Todrick Hall dives into the depths of ‘Haus Party, Pt. 3’, a stunning and stirring set of special love songs, in an intimate conversation about songwriting, music, Disney magic, and more.
Stream: ‘Haus Party, Pt. 3’ – Todrick Hall
If you believe in Disney, you believe that magical, and amazing, epic, extraordinary things can happen to regular people.
On paper, Todrick Hall’s life sounds magical – and in many respects, it is – but make no mistake: He has worked hard for everything.
From writing and composing an original Wizard of Oz screenplay in high school, to cultivating a 3.5 million fan community on YouTube, to performing onstage at the highest caliber for theater goers in New York and London, Hall’s work ethic is matched only by his tenacity, thirst, and raw creativity. In addition to releasing a massively ambitious 30-track sophomore studio album and four specially unique and diverse EPs, Hall has spent the past five years alone starring in numerous Broadway and West End musicals, guest judging and choreographing for RuPaul’s Drag Race, and most recently, scoring Disneyland’s new Magic Happens parade. At thirty-five, he has worn more hats than most might in a lifetime, and it’s by no means due to luck.
When the pandemic hit the United States in March 2020, Hall took the unexpected downtime as an opportunity to stop and reflect – to check in with himself and reassess. The first product of this time was the five-track Quarantine Queen EP, an upbeat, lively, and engaging soundtrack to life in lockdown that includes such highlights as “TikTok” and “Mask, Gloves, Soap, Scrubs” – a revised version of his 2019 hit single, “Nails, Hair, Hips, Heels.” Hall wrote and recorded the EP in a single week, and released it in late April.
While he’s kept plenty busy throughout the past year, Hall’s second round of big news came very recently. Following a live album drop in November and the effervescent holiday single “Bells, Bows, Gifts, Trees,” Hall burst into 2021 with the announcement and subsequent release of Haus Party, Pt. 3, the long-awaited third and final chapter of his Haus Party trilogy.
Beginning with Haus Party, Pt. 1 in 2019, Hall’s Haus Party project has been a space for artistic growth and professional development, where he detached himself from his previous “concept record” style of musical creation and instead explored isolated lyrical ideas and individual, isolated song stories.
“I wanted to do something, and specifically time it to where it came out around Gay Pride, and was basically catered towards the gay community,” Hall says of Pt. 1. “And then, I had a lot of urban songs that I really wanted to put out that were just more swaggalicious, and so I didn’t feel like they fit on the first album.” That record became Haus Party, Pt. 2, released four short months after Pt. 1 in September 2019.
Hall explains, “So I was like, “I’m gonna make this a three-part situation because the songs I love the most, are the songs that are about love and that require vulnerability, and that’s what Haus Party 3 is.”
Pt. 3 presents Todrick Hall at his most intimate and his most personal: It’s a set love songs, or songs about love, that dive as deep into his heart as they do into his soul in evocative explorations of intimacy, connection, romance, longing, loss, and much more.
Produced by WiiDope and Jeeve, Pt. 3‘s seven songs span everything from romantic fantasies (“Pink Dreams”) to wrestling through heartache (“Dysfunctional,” “Enough”), to those butterflies we all feel about that special someone (“Blue”) and Hall’s personal self-love as a Black man (“Love Me Black”) and beyond. Every song is its own insular world, and yet they come together in this twenty-five minute immersion of self-expression that cuts into the artist’s core identity.
I love my skin
Every single dose of caramel and melanin
Wouldn’t trade these two coolers for nothin’ thin
All my chocolate brothers and my sisters you’re my kin
Because if we don’t love each other then we never gonna win
I made a few mistakes calling my experience
The black on my face I’m probably gonna fall again
Twitter trolls tried to drag me, black list too
But never get it twisted because baby I’m all Black
All day, all night of my life forever Ima still be Black
And baby I love that
Love me, drag me, hit me but that ain’t gonna change the fact
Because I love my hair and my skin
If I can go back I would come back Black again
I got nothin’ but that good good good Black for loving’
Until you love me Black
– “Love Me Black,” Todrick Hall
“It doesn’t feel like Haus Party 1 or 2, it feels like its own world, but it’s a much more vulnerable side to me,” Hall tells Atwood Magazine. “I’m really excited for people to have to stop and not wanna kiki and dance as soon as the music comes on, and they wanna stop and listen to the lyrics of what I’m talking about because every single song is based on a love that I had for myself, or a lack of love that I had for myself or a person that I fell in love with. And whether that ended well, or ended horribly, it’s about all of the different versions of love that I’ve experienced.”
