I am so grateful for my friends. You can get validation from the whole world, you can get validation from hundreds of people at a show. But nothing feels more validating that sitting at home with your people and having them tell you that they’re proud of you. Every day I spend doing this, I feel more and more grateful for the people that I can call and send songs to and ask their opinion, or play my music. That shit is priceless.
There are these moments of interaction at these shows where these kids say shit that really hit me. Everything these kids say, I hear it and I take it in, but sometimes you can just hear the conviction in someone’s voice when they say, “I snuck out to this show. My parents don’t know I’m here, I’m so happy to be here. I feel validated in a way that they don’t make me feel validated.” And that is really cool.
I think this is a bullshit term, but I think that the epitome of a “safe space” is a King Princess show. My shows, there’s no violence, there’s no fighting, there’s no homophobia. I’m watching lesbians make room for other people to see better. I’ve seen little hoes make room for other little hoes to stand closer to the stage. I said as a joke once, “open the pit!” and they made a lesbian moshpit where everyone was holding hands. Nobody was being shoved. I was like, “what the fuck!” They meet friends! I see [them] at the show, who come to another show and say, I met all my friends at that show.
On us never seeing a fan base curate a community like hers…
Me neither, bitch!
On going on tour with and being a fan of Harry Styles
I think one of the first things I felt really good about in my career was that I was getting supported by artists way bigger than me, and it reminded me that this is really what the essence of what the artistic community should be. It’s people in positions of power, bringing up people who are new to the industry. Chaperoning each other, big brother big sister vibes, into the music industry. I felt a lot of love. The last two years have been a lot of love from people that I’ve looked up to.
With Harry, specifically, I’ve had the chance to hang out with him, and he’s just a really delightful guy. I’m not the kind of person who will open for anyone. You won’t catch me opening for anybody. I’m picky! So when said, “do you wanna open for me?” I was like, “yeah, I wanna open for you! Because you are talented, you are kind, and you are going to make this enjoyable for the both of us, and we’re gonna have a fucking party, bro.”
On sharing Harry’s “treat people with kindness” sentiment…
It’s funny. I’m so anti-kindness. But I promote such a kind face. But this is rock and roll, baby. This is rock and roll legacy. Me and Harry are two rock and roll hoes, honey. I am going to bring you shredding guitar, and he is going to bring you iconic ‘70s rock and roll passion.
On her dream collaborator
I’d really like to sing a duet with Kasey Musgraves. I just think she’s fabulous. And I have a little country in me. I’m a horse girl. I love a horse.
On what’s next…
I’m terrible at keeping secrets. You’re going to be shook, that’s all I’m saying. You’re gonna be gagged, gooped, shooketh and shaked, bitch.