Fancy Hagood doesn’t mince words when it comes to telling his life story. In fact, Fancy is always one to speak his mind. His charm and honesty is what captivated audiences when he released his 2021 debut album, Southern Curiosity. When Fancy says, “my music is my diary,” he means it. His favorite songs (which you can hear in his Orangewood playlist) are ones that he felt he was able to relate to. When it comes to his own music, he shares his intimate stories of being queer in the south with a swift bravado, like in this lyric from the title track:
"Say what you want about the life I’m livin’. [I] Don’t give a damn what you think about me."
Jumping into the video call, we found Fancy Hagood in his Nashville home, his signature swooped-up hair draped over his forehead, donning a ringer tee with his own name plastered across the chest in rainbow letters.
Wow. I just gotta say, I love your shirt.
Thank you. It's probably tacky to wear my own merch, but it's laundry day, so here we are.
I'm so glad that you've not only worn the shirt, and that you’ve taken the time to join me today.
Of course. Thank you for having me.
I saw you on stage with your Orangewood, plus I saw you had another show, too. Congratulations on getting back on stage! How does it feel to be playing music again?
Honestly, it was a little overwhelming. Performing is what started my whole career. I worked at Forever 21, and I would do gigs anywhere in Nashville that I could. I used to just do it on whim, like “Fuck it, I'm just gonna go do a show this weekend.” Now there’s all this preparation leading up to it. By the time you get to the show, you're like, “I just want to do this and get it over with.” But it was awesome getting back to the stage, specifically here in Nashville, which has kind of become like a hometown for me. I moved here when I was 17. Performing to an audience of pretty much your peers is a really special thing. It's just nice to be able to do it again and do it my way. It's been cathartic.
Of course, it's a ton of pressure, but I know you're rocking on stage out there.
Yeah, I'm an entertainer. I have been since I was little, so the stage is no stranger to me. I'm very comfortable onstage. I'm kind of more comfortable on stage than I am off of it. Because when you're up there, you know, everyone's just expecting you to perform, and you expect to perform. When you're not onstage, it's like, "What do I do?" I don't know how to entertain people outside of music.
You've always been kind of a natural performer, you'd say? You’re used to being the center of attention?
It's funny because I am naturally introverted. I'm an observer. I think that's what helps me with my writing; I'm constantly observing my own situations and other people's situations. I'm always watching. But yeah, I think when I became "Fancy," that's when I kind of stepped into more of an extroverted side of myself. I had come out of the closet in a very conservative, southern city. I felt I had to be the kind of person that had to have all eyes on me to matter. I have always been that way — I think they call it an ambivert. On stage, yes, I definitely want all the attention. But when I'm not on stage, it is not what I want.
While we're talking about the stage presence, I want to ask how your Ava Mahogany is treating you so far.
I love it. It's pretty much my primary guitar. It's what I play the majority of the time. It sounds so rich. I love the wood and how it sounds. I love being able to use my guitar as a rhythmic instrument. I'm not good at it, but I try to do rhythmic stuff with my hand as I'm playing. I'm in this ‘90s phase where I'm just listening to all these female singer-songwriters from the ‘90s. I feel like my Orangewood plays right into that.
I love the ‘90s influence. Toss out a few names — who's been really inspiring you to make music?
I love such a wide range of music, so it's hard to ever just say one person is inspiring me. With Southern Curiosity, obviously, there was a lot of glam rock, like Elton John and Freddie Mercury, but also a lot of country music that inspired me to go make that album.
But right now, in this time and space, I'm working on a new album and I am very much inspired by the females of the ‘90s: Sheryl Crow and Paula Cole just to name a few. I just love their songwriting and a lot of them are badass producers as well. I'm inspired by the honesty and the grit of the songwriting. Because that's what I am, at the end of the day: I'm a songwriter, I'm a storyteller.
With Sheryl Crow, I just love how her music puts me in a good mood. I forgot how many hits she has; from the early ‘90s to now, she has so many songs, and she’s iconic. So Sheryl Crow is one of my biggest inspirations at the moment.
Songwriting seems to be your passion. When you sit down to write — just you and your Orangewood — how do you tap into your emotions?
My songwriting has evolved over the years. When I first started writing songs, I was in junior high — I think eighth grade. We had to share a poem and the thought of speaking in front of my class pained me. My teacher knew I was in choir, she knew I loved drama, theater and all that, so she just encouraged me to sing my poem. I went home and started writing this thing and then I put it to music. It was kind of the first song I ever wrote.
That's kind of been my M.O. as an artist: always writing what I'm feeling or what I'm going through. A lot of my songs are my diary. With Southern Curiosity, you’ll hear exactly where I was at and that place in time. This next record is going to be very much the same way. So much has happened to me. So much has happened to everyone!
Right before the pandemic, I got hit by a tornado, which is why y'all donated that guitar to me, which I'm so grateful for, because I lost my guitars to it. I've just gone through a lot of life recently. I think it's going to reflect in my music because that's where I get all of my feelings out: in my songs.
I’m so glad we were able to help out. And now, it’s amazing to see you coming out on top, performing and taking it in stride.
Thank you. Perspective helps when you go through something like that. It was a total loss. It put a lot of things into perspective; a near death situation always seemingly does. Music is my passion, and it's what I live for.