To add to this excitement, Hall recently collaborated with Grammy Award winner Brandy on a special “Cinderella” medley to celebrate the 1997 film’s arrival to Disney+ (it’s the first time the otherwise hard-to-find movie has been made available on streaming services). Starring Brandy, ‘97’s historic Cinderella represented the first time a Black princess was depicted with braids in a film (and in his new song “Love Me Black,” Hall at one point sings sings, “My one and only Cinderella is Brandy”). Together, Hall and Brandy got in touch with many of the film’s living cast members – including Whoopi Goldberg and Victor Garber – to put on a stirring tribute.
Even in pandemic times, Todrick Hall is keeping very busy – bringing a little more light and love into this world, one song at a time. It’s just his way of making his own “magic.”
Todrick Hall recently spoke with Atwood Magazine about songwriting, his new music, and his passion for Disney. Dive into the depths of Haus Party, Pt. 3 in our intimate interview below, and be sure to listen to this stunning, stirring, and powerfully evocative set of special love songs.
It’s true: Todrick Hall has worked tirelessly to get to this moment in his career. Maybe, just maybe, he’s got a little magic in him, after all.
:: stream/purchase Haus Party 3 here ::
A CONVERSATION WITH TODRICK HALL
Atwood Magazine: Todrick, how have you, your family and loved ones been throughout this pandemic?
Todrick Hall: I’ve been doing well. I think that in moments where I haven’t been doing well, it’s been really, really great for me to stop and have the luxury of time to be able to really sit with myself, and work on some things about my mental health, and just my existence, and reorganizing my priorities of what is and isn’t important. So I think it’s been really, really helpful. My family is great. And yeah, I think that I’ve just gotten to work on some relationships, and reach out to some people that I had not made time for who are really, really important to me. And it’s just, it’s been great for me, even though there have definitely been rough times. And career-wise, it’s just been nice to have a break. I do miss being on stage, and performing, and it seems like it’s never going to happen again. [chuckle] So that’s a little bit heartbreaking for me as a performer because that’s what I live for.
I’ve done a Broadway show almost every single year for the past five years… Before the pandemic, when people would ask me, “What’s your hobby? What do you like to do in your free time?” My immediate answer was, “I pretty much just either go to Disney World or go see a musical. I’ll fly to New York and see every new show twice. That’s my getaway.” And for me to not be able to have that, has been really, really difficult, but it also just lets you know how fortunate we were before and how you can’t take anything for granted because time is not promised to us. We’ve lost so many legendary people during this time, and it just reminds you to live each day to the fullest, and tell the people that you know that you love them because nothing is really worth it, and we’re all so fragile and insignificant in the great circle of life, as Mufasa would say. [chuckle] So yeah, I think this has been really hard, but really necessary for so many people.
Disney has been a big part of your life! Do you go to Disney for the rides, for Epcot, for the overall experience?
Todrick Hall: No, I don’t go for rides, and Epcot is my least favorite Disney park of them all. I don’t drink. And I feel like that’s the point of going to Epcot, is just to taste all the wine. I mean, there are other points, but most people our age just go there to have an excuse to get drunk, and I go there for the experience. I go there because I look at the world through rose-colored glasses, and I love the idea that there is innocence, and that there is the will to believe in the unbelievable and to escape realism. And I love the attention to detail that Disney specifically takes to make sure that every light fixture, every trash can, everything that they sell has something whimsical, or new, or innovative. It’s all thought out. They’re never just putting something out there just because they think, “This might sell.” They always go the extra mile. I love the music. It’s so nostalgic. I grew up with it. I love seeing the characters, and how they always are so true to their mannerisms and what we’ve known to love about them. And I love the parades, I love seeing the shows, I love to eat the less-than-healthy food. [chuckle]
Those are the things that I go for. And even though I’ll go there 20 times and see Frozen at the Hyperion, and see Mickey and the Magical Map, or go see Beauty and the Beast at Hollywood Studios, which was my first job outside of high school. So that’s also it for me. Seeing the fireworks show at Fantasmic, or Wishes, or World of Color, is just so cool. And now, I go there because I wrote the new parade that’s there. It’s the most diverse parade I think that Disney has ever had, and the fact that I wrote it, and I also sing on it, is a dream come true. So if that’s not an excuse to get you to go to Disney World, then I don’t know what is.
You're doing my job for me. A bit of missed news last year was that you scored Disney's “Magic Happens” Parade. Hopefully, it'll be open to the public again soon. How was that experience for you, especially compared to when you're making music for yourself?
