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"It hit a nerve": King Princess talks about her early success, songwriting and late grandmother

When Mikaela Straus, better known by her stage name King Princess, released her debut single, "1950," back in 2018, Harry Styles tweeted the lyrics.

"That definitely gave it a little bump in streams," she told CBS News senior culture correspondent Anthony Mason.

"I woke up and I was, like, 'Why do I have all these followers now?'" Straus said. "There was no promotion. It just came out. And it hit a nerve."

The song went platinum and the music video has more than 20 million views.

"I really did the thing that I know I'm good at on that song," Straus said. "I'm like an assembler. I'm, like, on the assembly line — my own assembly line of song-making. And I put everything together, in a way, like an outfit."

2021 Governors Ball Music Festival - Day 2
King Princess performs during the 2021 Governors Ball Music Festival at Citi Field on September 25, 2021, in New York City. Taylor Hill

"I'm, like, sewing a gown," she added. "And sometimes the gown comes out perfect. A song is the body and production is the gown."

The 23-year-old said she gets her creativity from her parents. Her mother worked in fashion while her father, an audio engineer, owns the Mission Sound recording studio in Brooklyn.

"Everything is buttons. Everything is tactile," Straus said, recalling growing up in her father's studio. "I feel like when you're a little kid looking at this stuff you feel like you're in a spaceship."

Straus said she took her stage name from a term she used in the studio. "We had this, like, persona for the days that the songs were really confident," she said. "It was a King Princess day."

"I always had it in the back of my mind going 'King Princess' was a great name for me 'cause it's a dichotomy, just like I am," she said, acknowledging that she understood that dichotomy even from a fairly young age.

For three years now, Straus has been in a relationship with Lizzo's former creative director, Quinn Wilson, who directed the video for Straus' song "Pain."

Ralph Lauren Fragrances Presents Ralph's Club
Quinn Wilson and King Princess attend Ralph Lauren Fragrances Presents Ralph's Club on December09, 2021, in Los Angeles, California. Matt Winkelmeyer

"She was beautiful," Straus said. "But then I realized she was so much more than that. And we went on a date, and I guess she started talking and I was like, 'She's so cool.'"

Straus also spoke about the frustration of being relegated to queer playlists.

"I just can't wait for the premier straight playlist to come out. That's gonna be amazing. Top straight songs. Could you imagine? Isn't that crazy?" she said.

Straus also said she feels like "we're just entering a really exciting time in the world where we have queer people to look up to."

She said she grew up loving Cher, and relating to "femme rock and roll boys" like Prince and David Bowie.

"Even if it wasn't outwardly gay or queer, I still felt a kindred spirit," she said.

The New York Times has called her "a potentially new kind of rock star, or, at least, an old kind of rock star for a new age."

She even opened for Kacey Musgraves at Madison Square Garden.

Kacey Musgraves Star-Crossed: Unveiled Tour - New York, NY
King Princess performs onstage during the Kacey Musgraves Star-Crossed: Unveiled Tour at Madison Square Garden on February 5, 2022, in New York City. Theo Wargo

Straus admits, though, that after her early success, she got "lost in the sauce" for a couple of years.

"I was, like, 18," she said. "Would you want the things you said in interviews at 18 to be available forever? It's a nightmare. But it's also, like, I'm glad that I was crazy. That was me, too. I think I'm just a little more — I've grown up. I've grown up a bit."

Straus said she's been able to stay grounded, in part, by her relationship with her grandmother. She even postponed her tour when her grandmother became sick.

"You know, as much as it hurt and as much as I wish I was playing right now, when I got that call, I was like, 'I will be there in ten minutes,'" she said.

Straus took care of her grandmother until she passed away.

"She was the most loving person I've ever met," she said. "She really just had no judgments."

When Straus performed at Terminal 5 in New York City in 2019, her grandmother, who was in her late 80s, came to the show. 

"She stood the whole time," she said. "Nana was awesome."

Straus said she's been touched by the support of artists like late Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins, who played on the final cut of her new album "Hold On Baby," which was released on Friday.

"I'm hearing my music in this way that I've always wanted to hear my music. And he gave that to me," she said of her song "Let Us Die." "It's one of the most important experiences of my life. It feels like it's an homage to him. It's my favorite song on the record. It's the type of song that I've always wanted to write, and he's on it."

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