Before playing to a crowd of thousands at Express Live! this week, a rising pop-rock powerhouse stopped by the university for a crowd of 125.
King Princess visited Sullivant Hall Monday to premiere the music video for her new song, “Ohio,” for a small group of lucky students. Before the screening, Mikaela Straus — better known as King Princess — held a Q&A with fans and industry hopefuls about her career trajectory, artistic inspirations and struggles and triumphs as a queer person in the music industry.
Clad in baggy, colorful clothes, a bucket hat and a pair of Jordans, Straus addressed the male domination of the recording process with a curt, blase demeanor. She lamented the overbearing nature of producers, peppering her speech with swears.
Her response to a question about her favorite kind of collaborator got an especially hearty laugh from the crowd.
“Docile,” Straus said.
The same sarcasm and nonchalant audacity underlined most of her answers as she recounted everything from her response to homophobic Twitter harassment — “That’s so retro! We love that!” — to her start in music.
Straus said she met her current manager when she was in high school. Shortly after graduating, she moved with him to Los Angeles to attend the University of Southern California, studying music. She said she spent time in the studio after class every week and ended up dropping out after her first year.
“I had already figured out what I was good at and what I wanted to do, so the idea of studying four years at a music school really made no sense for me,” Straus said.
Her advice on breaking into the industry for the mostly female crowd was simple and emphatic: Write constantly and learn how to use music software. She again bemoaned the dominance of male producers but insisted the onus is on women to learn to produce for themselves.
After the Q&A session, Straus stepped to the back of the room as attendees watched the world premiere of “Ohio” with bated breath. The six-minute video depicted Straus as a sultry glam rocker, likely an homage to her stated influences in ’70s rock, before a heavy drop gave way to blistering guitars, explosive concert footage and raunchy backstage antics.
Afterward, attendees were allowed to pose for selfies with the singer.
Attendee Kate Bliven, a fourth-year in health sciences and a yearslong fan of King Princess, said Straus’ confidence served as an inspiration.
“Her being an openly queer person in music, obviously I’m drawn to that, and how confidently she’s able to portray that and be confident about her identity,” Bliven said.
Bliven, who also bought tickets for Straus’ Monday night concert, was one of the few students to acquire a seat at the event from OUAB’s website Thursday, which event organizer Skylar Harris said sold out in under half an hour.
Harris, a fourth-year in strategic communication and arts management and a college marketing representative for Sony Music Entertainment, said this marks the first time such a high-profile artist has visited the university for a meet-and-greet. She shed some light on why Straus might have chosen Columbus as the spot to premiere her new song, “Ohio.”
“I think she wanted to be able to connect with people before it was released and just kind of watch it unfurl, if you will,” Harris said. “I think the song is just important to her and important to the people that are gonna hear it, so she wanted to be able to experience it with them one on one, in person before, you know, just releasing it into the ether.”
King Princess’s newest release, “Ohio,” is available on streaming services now.