Todrick Hall: It will be. Not hopefully, darling. It will, it will. It wasn’t very different. They really trusted the process, and they came to me because they used one of my songs from ‘Straight Outta Oz’ to pitch the parade to begin with to the park. And so when they brought me in, they were like, “We want you to do what it is that you do.” And so they were really, really cool. They didn’t ask for very many changes. They loved the song when they heard it as it was. And I actually wrote two songs because I just was so like, “I don’t wanna lose this job. I wanna make sure that they know how important this is to me.” And so I wrote two songs and they couldn’t choose between the two songs, which is like a dream come true. That’s the review that you wanna get as a writer who submits two songs. If someone’s like, “Obviously, this one,” then you’re like, “Oh, I don’t know,” because they’re both your babies. But they loved both songs so much that they couldn’t decide, and then they ended up using the lyrics to the other version of the song “Magic Happens” that I wrote, and putting it into the costumes, and into some of the merchandise at Disney. So that is just really cool.
It just feels so surreal because Disney is a huge part of the reason why I am who I am today, it’s the reason why I started dancing and singing. The Cinderella with Brandy on it that Disney produced, was the thing that made me want to become a performer, and the fact that I can now be a part of the Disney legacy, is just… It doesn’t even seem fathomable or real ’cause I grew up so poor in Texas, and thought I would never even be able to go to Disney World in person and see it in person. And the fact that not only that, but now I get to go there for free to watch my parade, and have the executives reaching out to me, and following my life, and my journey, and my career it just… If you believe in Disney, you believe that magical, and amazing, epic, extraordinary things can happen to regular people, and I feel like that sometimes. I feel like my life is a Disney movie because I’m getting to do things that most people will never get to do, that things that I do every week is someone’s best week of their life. And I just feel so blessed to be in this position, and so flattered, and I don’t take a single second of it for granted.
Disney really has played a very special role in your life story. You said it's how you got into dancing?
Todrick Hall: Yeah, specifically the Cinderella movie, the Rodgers and Hammerstein one that was made for TV with Whitney Houston, Whoopi Goldberg, Victor Garber and Brandy. It was just… Bernadette Peters. Oh my gosh, the cast was just incredible, and I’d never seen a black princess before and a multicultural cast. I always, from that moment on, had crushes on Filipino men because I think that representation is just so important. And when you see people, an entire sea of people wanting to be with this person, it helps you as a young kid shape what your idea of beauty is. And I’ve always thought that black women were so beautiful, and that Filipino men were so beautiful because that movie had a humongous impact on me. And not just the music and the choreography and the costumes, but everything about it. It’s just influenced so much of my creative journey.
They announced on Disney recently that Cinderella was gonna go to Disney+, and it’ll be the first time you’ll ever have been able to stream it. You can hardly even buy it on DVD or VHS. It’s just such a hard thing to find. And so it’s going to Disney+ on Friday, tomorrow. And I don’t know when this article’s coming out, but after I found out about that, I called Brandy up, who’s a personal friend of mine, and I was like, “I would love nothing more, like nothing… This would be a dream come true for me to be able to sing some of the songs to celebrate this with you because my whole timeline on social media was all about it.” And she immediately responded and was like, “Let’s do it.”
And so in three days, I got an entire team of people together during COVID, might I add, which is very difficult to get everyone interested. I got an entire team together, I got her ball gown remade, and I got in touch with every cast member who’s still living, the one… All of the lead cast members, and got them to send in videos singing “Impossible”. So it is gonna be a huge celebration. And out of all the things I’ve ever done in my career, it’s the thing that I’m probably the most excited about, and then it premiers tonight at midnight when Cinderella goes to Disney+. So yeah, I’m stoked about that.
That sounds amazing. It's incredible when something you dreamed of as a child gets to be a part of your life and your work, no less. It's not just a hobby or a side gig, it's a full-time thing.
Todrick Hall: Oh, it’s insane. It’s really… It just seems very surreal.
So you grew up with music, you grew up with art, you grew up with dance. How did you start songwriting?
Todrick Hall: That’s a funny story actually. When I was in middle school, or the freshman year, I was 13 or 14 years old, I decided I was going to mount my own production of The Wizard of Oz in true Todrick form. And so I just wrote my own little script, and I took certain parts from the movie, and… Sorry, my cat is super sick and I stayed up all night, so I literally haven’t slept since last night. And so I basically was going to mount this production, and my teacher at that time, the music teacher found out about it and was so upset that I was doing this show for some reason. I don’t… I still to this day don’t understand. So she reached out to Tams-Witmark, who owned the rights, the performing rights to Wizard of Oz, and they sent me a super intimidating and scary cease and desist type of email, basically telling me I couldn’t put it on. And as a kid who had worked… That was all I thought about. I mean, it was a… I had… All my sets were painted out of cardboard and stuff. So there was nothing really that epic about it, but for me at that time, it was such a huge deal and I was crushed. And then, I ended up finding a loophole that if you wrote your own version of the Wizard of Oz based on the book, you could do it because the Wizard of Oz is in public domain.
