Drag Star Tammie Brown Talks New EP, Saving the Whales: 'We Need to Be More Involved'

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Justin Bettman
Tammie Brown photographed on Sept. 29 at RuPaul's DragCon NYC 2018.

There are few queens to have graced the stage of RuPaul’s Drag Race who have made an impression like Tammie Brown’s. The Los Angeles icon was one of the breakout stars of the show’s very first season, making waves for her strange, quirky humor, her undeniable personality and even her willingness to verbally spar with RuPaul.

But Brown’s biggest fans also know her for her work as a musical artist. The drag star released her new EP, A Little Bit of Tammie earlier this week to pure celebration from her fans. The four-track album includes fan-favorite songs from her live shows, including a track called “The Whale Song,” which is about saving marine life from poaching, pollution and life in captivity.

Brown says that “The Whale Song” and tracks like it come from her passion for saving the environment. “Without the environment, we don't have life, we don't get to live,” she tells Billboard. “We're ruining the planet, and we need to be more involved, and I think it's important for the youth to be involved because it's their future. And the older people should shut up and listen for a second.”

Brown chatted with Billboard about the inspiration behind her new EP, her desire to continue walking with children in nature and teased an upcoming collaboration with fellow drag star Trixie Mattel. Stream A Little Bit of Tammie below, and check out the rest of our Q&A after the jump.

When you were approaching writing this EP, what were you trying to accomplish, artistically speaking?

This EP was sort of a prelude to an album I'd been preparing called Schubert, which is pronounced with the "T" silent. It was supposed to be a full-length album, and that was definitely inspired by the French singer Amanda Lear, the disco cabaret singer. She was really big on the Billboard charts in the '70s. But that was a major influence. And then I had already done these singles like "The Whale Song" and "I Love You, I Love You, I Do," and then "Lip Sync Suicide" was done last year. So it was like, "I might as well put them out with the other songs and release them and start some momentum for the album Schubert."

The thing I noticed about this EP was you're really spanning multiple genres, vacillating between new wave and folk and funk. Why was that important to you on this record?

A while back, I wrote "I Love You, I Love You, I Do," as sort of a nice, romantic folk-y ballad. That was inspired by The Ronettes and that sort of sound of the '60s. And I wanted to do something fun and to really use my voice -- that's why you can hear so much vibrato on the track. I also used Michael Catti, who's duetting with me on there. He's my accompanist and has been my accompanist for the past six years.

"The Whale Song" was done because we want to bring awareness to all of the stuff that's going on in the ocean with the marine life. With the whales in particular, and SeaWorld and the animals in captivity, and them being knocked out by cruise ships and other big vessels, and the poaching and the murdering of these animals -- that's why we created "The Whale Song." Alyson Montez is a fan of mine and a Grammy award-winning artist, and she's the one that wanted to collaborate with me, so we got Ricky Rebel and Mike was on it, Kelly Mantle's on it, Kylie Sonique, and the Bad Dance Crew and Jeff Musial who's actually my producer for this whole album.

"Lip Sync Suicide" was written for me by my creative partner Rod Barroso, who has been writing with me for the past 14 years. He's done "Clam Happy" and "Shakabuku U" and a few others. He did "Lip Sync Suicide," which is an homage to [RuPaul's Drag Race] Season 1, when I refused to lip sync to "We Break the Dawn." It also has an homage to RuPaul in there, where I thank him for the opportunity, and I would really like to do a video with RuPaul in that.

Have you heard anything from Ru or his team since releasing the song? Is there a chance we may get to see that?

Nothing has happened yet -- it's been crickets as far as that goes. I even messaged them at World of Wonder because several of the producers know that it's out there and I want Ru! I shopped it around last year, and in fact, people were ripping it from recorded live versions. People are saying wonderful things about the album, and we're honestly sort of surprised it hasn't...I mean, "Porta Potty Prostitute" and "The Whale Song" are the ones that people are really getting into. So we'll see what's going on with all that. But no, nobody has reached out to me from World of Wonder yet. Fingers crossed! People love it; now I'm getting requests to do "Porta Potty Prostitute" and "Lip Sync Suicide" whenever I want.

Is there more you want to do with "The Whale Song" than just raise awareness? Will there be a charitable aspect involved?

Yes, I'm glad you asked. What we want to do is accumulate the sales and then find a proper charity that we can donate the money to. It could be The Dolphin Project or one of those projects like it, and then donate it to them. Before I did this, I reached out through PETA, because they've reached out to me already and they've seen all of the activism I've done. I was gonna give it to someone, like instead of me and my team doing all of the work on the distribution and everything and then separate the sales and everything, I wanted to actually give the song to a charity, but I never heard back on that. That was the goal. So now, what we're gonna do is when the sales come in, we will take a percentage and donate it to a charity.

I just care so much about the environment. I'm involved in the environment and in indigenous rights and everything that's going wrong with the planet right now, especially with how our current political system is bringing so much detriment to the environment. In fact, with this new tax plan that was done in this Congress, that's not going to help out the environment. It's buried in the text there that they're gonna go up to Alaska and drill down on oil and sell that and make money and repay the tax cut that was given. So they're not interested in helping the people and it's going to be completely detrimental to our environment.

With the upcoming midterms, do you have hope that more young, progressive people are going to get out the vote? What would you tell your young fans who may read this?

Right now, everybody's starting to register to vote, which is great. But registering to vote is not the same as voting. Just because you registered doesn't mean you're voting, you have to actually get out there and do it. And on another level, we need to find better politicians out there. Politicians are supposed to serve us — we're not serving them, they're serving us. We need to be more involved in what the politicians are doing, because those men and women should not be receiving money under the table from corporate conglomerates who aren't interested in protecting the Earth. They need to serve us, which means serving the environment. Without the environment, we don't have life, we don't get to live. Water is life -- we all come from the water, scientifically, 70 percent of our body is water, so we need to be more in touch with the water. The future generation, the Millennials and their children, that's the future right there. 

You're currently doing a few tour stops with Trixie Mattel to promote A Little Bit of Tammie. What has it been like to work with her over the last couple of years?

Oh, we get along really well. We have so much fun, we always talk about music, we talk about artistic ideas. We enjoy each other and support each other, which is really pretty cool. It's wonderful to be able to have the support, and to like each other's work. It's the Mutual Admiration Society, as I say.

Any chance that the two of you could collaborate on a song or something in the future?

Well...there is something in the works that I'll be doing with her, some of her future video work. I'm really not supposed to talk about that [laughs], but yes, there is a little something in the future that Trixie and I are working on together, so fans can look forward to that.

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