Drag superstar Trixie Mattel has been busy changing up her sound as of late. With her forthcoming album Barbara, the star is plugging in her guitars to give fans a newer, fuzzier, beach-rock sound that they’ve yet to hear from her.
But when Mattel was tasked with creating a soundtrack for her revealing and emotionally naked documentary Trixie Mattel: Moving Parts, the singer decided to take a different turn. “This is the first thing I’ve done where it’s pretty much just a guitar and a person,” she says.
And that’s exactly what she does — on the Moving Parts soundtrack, Mattel has completely stripped down her sound in six acoustic, one-take songs that show off the breadth of the star’s talent; two of the tracks are new versions of fan-favorites, two are brand new songs, and two more are covers of country classics.
While the album started as a simple recording session to get acoustic songs to include throughout the film, Mattel says the final product is an accurate representation of the film itself — raw, unfiltered and honest. “My boyfriend [David Silver, also one of the producers of the film] was in the booth with me, and he was crying. So that’s how I knew I did a good job,” she says.
Below, Trixie breaks down each of the songs off of her new soundtrack, explaining how she recorded them, what they mean to her and, in a few cases, how they ultimately served to save her and her producers some money.
“Moving Parts (Acoustic)”
This is my third time recording this song! There’s a version for the record (One Stone), there’s an acoustic version with an autoharp, and then this version is just with a guitar. It’s a newer key, it’s like three steps higher — I’m kind of a better singer now than I was when I put it out [laughs]. I actually really like this version. It sounds like a totally different song now, it’s less of a lullaby. Because the autoharp really makes “Moving Parts” sound like a lullaby. But this version is almost like a road song. Like a real okie-smoky, chewing tobacco road song.
“Backwoods Barbie” (Dolly Parton cover)
See the thing is, the price of putting songs like this in the movie was tens of thousands of dollars, just for getting the rights. The director was like, “I want that song.” And the producer was like “Well, I want a million dollars. We can’t afford that song.” So covering “Backwoods Barbie” was sort of a way of including it without paying an arm and a leg. I mean, is that not the most drag queen thing you’ve ever heard? [laughs] Like, this is an independent film, we ain’t got Marvel money.
Also, think about what the song is talking about — could that song not be almost like I wrote it? I never even considered it one of my favorite Dolly songs because I thought it was a little clichéd for someone like me to record it, but it’s a song about liking to dress up ridiculous and reminding the audience that doesn’t mean you’re not a person with real thoughts and feelings. I mean, that’s sort of … that’s me.
If we’re being totally honest, I wrote that on tour while we were filming the movie. I created that little riff, and I just kept playing it and playing it. But I couldn’t figure out what to do with it, and it ended up being a little bit of a song about … “You were stupid for thinking if you got X, Y and Z, that you’d then feel like your whole life was together. You have some deeper issues, but you think some surface shit is really gonna change this?” It wasn’t my favorite piece of mine, because it’s a little sad. I knew I wasn’t going to put it on my record, and because it’s in the movie, I was like, “Well, it goes with the movie!” So it might not be my favorite one to play, but I don’t like to play any of my sad, weird, slow songs, because they’re too sad.
“Hello, Goodbye, Hello”
Oh, I love this song. I wrote that when I was 19 years old! Listen, everybody who’s heard that song is like, “This is the best thing you’ve ever written,” and I’m like, “So you’re telling me that when I was 19, I was a better songwriter than I am now? Cool.” But yeah, my boyfriend broke up with me completely unfairly — because I cheated on him and treated him horribly, but that’s completely unfair to me! [Laughs.]
So yeah, I wrote this song in the living room of my Milwaukee apartment. I love the lyrics of the song, “To be young and not on time” — like, it was all timing! “It’s like flowers blooming through November freeze.” I’m sorry, that’s one of the coolest lines I’ve ever written! I just had this idea that we were gonna be together, but it was bad timing.
In the movie, there’s a shot of me playing “Hello, Goodbye, Hello”, just by myself in Ft. Lauderdale, because I won a trip on All Stars. And they wanted to find the rights to this song, so they were writing up and searching the lyrics, and then they were like, “We can’t find this, what song is that?” And I was like, “Oh, I wrote that.” They just immediately said, “Oh my god, everybody who’s watched the movie wants to know what song that is, you have to record it.” Isn’t that crazy? An 11-year-old song is just now getting its due.
“Keep on the Sunny Side” (The Carter Family cover)
What a great track, huh? I got really into The Carter Family when I was dating this guy from Kentucky a few years ago. I liked guitar music and contemporary acoustic folk pop music, and then at 24, I transitioned to some real yeehaw shit. That’s when I discovered June Carter, who became one of my favorite artists of all time — people think I love Dolly, but June Carter is my real Dolly, you know? David thought that song is basically about unwavering optimism, and they really saw that for me, because I am an optimistic realist. Like, I don’t believe in anything, but I try to keep it upbeat. I don’t believe in the good in anyone, I don’t believe things work out, but I’m really at peace with it.
“Kitty Girl” (All Stars 3 acoustic version)
Oh my god, I forgot about that! I mean, again, I wouldn’t have put it on anything else, but because it’s in the movie, it sort of chose itself for the record. Again, this is very much a mega-fan B-side. I will say, I am more prepared to critique these verses now that I’ve had to record them, because it’s a lot! Shangela’s verse is hard! Bebe’s is so fun and psycho, and that’s the thing is you have to commit to it, otherwise, let’s be honest, I’m a white guy singing three verses written by drag queens of color! Like, Kennedy has that church-y R&B voice, and I’m like, “Oh god, how am I gonna do this any justice?” So yeah, I think Shangela’s is the best songwriting, Kennedy’s has the best singing, and Bebe’s is just the most fun to do, because you get to close your eyes and pretend to be her. [Laughs.]