Todrick Hall rose to fame in American Idol in 2009, before exploding online as a YouTube star, and making his Broadway debut as Lola in Kinky Boots. He’s had his own docu-series on MTV, been a judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race and now with four studio albums under his belt, the Todrick Hall American: Forbidden tour hits Australian shores in June. The three-month world tour kicked off in North America in March this year, where Hall performs 30 new original songs from his new album Forbidden. Speaking to Hall from Detroit, Michigan, he spoke about what a ball he is having on the road, and his favourite part of the touring journey being seeing and meeting all of his fans in person.
“I think it’s really hard when you’re on social media for a living, it’s difficult some times to equate the likes and the comments and the views that you get into real people. So when you get to meet people, and hear their stories of how you changed their life with the little thing that you did, that means so much to them, it’s really inspiring, and it’s honestly the fuel and the battery and the motivation that keeps me trucking along throughout the year,” Hall said.
His previous album and tour, Straight Out of Oz is based partially on L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz and a semi-autobiographical look at Hall’s rise to fame in Los Angeles, with collaborators like Nicole Scherzinger, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and fellow American Idol alumnus Jordin Sparks. It was released as a phenomenal visual album before playing to sell out audiences last year at the Athenaeum Theatre in Melbourne and around Australia.
He’s a musical theatre performer, drag queen, Internet superstar and LGBTQ role model. Long graduated from his days doing covers and remixes on YouTube, the show will be the entire album performed live, with new original songs he worked meticulously on, spending a lot of time and effort crafting each lyric.
“I call my show the perfect hybrid between live musical theatre and a Broadway-eqsue experience, and a live rock star concert. There are definitely moments where you are following characters and you can get invested in the story telling aspects of it all, but there are also moments where you are up and dancing and feel like you’re at a club or a party, and that’s why I think it’s such a unique fun experience,” he said.
“I really wanted to create a performance that did both things. Majority of my audience knows the original album inside and out so it’s really fun for them to come and see the show and see a live version of it, see the costumes that they have watched so many times on YouTube, that’s really fun to see that aspect of the show.”
His career and fan base have exploded over YouTube, and now has more than 2.86 million subscribers. For Hall, he likes social media and using the Internet because you can touch someone’s life, which might really need it, without ever having met them.
“Growing up knowing that I was gay at a very young age, I could turn on the TV and find tonnes of things to watch, but I never saw someone who looked like me or who I felt looked similar to my story. It was really hard because a lot of people can turn on the TV and there’s a Rolodex of role models, that they can look for and look up to and follow, but there just wasn’t that for me,” he reflected.
“The internet has created a place where people feel like it’s so safe that they can meet somebody who looks like them and now they don’t need to turn on traditional media, and go to the Disney Channel or Nickelodeon who are both so terrified to have openly gay characters on their TV shows. I think if you have openly gay kids watching your shows there should be a show where these kids can see people like them, and that’s really important.”
Can you imagine a better person that Hall to create such a show?
“That’s my goal, creating content for people who look different, who sound different. I want to be the person who creates the first gay animated love story between two men, and I think that would be life changing and huge for the world, and that’s one of the things I really want to work on,” Hall said.
Hall is involved in every single element of the production of his shows, his online content and his albums. He is self-produced and does all of this without a traditional management deal or as a ‘traditional recording artist’ on a record label, so it’s even more impressive the waves he has made without an army behind him.
“I write every song, I stress out over every check list written and every dollar spent and write every single lyric, and choreograph most of the dances and come up with the costumes. So for me to see people recreating our costumes, or for me to see them knowing the lyrics in places sometimes where they don’t even speak English, it’s just really awesome, and it just goes to show how powerful the internet is, how powerful music is that it can bring so many different people together,” he said.
