Photo by Annelle Staal
When most people think of the popular live streaming platform Twitch, they think of “Fortnite” fiends or online chess tournaments. The platform, however, is also a thriving hub for musicians who put on powerful performances for eager audiences, live from their bedrooms. Annelle Staal, who boasts nearly 60 thousand followers, is one such savant.
On Staal’s Twitch profile, the nonbinary singer-songwriter calls themself “your new favorite musical chaos gremlin.” However, while they might be new to your playlist, with an eight-track album to their name and another coming this year, they’re not new to the music scene. As they’ve grown from being a closeted singer in the South to a queer artist coming out to their dedicated audience, it’s safe to say Staal is handling the chaos — and they’re ready for the world to face the music.
At just 18, Staal moved to Nashville to record full-time, after performing as a “gigging” musician since they were 16. Soon after moving, they put out “Mars,” a five-track EP whose inquisitive lyrics and intriguing narrator put Staal on the map. Since then, they started releasing singles to their devoted audience, and they haven’t stopped. A self-proclaimed “gay cowboy,” Staal’s discography celebrates the singer’s roots with ballad lyrics that flirt with pop production. Even from songs off their first EP, like “Dragons,” Staal’s rich timbre lends a maturity beyond their years and creates a commanding presence that keeps 25,000 monthly Spotify listeners coming back for more.
Their new single, “My Girl,” marks a new chapter for the artist. The bright, bubbly declaration of love for the singer’s partner uses an upbeat melody and smooth vocals to articulate the inimitable and intoxicating feeling of queer euphoria. “When no one hears me, I’ll call her / My girl,” Staal croons, presumably with a smile on their face. Like the conversation hearts Staal enjoys on the single’s cover art, this song leaves a sweet taste on your tongue that gets you talking.
None of this is to say the gay cowboy has hung up their hat. In fact, Staal dons it with matching boots in their music video for another recent single, “Hindsight Bias,” a sassy clapback to a shifty love interest. Staal resides in North Carolina and produces their polished songs from their home studio. This reflects in their music. “My Girl” doesn’t pivot from their country influence — it carries it into new terrain and hopefully introduces them to a new audience. The love song stuns with slick pop production, but at the center, remains the soulful, saturated vocals that Staal’s long-time fans love and new listeners will fall in love with. Embracing one genre doesn’t mean abandoning the other.
As a queer artist, Staal’s versatility tells us that in gender and music, there’s no binary. You can have the best of both worlds. As they sing on an early track, “here’s to the grey.”
Author: Layla Knowles (She/They)
Copy Editors: Emma Blakely (They/She/He), Bella (She/They)