And so I tripled, quadruple checked it, and then I went back to my team and was like, “We’re not not doing the show. We’re just gonna do a new version of the show.” And all the kids thought I was crazy. And I remember sitting down in my backyard and writing this song called “Someday”, which still makes me cry when I hear it because it’s such a beautiful song, and it was so… That was the first time I realized that maybe the reason why I love the Wizard of Oz so much is because I so strongly identified with the character of Dorothy. Then I knew that there was something bigger and greater for me, and I wanted to leave that town, and I felt like no one understood me there, and that I was too colorful for that place, and everything else was black and white, and very segregated, and racist. I just feel like there was this huge metaphor and parallel of what I was going through in life and what was happening in the world around me. And so I wrote the song “Someday”, and that’s how… When I sang it for the kids that were in the show, they were like, “This is a gorgeous song, Todrick.” And so I just kept going, and I kept writing songs, and then by the time we performed the show, I had convinced myself that I was a songwriter. So thank you to that teacher that was hating on me and did not want me to do my show because without them, I probably wouldn’t have started fine-tuning that craft at such a young age.
Is “Someday” available anywhere online?
Todrick Hall: It’s not, but I’m currently working with some people to try to release the rights for people to perform the songs live to be able to perform them with… At amateur performing rights places like a community theater or children’s theater. And it’s really a beautiful song.
Well, I hope to hear it one day. That's so wild, and you've been doing that ever since. Well, fast forwarding a bit through a couple of albums, how did your Haus Party trilogy come about? And did you come into the series with a special vision in mind?
Todrick Hall: It came about because I realized that on the first two big albums I did, ‘Straight Outta Oz’ and ‘Forbidden’, the big songs were songs that were dance songs that could live outside of the work of the storyline that I was telling, and I still only felt comfortable putting out music that was based on a story because I thought that’s all my audience would want from me. But after a while, I was like, “You should just try it. You should just try to write songs that don’t have to do with anything, that are just fun songs,” which was hard for me because I work really well with parameters, and with a storyline or bullet points that I need to hit or key words. And for me to just have a blank canvas, a drawing board to just write about whatever I wanted to write about, was just really scary for me. But I’ve gotten to a point now where I’m like, “I’ve done so many things that are not scary. So if it’s not scary, chances are, I probably already done it, and I should spend my time doing something that I think is gonna benefit me.”
And so yeah, I wrote ‘Haus Party 1’ and I started writing all the albums, and I have people who love the dance, four-on-the-floor stuff, and I wanted to do something, and specifically time it to where it came out around Gay Pride, and was basically catered towards the gay community. And then, I had a lot of urban songs that I really wanted to put out that were just more swaggalicious, and so I didn’t feel like they fit on the first album. So I was like, “I’m gonna make this a three-part situation because the songs I love the most, are the songs that are about love and that require vulnerability,” and that’s what ‘Haus Party 3’ is.
So it doesn’t feel like ‘Haus Party 1’ or ‘2’, it feels like its own world, but it’s a much more vulnerable side to me. I’m really excited for people to have to stop and not wanna kiki and dance as soon as the music comes on, and they wanna stop and listen to the lyrics of what I’m talking about because every single song is based on a love that I had for myself, or a lack of love that I had for myself or a person that I fell in love with. And whether that ended well, or ended horribly, it’s about all of the different versions of love that I’ve experienced.
I understand that Haus Party, Pt. 3 is a series of love songs. How do Pt. 1 and Pt. 2 distinguish themselves, for you?
Todrick Hall: It was just a different vibe. I wanted people to be able to listen to ‘Pt. 1‘ and feel like it was the same energy, and putting a song like “Dripeesha” or “Cake Pop” on that album would have not felt right. So I said, “Let me just put that on another album, so that people, when they wanna listen to this vibe, they can just listen to it all at once.” I’m standing up just because I’m just getting a little whoo-hoo! So yeah, I just wanted it to be a different energy because I didn’t want… Sometimes I have put songs on a piece of work that are a really great song, but because it doesn’t feel like it belongs in that family… I think that albums in the true sense of the word, used to mean something different than it means today. And so I just feel like I was always trying my hardest to make sure that I put out so much content, but then I started thinking, “Sometimes just having content isn’t great enough, it needs to make sense with each other.”
It sounds like you always kind of knew this was going to be a trilogy.
Todrick Hall: Yeah, once I started writing it, while I was three or four songs in, I was like, “These are all great songs, but not on the same album.” And then I was like, “I’m just gonna do three albums.”
Haus Party, Pt. 3 is all about love. Can you briefly walk me through each song, in terms of what they represent for you?
