Rising pop singing sensation Chaz Cardigan is finally out on the road after rescheduling tour dates during the pandemic. This out and proud queer musician represents a new generation of artists who never hid who they were (and are) in private while launching their public careers.
This Los Angeles-based crooner left his country roots behind after moving from his birthplace of Elizabethtown, Kentucky, to work eight years in Nashville to develop his career.
During this process, Cardigan played the name game a bit by changing his last name, McKinney, to Cardigan for his brand. He also used "Spazz Cardigan" as a moniker until landing on his birth name of Chaz.
His new music is slowly being rolled out this year in tracklist order. He is part of an independent record label called Nvak Collective, which creates safe spaces for women, non-binary and LGBTQ+ musicians. He released "We Look So Good" through that group in September 2021.
Cardigan's single about mental health "Not OK!" hit number 18 on the Billboard Alternative Airplay Chart and his track "As I'll Ever Be" was featured in the 2020 Netflix film To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You.
Cardigan came out at a young age, identifies as queer and uses he/him pronouns. He opened up about his life backstage before his recent show at Schubas Tavern while painting David Bowie-inspired makeup on his face to rock out for the American Plastic tour.
Windy City Times: Let's start off with how you came out of the closet.
Chaz Cardigan: I came out at school when I was 13. It was the first time that it ever happened in my school. It was such a bad idea that I told everyone that I was joking and it was a social experiment to see what would happen if a kid came out as bisexual.
WCT: A lot of people come out as bisexual first to dip their toes in the water of acceptance.
CC: Well, this was back in 2007 so it was still pretty radical. I eventually came out to people one by one. After a particularly nasty rumor was spread about me by some popular girls in high school, I decided to go with a don't ask, don't tell policy for a while.
I came out to my family starting at 10 years old and then tried a few more times. It was a constant battle, but we are all good now.
WCT: Did you always want to perform?
CC: I have always enjoyed making things. As a kid, I would make things with shoestrings and duct tape. I would make inventions, write movies and choreograph dances. I could recite Disney movies word for word. Music became something I could connect to other people with and enjoy.
WCT: How was dressing in drag for your video of "Rockwell?"
CC: It was so much fun. At the time, I was dating a drag queen. He really gave me the confidence to do that, but he broke up with me the day before that video was shot.
It was just empowering. I told my mom that I was doing it months in advance to prepare her. You know what? I looked good!
The day of doing drag was the most stressful day. I had six hours to be in and out of the building. I had to show up in character and make a gender swap. I had 20 minutes to get in drag, but luckily had the help of a makeup artist.
WCT: Do you have a favorite RuPaul Drag Race contestant?
CC: Willow Pill is my favorite and on the current season. I have never seen a queen before with such clarity of concept and identity.
WCT: Willow represents a young generation that was most likely raised on drag.
CC: Right and she has health problems that don't stand in the way of her making art. She just shows up and is the best one there. I love it!
WCT: Have you heard from your fans after writing songs about mental health?
CC: For sure. My favorite thing is when parents come up to me and say thank you because their daughter related to my song. Moments like that are going to keep me from ever retiring.
WCT: How many gummy bears were in the bathtub for your video "Not Okay!?"
CC: There were two days of filming and each day there were a hundred pounds of gummy bears. It was very wasteful and probably the single most impact I have ever had on the environment. I didn't produce the video, though, so it is not my fault!
WCT: What were the challenges of making the quarantine version of "Not Okay!?"
CC: That one happened so quickly. We were in lockdown for about five days before we made it. It wasn't the first quarantine video out there, but the director pulled a lot of favors to make it one of the very first quarantine-inspired videos.
The biggest challenge was getting the band to find good angles to film themselves!
WCT: The concert scene was particularly impressive in that video.
CC: That was all from me asking fans to submit their videos via Instagram. The director Will Kendrick did some great editing. He came up with the concept and understood the assignment!
The label was hesitant to have a second video, but we wanted to be a part of an early idea during a tough time in the world. Most of my music has come out during the pandemic so I am still finding my audience.
WCT: Describe the experience of working with Netflix.
CC: The soundtrack for To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You was put together by Capitol Records. I submitted multiple songs based on prompts in the film and was told the various tracks didn't fit. The A&R guy was listening to one of the songs and the soundtrack supervisor happened to be walking down the hall where he heard the demo. It fit none of the prompts that I was given, but he wanted the song for a dance scene. They wound up cutting the film around that song.
WCT: What advice would you tell other musicians that are still considering coming out publicly?
CC: I would tell them that life is too short to do anything other than be honest. Social constructs from your friends and family are not real. Especially after this week, all you have is your intuition and honesty, so embrace your truth. Life is not about being comfortable, so be uncomfortable!
Follow his future projects and tour at ChazCardigan.com .