When the tornado hit me, everyone was like, "What was going through your head?" I was like, "Wow, I was fuckin' pissed because I just finished my album." Like, "Dammit, this would happen to me." I literally wrapped my album, and then there I am, standing in my apartment, and it's being ripped to shreds by a tornado. I was like, "This is it." But you know what, it wasn't it.
That's been a theme in my career: coming to moments that could be the end, but it never has been. Until it’s the end, I'm gonna keep pushing through and keep making music that inspires me and tells my story, because I think there's so much about who I am as a person that isn't really explored in mainstream music, and there's so many stories that have been left unsaid. I think a lot of my stories are that. It's an exciting chance to be able to be alive, to be a creator, to be able to put music into this world that will hopefully reach people that haven't heard their stories in music.
"There I am, standing in my apartment, and it's being ripped to shreds by a tornado. I was like, 'This is it.' But you know what, it wasn't it."
So many people have excuses for why their album hasn’t come out — I don't think any excuse tops a tornado.
Yeah, I got my life up-ended by a tornado. And then a global pandemic. That was my reasoning. But, between the last time I put out a song and Southern Curiosity, it's been about five and a half years. I took my sweet ass time, but good things take time.
You mentioned that you're an ambivert. But you're not shy when it comes to putting your life into your music. What does it mean to you to be able to represent yourself and tell those stories through music?
I spent the majority of my younger years reaching to female artists to relate to something — I think a lot of queer people can speak to that. Even in 2015, I signed to a major label, I had a giant manager and I was putting out music. A lot of the conversation was about how polarizing me being queer was, and using certain pronouns and songs was so controversial. But it's been a really beautiful thing for me to start unlearning what I've been told is polarizing. There's nothing about my story or who I am as a person that's not palatable. I listen to songs all the time from hetero acts that are talking about the same things I'm talking about, and yet they’re not polarizing.
I'm proud to reclaim my story without those voices telling me what to say. My hope is that by putting this music out by being true to myself, and very specific in my subject matter, that younger queer people will be able to hear themselves in my music.
"I hope other people can hear it, relate to it, and feel brave enough to be themselves. Because I wish that my younger self could have been brave enough to defend himself. That's really what it means to me."
I grew up in Bentonville, Arkansas, where it was so taboo to be queer. I think times are changing. But there are kids in Arkansas and Louisiana and Mississippi, all over the South that are being told who they are "isn't acceptable," or "isn't palatable" or is “controversial." Hopefully they can hear themselves in my songs and know that who they are is completely okay and start taking ownership in themselves.
I made this music mostly for my younger self. Hearing this narrative in music — I didn't have that.I hope other people can hear it, relate to it, and feel brave enough to be themselves. Because I wish that my younger self could have been brave enough to defend himself. That's really what it means to me. It means a lot to be able to do this for my younger self.
That's such a touching answer. It’s incredible to make the music that you wish you had when you were younger. I don't think there's anything more meaningful than that. I have a couple more questions for you. You’ve got your Myers-Briggs personality type, ENFJ, in your Instagram bio. How does that represent who you are?
In my bio, there's a little bit of sarcasm. I was made to take that quiz the one semester I was in college, and I was an ENFJ. My bio says, "I'm an ENFJ, a three-four wing, and the Miranda of my friend group." Those are the stereotypes of how you figure out your personality. The amount of times I'm with a group of girls and they're trying to figure out who they are from Sex in the City. Everyone wants to be a Carrie and no one wants to be a Miranda! That's kind of tongue in cheek for me, making fun of how everyone feels the need to be told who they are.
Earlier you mentioned percussion you do on your Orangewood. What are some other guitar techniques that you’ve been using on this new album?
You know, I'm self taught. I get by. It's really funny when I get exposed at band rehearsals. When people start throwing the Nashville number system at me and I'm like, "Uhh, I know about five chords. Where do I put my capo to play that?" But a friend of mine recently started showing me different guitar tunings, he calls it “Angel Tuning.”
I'm loving tuning the guitar down and getting a more earthy sound. Sometimes when you're recording guitars, it can sound quite treble-y, especially acoustic. This new tuning sounds super emotional to me. It immediately sets a scene and a mood and I love that. In my music, I love for the emotion to be captured within the first three or four seconds. I've never used alternate tunings before, so it’s been fun.
"I don't want to be what anyone else wants me to be. I don't want to have to pick one thing. Because at my core, I'm a lot of different things as an artist, as a person."
With the upcoming album, what should the fans be getting riled up for?
Southern Curiosity touched down in some Nashville swag, but with the new album, I’m returning to what I've accomplished in pop music and having a little bit of a comeback there. As a creator my whole entire life, I've been told you have to do one thing, you need to pick a lane, you need to choose something. But, here I am just pivoting once again, because I only want to be what I want to be.I don't want to be what anyone else wants me to be. I don't want to have to pick one thing. Because at my core, I'm a lot of different things as an artist, as a person.
But I think what people will be most excited about is just the extreme honesty in the lyrics. I'm taking it to a place that I've never really taken it before. It's real. It's honest. It's gritty. It’s going to be very different, and I think it’ll be a pleasant surprise for everyone.
Take a listen to all of the songs inspiring Fancy Hagood right now on his guest playlist down below.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.