Haus Party, Pt. 3
So it’s all about love. The first one that I can think… Do you have the list of the songs or… I think I can remember it. I can remember it. It’s my album, I should remember it. Okay, “Pink Dreams”, I wrote that song because I think that every gay person experiences a first love when they don’t know for sure if that person is part of the LGBTQ community or not. And I think that that’s one thing that most gay men would be able to identify with because we all go through situations where we like someone, but the first step is finding out if they even play for the same team that you’re on. And the whole idea of fantasizing about that person and what it would be like, and I had so many of those in high school, so many guys that I was in love with, and would think about myself dating them all the time, just like a little girl would about whatever the Troy Bolton or Danny Zuko of their school was. And so yeah, that was what that song is about.
“Blue” is one of my favorite songs on the album. It’s about that feeling, the butterfly feeling that you get when you first start dating somebody, and how excited you get when their name pops up on your phone because they just texted you. I wrote that lyric in the song because I know I love the song by Taylor Swift, “Delicate”, and I love the way she painted the pictures, and there’s a part where she talks about the phone lighting up the night stand in the room. And that’s what inspired me to write this song ’cause I was dating somebody who just was rocking my world at the time. And we’re no longer dating, but they just… It made me think of them as soon as I started writing the music.
Love Me Black
“Love Me Black” is an important song for me because I’ve received a lot of criticism from my own community, be it the Black community, or the queer community because I think that a lot of people don’t… A lot of Black people don’t feel that I represent the Black community in the best light, and it’s really heartbreaking for me to feel that way because I love being black. And my journey with my blackness has been just very, very difficult ’cause I always was… Growing up in studios where I was the only black person, and I was the only boy, and I was the only gay person. So I was just like a triple-minority in that situation, but it made me develop coping mechanisms and fall into another world where I just look at the world through different eyes.
So my point of writing that song was to say that oftentimes, we have been put against each other and we have to make the conscious choice to not put other people down, just because their version of Blackness doesn’t feel and look the same as theirs does. So that’s why I wrote that song. And basically, yeah, I just… That’s how I feel. It took me a long time to be able to… For a while, I was second-guessing whether or not I could… I even felt like I was black enough to say that I was black, which is so weird ’cause I was seeking all these people’s approval and trying to make my Blackness look like theirs. And I was like, “No, we are not one thing. We should be able to exist in every… ” I love that there are Misty Copelands, and Audra McDonalds, and people in the industry that sing opera and are ballet dancers to defy the stereotypes of what black people are capable of. So there’s that.
And then, the song “Dysfunctional” is my favorite song on the album because it comes from such a real experience. And there was somebody that I fell in love with, and who I still love and think about all the time, and there are some moments where I think, “I wanna try it again,” even though this person broke my heart more than it’s ever… Than I knew was feasible for it to be broken. And so that’s what that song is about. Because you always have friends around you that tell you, “This person’s horrible for you.” And it’s so easy and so clear for them to see it when their heart isn’t involved, but that’s what makes love so complicated. Someone could be so horrible, treat you horrible, make you lose all your self-confidence and feel worthless, and you could still love that person so much, and you still wanna see the little glimpses of good in them to wish that you could make it work out, but it’s a daily fight to make sure that I put myself first and that I don’t do that.
A Little in Love
“A Little in Love” is a song about my first, I feel, true love: A guy that was a British guy that I fell in love with that I actually wrote the song on my ‘Straight Outta Oz’ album, “Color,” about this same person. He was just such a tremendous person with such an awesome heart. Everybody who met him would always be like, “He was just such a nice guy. He’s such a nice guy.” And I think that was just hard for me to understand. And so I wrote that song like seven years ago, and I recorded it like seven years ago because that’s how I felt. I was like, “I’m still in love with him.” So that’s a song that’s evolved, but that always meant so much to me, and all the lyrics are very personal and specific to this person. And I didn’t put it out because they would probably not like it, they’re engaged to someone else, and the relationship has just been weird. I haven’t spoken to him in maybe five, six, seven years, which makes me so sad ’cause life is so short, I wish we could speak. But I’m putting the song out because this is part of my story and my journey, and I don’t want to not put it out. So that’s that.
“Don’t Stop” is a little gem to me. It’s not one of the songs I would consider to be like a single, but there have been times that I’ve been in relationships where I felt like I had a slight case of impostor syndrome, like I was like, “This person’s too good for me. I’m not bringing enough to the table. I don’t know if I deserve this, and I just hope that I can keep doing the right thing, so that this person still loves me because… ” Which is not a very healthy thought to think, but it’s a thought that I’ve definitely thought before, and I’m just like, “I just don’t want this moment to end because I think it’s so amazing.” And so that’s what that song is about.
