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Interview: Courtney Act

7 min read

It’s been an exciting year for Australian drag superstar Courtney Act, competing and becoming runner up on RuPaul’s Drag Race Season Six and now with the release of her debut EP, Kaleidoscope. She’s come a long way since her stint on Australian Idol’s first season in 2003 and since moving to LA her career has only prospered, with various single releases including the snappy Mean Gays; Courtney also became an American Apparel Ad Girl alongside fellow queens Willam and Alaska, which allowed us to once again see her serve body-ody-ody!

Courtney Act KaleidoscopeWe caught up with Courtney to chat about Kaleidoscope, which in her Kickstarter campaign she described its sound as being “A little bit Kylie, a little bit Tove Lo, a bit of Robyn and a good dollop of Vegemite” – she also recommends that we listen to it whilst jumping on our beds in our pyjamas. The release sounds really exciting, we couldn’t wait to hear more about it from the star herself….

Courtney Act: Hello Marcus, this is Courtney Act, how are you?

Marcus: I’m really good thanks, how’re you?

CA: Good!

M: That’s really good to hear! I just wanted to say congratulations on your debut EP, Kaleidoscope!

CA: Thank you so much!

M: It must be such a milestone for you

CA: Yeah, it is, it’s cool! It’s been years, and years, and years of taming.

M: You successfully raised the funds to make the EP from your hardcore fans on Kickstarter, were you expecting such a tidal wave of response?

CA: At first I was kind of scared to push ‘go’ on Kickstarter, I was kind of scared asking people to support me like that, but Amanda Palmer had a Kickstarter campaign for her music. I watched her TED talk that she did and I also read her book The Art of Asking, it really inspired me. I guess it gave me the confidence to go on Kickstarter, and once I pushed ‘go’ within a week I reached the funding goal and it doubled over the course of the month!

M: Yeah, it was amazing! Unfortunately not a lot of artists get similar support, it’s really incredible for you to have your fans backing you up like that.

CA: Totally!

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M: How important was it for you to oversee the entire creative process of Kaleidoscope?

CA: I think it’s really important. The whole creative process is what I’m doing it for to be honest, I love writing the music and every single detail of it from, you know, the music videos and the artwork and making sure that every detail is exactly how I want it. Kind of where the time really counts, from the opportunity to get it all right to working as hard as I can to make this release have the best expression of who I am.

M: Yeah, well you always look lovely and flawless, so I imagine that the whole process is just right up your alley. The EP cover looks fantastic too!

CA: Aw, thanks! I’ve got these 3D holograms for the cover art for the limited edition CD’s and I’m sitting here right now numbering them, like 1 of 1000, 2 of 1000 and so on. And I’m signing every single one of them, kind of tedious but really rewarding!

M: Oh wow!! You’ve got some work cut out for you.

CA: I do, what am I up to? I’m up to number 37, haha.

M: Aww, but it’s all worth it in the end though, your fans love you for it. What benefits did you find from releasing Kaleidoscope through a crowd funding platform and would it be something that you would recommend to other musicians as well?

CA: The cool thing about Kickstarter really is that I could reach my audience early on, it’s really cool to get the support of fans and engage them in the process, and it felt like I had this real support network. Going into it I kind of knew there was a big group of people excited and were waiting for it, it was more than raising money; Kickstarter is really about engaging the audience. It’s sort of like when people put their money where their mouth is and say ‘we’re gonna pledge this money to you’, people are just there to support you.

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M: I listened to Kaleidoscope last night and I was blown away. Your pop music is in-your-face, but in a brilliant way. You’ve got that mainstream sound down pat, but it’s just you.

CA: Yeah I really tried to put as much of myself in the music as possible, I wrote it over the course of a year with different people and it was a really cool journey to find that sound that I really liked and to really focus on that.

M: You can definitely hear influences from Kylie Minogue, Madonna and Robyn. Did the sound of Kaleidoscope naturally head in that direction, or were you always planning on giving those pop queens a run for their money?

