When did you know that becoming a musician was your passion?
I think pretty young, I remember singing all the time. I have 2 older sisters, we used to sing Disney songs all the time and harmonize so I knew music was fun for me and I liked singing but I was probably 12 or 13 when I got really obsessed with the idea of being a songwriter and writing songs. I got really into that whole thing and really obsessed with Carole King and Queen and the Bee Gees, and just great songwriters and bands and I think ever since then I’ve been like “okay, my goal is to become a great pop songwriter.”
How did you first get into music?
I have very musical parents, my mom sings jazz all the time and listens to Miles Davis and Billie Holliday and she’s just really into jazz. My dad plays like 8 instruments or something, he’s crazy, he plays in 3 bands still, and he’s an architect. He used to pick us up from school and like practice trumpet at every red light, we were so embarrassed, he’d like pull it out from under his seat. So yeah, a really musical family.
What was it like growing up in Germany?
It was great, I think Germany is very beautiful. I’m from the area of Cologne but I basically grew up outside with cows, horses, and no neighbors so I always felt like I wanted to break out and go to a big city and just live an exciting life. I used to always dream of that.
You have been very open about your gender reassignment journey at 16, how was that process?
I mean it started at like zero, I always felt like a girl and really felt I couldn’t identify with my body. I felt really really suicidal and depressed as like a six year old and wanted to mutilate myself and not have my gender and my parents told me that once I’m old enough they were going to help me do all the steps it takes to live life as a girl. When I was like ten we started seeing psychologists and doctors and most of them didn’t know about transgender period and were just like “your kid is crazy,” “shave your kid’s hair off,” or like “send your kid to school in boy clothes for a month,”– like that was going to change something. And yeah it was really a struggle until I was like twelve and we found a doctor in Hamburg who was interested in transgender cases and was able to help me. It took years and years of going to like the ethics court and all that stuff to get an early gender reassignment surgery paid by German health insurance because we didn’t come from money, we were really struggling a lot. We really fought for it, me and my parents, and I know that I’m super lucky that my parents were as great as they are and as supportive and ever since then I’ve been trying to inspire other parents to do the same for their kids and just raise awareness that it’s a normal thing– that transgender people exist, it always existed. The main problem with the transgender community is the suicide rate is super high and transgender kids don’t want to grow up and live in the wrong gender. I think one day, hopefully, it will be like in school books and people will be educated on it. There’s a long way to go but it’s great that I get to be an artist being transgender and have people behind me and have people believe in me. It’s a great time.
How important is it for you to spread the message of equality for the LGBT community?
It’s very important to me to be a good face for the community but in my opinion, I really want to be known for me as a person. I always think that gender and sexuality says absolutely nothing about a person and I’d like to really push it and be known for being a great songwriter, and be known for working hard — being successful. I’d love to be known for not just being transgender. I think a lot of times people like to make it about being transgender and limit people to one detail that they think defines a person. I’d like to push that and ultimately for labels and boxes to disappear and for people to be equal. I’ll always be a part of the LGBTQ community and I’ll always fight for that.
What would your advice be to young people who struggle with going through gender reassignment?
My advice is always be yourself. You only have one life, live it the way you want to live it. I would say there’s no rule book to life no matter how much people want to tell you that. You can be whoever you are or whoever you want to be. Just know that you’re not alone, a lot of people are going through it.
You have been supported by some of the music industry’s finest powerhouses, including Spotify RISE—what do you plan to do with your success as it continues to grow?
I’m trying to push myself. I’m trying to be better every time I write a song. We put out a song on Spotify and without really much push it got on New Music Friday and went number one on the Spotify Viral chart. It was pretty amazing because I had spent like the last 6 years leading up to that in the studio writing for other people and writing for myself and just writing songs every single day. Living on studio couches and not knowing industry people. I want to make this as big as I can possibly make it and continue growing, I don’t want to repeat myself, I want to get better at everything I do and keep pushing the boundaries.
Your popularity is amazing, with millions of streams under your belt! What was it like working and performing with Charli XCX and how did that come about?
Really really fun! It all started at a SOPHIE concert. We just met at this concert and we just like partied a little bit and then the day after she got in touch with my stylist and was like “Can I get Kim’s number I want to ask her to be on this song.” Then she sent me the song and asked if I wanted to do the second verse and I was like “of course.” The next day I wrote it and we sent it off and she was like “this is perfect,” and then it came out. It was a very quick experience, we didn’t work on it in person, just like via text. But it was a great experience, I love her, she has a great energy about her and I’ve been a big fan for years so it was really awesome. I love being friends and collaborating with her and I can’t wait to collaborate more.
Are there any other projects that you’re currently excited about?
I’m planning my next music videos so I’m excited about that. I have like a ton of singles lined up, ready to go, I have an album basically ready so, I’m excited about all of those projects. I can’t wait for my merch to drop, I’m currently just looking for inspiration because I want my merch to be like what I really want to wear, I don’t want to be like some bullshit that I wouldn’t put on myself.
You’ve accomplished so much so far in your career and as an activist, what’s next for Kim Petras?
There’s so many things that I’m super excited about and so many collaborations but also this whole summer I’m going to do a bunch of Prides, that’s always like coming home. I love doing Prides, those were like the first gigs I ever did as like a teenager and now I get to do them and there’s actually people screaming the words back at me so I’m super excited for that. I’m going to go on tour like later this year. Yeah, just every day is very exciting and every day is different with new challenges. I’m living my best life.
Kim Petras will perform at The Courtyard Theatre, London 25 May 2018. See LiveNation.co.uk for details.