“Enough” is a song that I wrote, and I sang it on tour last year, but I wanted to write a love song to myself because it was part of my recovery from that relationship that “Dysfunctional” was about. I started to doubt that I was beautiful, and that I was talented, and I was getting older, and like, “Why am I even still trying for this?” And that song, “Enough”, has been an anthem that I would sing to myself, and listen to sometimes when I was going down. I mean, when I was feeling down. And I’ve never in my life really used my own songs to lift me up, but if I’m gonna write a song about self-love and that’s the song that lifts me up, I think there could be no better song for that.
Thank you for going through those. For me, “Dysfunctional” feels special, like it's the kind of song that wrote itself: “I don't wanna win if it means to lose you, don't wanna pretend I don't miss you anymore, my heart was black and bruised, but I can't resist you, and now it's just a little sore, but I only said I hate you 'cause I love you.” I just thought that was a really special line. You know when you listen to a song and think to yourself, “How did this not already exist in the world?” It just felt so natural, and so much bigger than itself.
Todrick Hall: Thank you. That means a lot to me. That’s my favorite song, so I’m excited for people to hear it and tell me what their favorites are.
As a lyrically-forward artist do you have any favorite lyrics out of Haus Party, Pt. 3?
Todrick Hall: I would say it’s probably something in “Dysfunctional,” but nothing specifically pops out to me right now. I don’t feel like I even know all of the songs. I feel like they’re journal entries that I wrote a year ago.
All my friends say, “Run away, he’s gonna break your heart again”
(He’s gonna break your heart again)
And common sense may say, “Be safe, he’s probably better as a friend”
(He’s probably better as a friend)
And my mama said he’s too dangerous
And she right
But it’s always those fucking dangerous ones
That I like
And I only said I hate you ’cause I love you, didn’t you know?
Don’t it make sense that your heart is my tattoo, mhmm?
You told me you were leaving, tell me to love her, didn’t you know?
Does it make sense that what you need ain’t what you want?
‘Cause I would rather be dysfunctional with you
I would rather be dysfunctional
How did the Haus Party songs come together? Were they all written around the same time, or is this EP a more recent collection than the first two from 2019?
Todrick Hall: Yeah, it was supposed to come out a long time ago with different songs. There was a song called “Two Tuxedos,” and a song called “I Do”. There was a list of different songs, but so much happened to me, and when I was supposed to put it out, I was so depressed ’cause I was actually in the middle of going through some of these things. And so I just was like, “I’m not putting it out now. I just don’t feel… There’s no way I can go into the studio and record. I’m just so down and heartbroken,” and I needed to just take a moment to get my life together and to get my emotions together. And I also knew that maybe if I got it together, I’d be able to look back at it and write a song about how I felt in that moment. In some cases, when I wrote “Dysfunctional,” I was feeling that way on that day that I wrote it.
It sounds like the series has been your pet project in recent years, the thing you keep coming back to when the time is right. Do you think there will be a Pt. 4 after the Pt. 3, or do we close this chapter?
Todrick Hall: I think this chapter is closed. I have a lot of new music that I’ve been writing, and I’m very excited for that music, but I couldn’t put out any new music. I put out two albums last year, like a ‘Haus Party’ live and a ‘Quarantine Queen’, and everybody’s like, “Where is Haus Party 3, Todrick? Where is that? Let’s go back to that.”
Why can't they just be happy?
Todrick Hall: It was just really hard for me to write this album. I’m not a person that has to… It take… It doesn’t usually take a lot to get me motivated, but so much has been going on, and then I moved to London for five months, and I just felt like I had so many break-ups, I had three of my aunts passed away in a short amount of time. It was just a lot of things for me to be going through at one time. I went through a moment where I was being “cancelled” on the internet, and I felt misunderstood. And it took a long time for me to deal with that, and I felt betrayed by a lot of people who were really close to me. And there was just, at that time, nothing that could make me want to get into the studio and sing and finish this album. It just… The world has just been in such a crazy place that I just said, “You know what? I’m not going to do this right now. I’m gonna do it when I feel like the time is right and my fans can be patient, and I think that they will appreciate it more when they get it.”
Your 'Quarantine Queen' EP released last April, and I thought that was so fun. I absolutely loved 'Mask, Gloves, Soap, Scrubs'' – I love that you keep on remaking this song again and again for different situations, and I just hope we get to have our own special EP one day of like, 10 different versions each for its own theme. And ''TikTok'' was absolutely just phenomenal. You really feel the fun energy that went into making these songs that came at a really difficult point in time.
Todrick Hall: Yeah, it was really, really fun. I wrote that album in three days. I just sat down and just… That’s what I’m saying, it shouldn’t… There’s no logical reason why it should have taken this long for ‘Haus Party 3′ to come out, but I think I was just so emotional, and writing songs about love was just very, very hard for me at that time, and I just couldn’t do it. I don’t know why. I could have done it, but it wouldn’t have been sincere. So I just didn’t want to do that, and I don’t get to sing music like this very often. People have an expectation of what they’re gonna hear. So this is more like a love letter to my real fans, the people who listen to all of my music. And I’ve tried to prepare people as much as possible to listen to this from a different perspective ’cause it’s gonna sound very different and a huge departure from what a Todrick Hall song typically sounds like.