CA: I think the first song we wrote was Kaleidoscope, which initially sounded a lot like Olivia Newton-John’s Physical, and it has a completely different sound. Then we wrote Body Parts, and all the other tracks started taking shape and I wanted to rework Kaleidoscope so we could hear it differently, and I really loved it before but I love it now. I just wanted to have that pop vibe to the music, I love Tove Lo and I love Robyn, and I love Kylie. As we started writing the music, the direction appeared, originally it was all written in a more, how would you say, Goldfrappe-y kind of vibe.

M: It’s a colourful release and the vibes are brilliant. I got really addicted to it and that’s what you would want with pop music; you need it to be addictive, and you need it to breathe in and out the artist that created it.

CA: Totally!

M: You were already a household name in Australia just before the States, way before your run on Season Six of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Do you think the show has potentially helped you gain recognition on a global scale?

CA: Oh yeah, the show was an amazing platform! I’ve literally toured all around the world because of Drag Race and we go to countries where it’s not even on television and the audiences just come out. I remember being in Germany and Drag Race wasn’t even on TV at that time, I just remember this huge crowd and I was like ‘wow’, all these people had to find it and watch it and go to extreme circumstances to watch the show. It’s been amazing to travel around the world and just see these really enthusiastic…I wanna say cult-ish audiences. If I was on say, American Idol, I don’t think that I would have such a huge devout audience as I do now because that audience is kind of big and spread out whereas Drag Race is like really cult-ish almost, the audience is packed with 18-25 year old girls and boys and they just really love it.

M: I’m a big fan of the show too.

CA: It was so much fun.

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M: Seeing you on Season 6 had me saying ‘what a small world!’, after seeing you on Australian Idol’s first season everybody in Australia knows who you are.

CA: That was, what? 2003!! It was years ago.

M: You recently took a trip to Mexico with some of your drag sisters, I saw a photo of you with Sharon Needles, Alaska, Ivy Winters and more. What did you all get up to over there while all looking so fantastic?

CA: We had a big concert at this big theatre and the audience in Mexico was wild, they thought we were like One Direction, it was crazy!  And it was really cool and they were enthusiastic up there.  I’m looking to go to Brazil actually because on every Instagram, or Facebook or Twitter post somebody comments ‘Come to Brazil!’.

M: Did you expect to bump into Chaz Bono at the airport?

CA: Chaz and I are great friends, and I knew he was going to Toronto; we literally just bumped into each other at the airport. It was very random! I played him my music video for Ugly, which comes out this week; I wanted to show it to him because it’s got a bit more of a story line and a narrative.

M: This will also be a topic close to your heart. The world has just seen the US pass the law for marriage equality, which is a massive step for society today; you must be feeling over the moon about the outcome!

CA: Yeah totally, I didn’t know the actual position of the Supreme Court to legalise marriage equality was until it actually happened. It was more than just for marriage equality, it was for equality in the making.

M: Do you have any thoughts on Australia’s current position towards marriage equality?

CA: Australia needs to get on the right side of the street, it’s almost a little bit embarrassing. People are like ‘What? Australia doesn’t have marriage equality?” and I’m like ‘I know, I know’.

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M: We’re usually a little more up to speed with the world.

CA: Yeah, leading the way.

M: I watched the video clip for Ecstasy, which is really stunning, and I can’t wait to see the clip for Ugly. As a last question for you, which songs on Kaleidoscope really talk to you the most?

CA: I love Ugly and I love Body Parts, they are my two favourites.

M: Thank you so much for your time Courtney!

CA: My pleasure, thank you!

M: My Mum did ask me to invite you over for dinner, but I’m sure your schedule won’t allow that, sooo…

CA: Haha!! Alright, you have a good day, thank you so much!

Courtney Act’s debut EP Kaleidoscope is released on 7th July, 2015.

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