Hold On Baby

King Princess

Hold On Baby

The mythology surrounding 23-year-old King Princess precedes them. Mikaela Mullaney Straus exploded on the indie-pop scene with their 2018 single “1950,” leading to a debut LP in 2019, Cheap Queen, a thoughtful, vintage-sounding modern-pop record centered on young, queer relationships. On their second full-length, they’ve matured into the raspy, raucous rock star of their dreams, unafraid to place gorgeous hooks atop asymmetrical production (“I Hate Myself, I Want to Party,” and the closer, “Let Us Die,” which features the late Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins). “I’m in the same situation as when I was writing Cheap Queen,” they tell Apple Music. “I’m in a relationship, I want to write music, but I’m not writing about heartbreak, really. I’m writing about my heart being broken because I’m sad every day.” Before it was worked on by star producers like Aaron Dessner and Mark Ronson, Hold On Baby began when King Princess linked up with Phoebe Bridgers’ producer Ethan Gruska. “He would do an impression of his grandpa that was really loving and sweet and funny. He’d say, ‘Hold on, baby,’” they say. “I wrote this record as a reminder that it’s OK to be messy, that we’re living through hellish, hellish times, and especially when you’re a young person, it’s so easy to get lost in the sauce. I’ve used art and songwriting to heal myself so many times, to put myself back together, and to appreciate how messy, ridiculous, and foolish I am—and it’s OK to be all those things. We’re all in it together, boo.’” Below, King Princess walks Apple Music through their sophomore LP, Hold On Baby, track by track. “I Hate Myself, I Want to Party” “Parts of this record were written with Ethan and then another big chunk of it was with [The National’s] Aaron Dessner. I rolled up to Aaron’s studio compound [in Upstate New York], and I was like, ‘I don’t know this man. I’ve been doing writing sessions since I was 14 years old. I am really uninterested in meeting new people.’ I wrote with him—this was during lockdown. I was in New York, staying at my childhood home with my girlfriend and my best friend, literally playing PS5 every day in my underwear. Looking back, I was like, ‘Oh, I had depression.’ I was addressing these feelings of being a musician. You go out and people do treat you differently. You get this gratification. It feeds the ego, to go out and to party, to be adored onstage. I do think that, partially, that’s healthy and, partially, that’s ridiculous. Because I want to be a star.” “Cursed” “‘Cursed’ was written with my friend Dave Hamelin. I was being made to meet all these men. I got to this nasty-ass studio with no windows and a fucking keyboard. There were no [other] instruments. We just started talking, and I played him some of the music from the record—later on, we couldn’t write there. I went to his house, and we immediately started writing ‘Cursed.’ He managed the production, and I was writing. I played some drums. I love this song.” “Winter Is Hopeful” “I wanted it to be a song about what it feels like to be in a relationship and to stumble—like, constantly stumbling over words. We like the feeling that you’re battling the weather. It’s fucking cold, and you want to bundle up and go outside and feel like you’ve done something. It takes effort to go outside. In the summer, it feels like it’s this weird daze. I don’t really like sunlight. I like when it rains.” “Little Bother” “‘Little Bother’ started off because Fousheé and I were DMing. I heard her song that Lil Wayne was on, and I was like, ‘This is incredible.’ I just DM’d her, and I was like, ‘I want to be friends.’ We went in and, all day, we were trying out different stuff. At the very end, [songwriter] Zach [Fogarty] played this guitar loop he had recorded already, and I was like, ‘This is the vibe.’ We started writing this beautiful verse melody. I wrote the chorus, and we ended up with this song. I’d love to write with other artists.” “For My Friends” “I wrote this song with Ethan and Amy Allen. I had just gotten home from the New York trip where I was depressed and playing PS5 every day. My best friend from high school had moved around the corner and my other best friend was in the city. Those are my two girls. When I wasn’t sitting around depressed, the thing that was getting me out was hanging out with them. I wrote this song as a love letter to them, saying, like, ‘I’m always leaving, but I’m always coming back.’” “Crowbar” “Aaron wrote that piano line and played it for me. What’s funny is that he had sent that piano line to Ethan, like, months and months ago, unrelated to me, and Ethan had done something with it. So, that piano line was actually part of our little family. It is a love letter to the pillars of strength in your life. It’s reflecting on doing a lot of drugs, being really fucked up all the time, and not prioritizing what I find to be important, which is comfort, safety, art, rock, and roll. I was not prioritizing the things that were important.” “Hold On Baby Interlude” “I like for all of my interludes to feel like they’re going to be full songs and then they’re not. I thought it should kind of surmise what the album is about, with the interlude, and bring that melody as a motif back. I’m a woman of the theater, so I love a reprise.” “Too Bad” “I wrote ‘Too Bad’ sobbing. People are not going to like you in this life and that is just facts. You are not going to be a fucking patron saint. Anybody who tries to be a patron saint gets fucking slammed for being an asshole. All of the people who come forth and say, ‘I’m nice’—that is the death sentence of public figures.” “Change the Locks” “I wrote this song with Aaron, and it was kind of going to be canned, but then my queen warrior angel Jen Knoepfle called me and was like, ‘You need to finish this song.’ I finished it with Dave Hamelin, a hilarious French Canadian ex-indie musician/now-producer. He was like, ‘OK, we’re getting into the Lilith Fair section of the album.’ It just became a joke from there, like, ‘Fine. I need the people to feel like they’re menstruating at Lilith Fair [when they listen to it].’” “Dotted Lines” “I wrote this with Amy Allen, Nick Long, Tobias [Jesso Jr.], and Shawn Everett. Then Dave worked on it because it was going to get scrapped from the album, and then Dave was like, ‘Let me make it the Kate Bush fantasy that it deserves.’ All I was listening to when this album was being written was Kate Bush.” “Sex Shop” “I wrote this as a piano ballad, and then I asked my dad to record the vocals. He recorded a vocal on the piano and then I sent it to Ethan, and I said, ‘What can we do with this? This is bigger than a stripped-down ballad.’ He worked on it, and he turned it into this winding scene, like a crazy thing. Then I did the drum programming and played guitar, and it just went from there.” “Let Us Die” “Mark really loved this one. I wrote the chorus alone, and then I went in with Ethan and we wrote the verses together and the bridge. This is the type of song that I grew up listening to, the type of song I’ve always wanted to write: concise and emotionally relevant but also rocking. Then Mark enlisted the help of Taylor Hawkins to play drums on it, which was incredible. Taylor was so wonderful and was really excited to play on it. We FaceTimed and did a remote session, and I was sitting in my dad’s studio, and he was playing on it. I was fucking enamored. It was the thing I always wanted—real musicians that I look up to, playing on my music. It probably is my favorite song on the record. [Also, when we were mixing it and] we were trying to get the chorus to slap, my dad walked in and he’s like, ‘Just make the verses mono and then make the chorus stereo.’ We both looked at each other and we were like, ‘Oh.’ We took my dad’s note and then it completely changed the whole song. Dad did that.”

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