Written by: Kara Kundert
I've got parts of me in Milwaukee
And I've got pieces in Minne, in St. Paul
And I knew that I got lucky in the bluegrass of Kentucky
But bluegrass, you don't love me after all
No, no, bluegrass, you don't love me after all -- Trixie Mattel, "Bluegrass"
In a lot of ways, Brian Firkus is a prototypical roots musician -- having grown up without much of a social life in a small town in northern rural Wisconsin, he turned to music to fill his time. Many of his quotes about his musical upbringing sound like conversations heard around a jam circle at a festival:
"I’ve played guitar for 15 years. I play kind of “Carter scratch” style. I grew up alone in the country playing, so I learned how to play the accompaniment with the melody together on guitar. I’ve always sung and played together, so it made perfect sense. I taught myself guitar, and autoharp, to me, it’s the same business. You use the leading tones of the chords to find the melody. You just learn to play by ear. That instrument, it’s sort of like learning to sight-read or sing solfege -- like do-re-mi. Once you do it enough, it becomes second nature."
However, he strays from the beaten path when he puts on a full face of makeup and a wig that would make Dolly Parton jealous and becomes Trixie Mattel, his drag persona. In her new album, Two Birds, Mattel brings both sides of her personality and upbringing to the forefront to create what she describes as “six beautiful little folk songs narrating the life of a recently heartbroken cross-dresser.”
Featuring such lyrics as, "Lover don't make me hit the road again, I can barely feel your fingers on my skin. I've been booking every city, looking sad, but looking pretty, looking... Lover don't make me hit the road the again", Mattel shows off her songwriting chops and puts a refreshing spin on many of the classic tropes of roots music, such as growing older, the lonesome open road, saying goodbye to lovers, and reminiscing on failed relationships.
For more on Brian and Trixie, check out this fantastic interview on The Bluegrass Situation! Two Birds is now available on iTunes and Amazon.