“The audience at the shows is always so diverse, people would assume that its predominately an African-American audience, or predominately LGBTQ audience, but it’s such a wide diverse group of people and most of the audience are young girls that watch YouTube. But sometimes I have 80-year-old women there by them selves, they love the music, and people are bringing six-year-old girls dressed as unicorns or little boys that are 8 years old dressed in full drag. It’s really cool and awesome to see so many people come in so many different ways and shapes and colours and the fact that no one is judging anyone, it’s a theatre filled with so much love. It’s very rare to see that, so I love that I bring so many unique people together.”
He has supported Australia’s fight for marriage equality from the other side of the world, and has seen how love and appreciation rallied around America to support our LGBTI community during the plebiscite process.
“I’m so proud of people for standing up and fighting for what they deserve and I’m embarrassed that in 2017 and 2018 that we’re still fighting for these basic human rights. I love that people are being so supportive of each other and coming together and doing what needs to be done to ensure that our children and grandchildren and our great grandchildren are about to live a life where these types of prejudices are absent. And that is my goal for America and for Australia and for the entire world is that for the next generation of people this will be as mythical as the Loch Ness monster. I don’t know if people realize that just by them voicing their opinions and posting these statuses and things, even just on social media, that they are playing a huge part in making history and changing the future.”
Hall has had a huge range of collaborators over the years, from Pentatonix, Taylor Swift, RuPaul Charles and many more, but most memorable experience was working with Beyonce, who he learned a lot from.
“It was the peak of my career, she is such a consummate professional, on camera just as much as she was off camera. She was so sweet to everyone on set that day, the way she treated her staff was awesome, how quickly she learned choreography and how focused she was, not only on the details of her show but she would micromanage a lot of other aspects in the most positive ways…,” he reflected.
“She had a hand on the styling of every single band member and every single dancer, from the little details from what jewelry they were wearing, to what the lighting on their face and on their skin looked like, and I thought it was really admirable that she was so hands on. I took those things and really tried to apply them to my own career and to my own brand and its ultimately the reason why some of the things I have been creating have started to look more and more professional as time has gone on.”
Someone else he appreciates for their work ethic and determination is his favourite queen from the RuPaul’s Drag Race series, where he appeared on as a judge over season 8 and 9.
“I really, really love Shangela, because she is a consummate professional, she’s always on time, always easy to work with, she’s always gives you the sound bites immediately and she’s just really cool. She reminds me a lot of myself because she is such a fighter, and she’s never going to give up and she has worked really hard and it shows. She’s broken her leg and come back, and I think she’s the only drag queen who’s ever been on RuPaul’s Drag Race three times, and she’s made such a huge impression and every single person who works with her always leaves talking about how great she is.”
On returning to Australia following his tour last year, he has this idea that his future husband may be from Australia, so he’ll be keeping his eyes open at his upcoming shows …
“I’m just exciting to experience the culture more, I love the accents, I love the food, I love going to see the kangaroos and holding the koala bears, it’s always so much fun to me, it never gets old,” he laughed.
“Sometimes I have to pinch myself when I’m flying there because (Australia) it’s some place I always wanted to go, and growing up in Florida, it seemed like the likelihood of me going there was the same likelihood of me visiting Neverland in person. It wasn’t really a real possibility that could happen to somebody who was from where I was from.”
He finds the gratitude of overseas audiences unmatched, because they recognize the amount of time it has taken for you to fly there and how difficult it must have been for you to come there.
“Luckily they have not only allowed me to come there, but the kids sell out the shows so quickly there, they’re so supportive. Australia always supports my albums so much and the fans have asked me to come there for years on my Instagram and when I was finally able to make it there last year, it was just so cool. For me to go to another country and have a sold out audience is a feeling that’s so difficult to explain.”
If he does eventually find his handsome future husband in Australia, we’d be glad to adopt Todrick Hall as our own.
Revel in the magical journey his shows will be in Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney and Brisbane between 10-16 June.
Tour dates, tickets and more info on Todrick Hall: http://todrickhall.com