One thing I actually really liked about this album was the diversity that you're talking about. “Don't Stop” was really stunning for me. I love your falsetto work in the background of that song.
Todrick Hall: Thank you.
I thought that was really cool. And it's very interesting to me that each of these songs has their own genre a little bit, and they're all a little bit of something different and something special. You said there's an expectation of what a Todrick Hall song i... Are you thinking about what those expectations are when you're making music, or are you trying to get those ideas out of your head?
Todrick Hall: With this album, not really. With the other albums, yes. But with this album, I just was writing a song every few months, and I was like, “Oh, I think I should put this on that album,” and it just all happened organically. And I haven’t even listened to the entire album all the way through because for me, it just… I like that every song, for me, represents a different time in my life when I felt a completely different way. I almost didn’t even put “Love Me Black” on the album because it just feels so different to everything else, but that song is important to me. So if this is a love letter, it just doesn’t really have to make sense. It just has to be how you feel and that’s… This album is, for me, very personal. And so while I want to share this with other people, I’m not really looking for a commercial release where I’m giving people things in a way that they might think that they want it or deserve it or need it. I’m just doing this one album the way I want to do it, and singing the songs that I wanna sing. And then, I think for the next albums, people will get what they… [chuckle] What they think they’re gonna get and then some. They’re really fun.
Listening to it front-to-back is a great experience. I really liked “Love Me Black.” That song struck out to me, and I guess it was not only in the context of its personal import for you, but also I guess in the present moment. It felt like it transcended the moment in a bit, and I hope that it speaks to others' experiences.
Todrick Hall: Well, we shall see how people feel about it. And I have new merch coming out as well, so I’m excited about that. The merch for this album is just really, really cute. When I saw it all, I was like, “I wanna buy everything.” So that makes me excited. It feels like it’s the right time, and the fact that it’s the week of Valentine’s, is like… Makes me be like, “Oh, this just feels… It feels right.”
Speaking of Valentine's Day, what do you look for in a love song?
Todrick Hall: In a love song, I look for details. I think that’s part of the reason why Taylor Swift is so successful, because she tells things, she talks about things. I think that a good comic can find things that you think about every day that you’ve never heard someone say in that way, so it’s relatable because everybody in the room is nodding their head and laughing because it’s something that they do that they’ve never said out loud. And Taylor has a unique ability to be able to take something that she’s experienced or that so many people have experienced and write it in a way that sounds so much more eloquent than it would have ever sounded if a regular person said it, and then putting it into a song, and so many people receive that in a different way. I am not… I don’t have that… I don’t have blonde hair, and a mini-skirt, and I’ve never dated somebody that looks like… That has a James Dean look in their eye, but when I hear the song “Style”, it just does something for me, and it makes me feel great, and it transports me to a place, it paints a picture, and it makes me feel butterflies, and I think it’s just that thing in this world where so many people can be famous just by being cute and being great at finding filters on TikTok. It’s so awesome and refreshing to have people like Taylor out writing great music.
Hunter Hayes is another one of my favorite artists, and I love the way he writes, and the things that he says in his songs because they always hit me in a way, and make me think of the people that I love and the times that I have felt that way. And so I think that that to me is what makes a great song. Specificity is the key to me to a great song, a beautiful melody. Obviously, it needs to be produced well, but if you can just say something that feels really personal to you and find a way to make it resonate with other people, then I think then you’ve succeeded.
You mentioned Taylor Swift – 1989 was my jam for years.
Todrick Hall: Same.
Songs like “Style” and “Delicate” still resonate with me. Some of her songs feel like modern fairy tales, and I think that in large part due to her songwriting: If you can bring a regular relatable experience to life, with a little bit of magic, everybody can know what you're going through. Do you have a favorite Taylor Swift love song?
Todrick Hall: “Style” is my favorite song. Yeah, it’s just gorgeous. I don’t know why, but that for sure is my favorite.
Well, now that you've put this out, maybe we'll find out what Taylor's favorite song of yours is as well.
Todrick Hall: [chuckle] I’m sure she’ll let me know. But she just announced she’s releasing Fearless, soon and that you could hear “Love Story”, and I’m very, very excited to listen to it again.
If you could go back to when you first started your Haus Party' series, would you do anything differently? Do you feel like having now seen this trilogy to its end, you can come away from it and take something with you into your future music?
Todrick Hall: I don’t know. I think that’s a question I’ll have to answer after I see what people say about it. I’m a… This is one of the few times [chuckle] in my life that I’m doing something just ’cause I’m like, “I just wanted to do this because this is personal to me.” I typically don’t put out products that I don’t think my fans wanna hear. So if they respond to this in a positive way, then maybe this is an avenue I would take again, but for right now, I’m just going with the flow, and letting the universe just do what it’s gonna do and let people respond to it. And I’m gonna take a nap because I wanna hear what people are gonna say, and I always forget that Australia gets it before we all get it. So that’s always one of those things that I’m like, “Oh my God, that’s so exciting.” So I can’t wait to hear what everyone’s gonna be saying, and what songs they like, and what songs they gravitate towards the most. I’m just excited to hear what people do and say about it.
Do you have any hope for what listeners take away from Haus Party, Pt. 3?
Todrick Hall: No, I just hope that people see me in a different light. There’s a lot of people who if they don’t follow me religiously, they don’t know that I do Broadway musicals. They don’t know that I even can sing because most of my popular songs, I’m rapping or speaking on. So I just hope that I show people a different side of me because as an artist, that’s what you always strive to do, or at least I do. I did Kinky Boots on Broadway, and then I went from that to doing Chicago playing Billy Flynn, who’s a straight hotshot lawyer, to then being a comic relief in Waitress as Ogie. And all of those characters, I did them specifically because it was a huge departure from what I’d done before, and I wanted to prove myself that I can land a joke, and that I could entertain an audience.
So for this, this is me just hoping that you peel back another layer and show people a different side of you that you haven’t seen, and hope that they are delicate with your heart [chuckle] when you’re in your art form. Because there’s a part of me that’s just so scared that people will say that this is their least favorite thing I’ve ever put out, or whatever. But I’m definitely also equally as excited as I am nervous, and I think if you’re an artist and you’re not nervous, then you’re not passionate about it. But nerves are good as long as you don’t let that be your only form of validation, what other people think.
You mentioned Broadway, and once again, somehow beat me to the punch. I did want to say that my fiancée and I saw you in Kinky Boots a few years ago.
Todrick Hall: No way.
Yes! We got the tickets specifically because we knew Todrick Hall was starring.
Todrick Hall: Wow! That makes me so happy. Well, nice to re-meet you, I’m a few pounds heavier now that I’m not strutting in those boots every day and I’m in clothes… That show changed my life, so I’m so happy I got to do it. And every time someone says they came to see it, to see me in it, it just warms my heart because it was just a dream come true. And I wish I could have done it for six years, so everyone could… All my friends and family could see it.
Your performance was phenomenal. We talked about Disney being one of the places you got your start. Broadway was another place where you got your start so many years ago with The Color Purple and others way back in the day. What was your experience like coming back to Broadway more recently through Kinky Boots, Chicago, etc?
Todrick Hall: I think that it was a completely different experience. There was a lot of other factors that’s associated with when you are there to sell tickets. That’s a little bit scary for you because you can’t make someone sell tickets, you can’t make someone wanna spend their hard-earned money during the holidays to come watch you in a show. And so that part was what was so scary for me, and the responsibility of… I shouldn’t say this, but when I was in the ensemble of Color Purple, if I didn’t… If my voice was gone one day, they’d be like, “Well, it’s still easier for you to be here and just not sing as full out today as you normally would because we need your body there,” or whatever. Whereas if you are the star of the show, you have to be able to sing every day, and you have to make so many sacrifices to make sure you’re physically capable of doing the show eight times a week, which is a lot.
Todrick, you do web, music, TV, film, Broadway. I'm probably missing a few, but you have already defined yourself over the past decade and change as a jack of so many trades. What are you most looking forward to this year, and in a post-pandemic world?
Todrick Hall: I would love to do more Broadway, especially now that I haven’t been able to do it in so long, but I would love to create my own Broadway shows. I wanna create kids’ TV shows, I would love to write a musical like a Greatest Showman or a Jingle Jangle.
It sounds like you've already done one once before.
Todrick Hall: Yeah, no, I’ve done several before, but now I’m so much… I’m just… I’ve fine-tuned my skills so much more, and we grow as artists. And I loved those pieces of work, but I think now I could do something 10 times better. And so I’m excited to be given the opportunity, or create my own opportunity to keep doing that and to share my art with everyone.
What are you most excited about releasing Haus Party, Pt. 3? What's going through your mind and your heart?
Todrick Hall: I’m just happy for people to finally see it. When you work on something for so long, I’m now past the point of over-thinking it. I’m just gonna put it out and hope that people like it as much as I loved making it. And yeah, I’m just excited for what’s to come. I have so many new projects that I’m working on and I’m excited for people to see the new chapters of Todrick.
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