When Fancy Hagood moved to Nashville at the age of 17, he traveled across state lines with a dream. A native of Arkansas raised by parents who followed the Nazarene faith, Hagood convinced them to allow him to attend Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville after dropping out of high school and earning his GED at 16, using it as a bartering tool for his true goal of becoming an singer. “I came here to go to college, but I had an agenda,” Hagood says.
When he arrived in Music City, Hagood began pounding the pavement, turning his dream of being an artist into reality by attending every singer-songwriter round he could find and forging connections with each person in the music industry who crossed his path. But the seedling for his artistic identity was planted almost by accident, two years into his Nashville journey, while working at Forever 21. His lavish appearance – complete with full makeup, manicures and a new hair color each day – inspired his manager to dub him “Fancy” after the popular Drake song of the same name. “It was the first time someone was calling me something while also kind of making fun of me that I actually felt empowered by,” Hagood recalls. “I was like ‘I am that, you’re exactly right.’”
The nickname stuck, not only on the floor at Forever 21, but as part of Hagood’s blossoming career. But as a young, queer artist in the South, Hagood was met with challenges. In an attempt to dissuade people from focusing solely on his sexual identity, he began billing himself under the name “Fancy,” with his first show under the alias selling out. Soon, Hagood was equipped with a record deal under Big Machine Label Group and former manager Scooter Braun and relocated to Los Angeles. Operating in an industry that was still tepid in marketing a queer artist, it didn’t take long for the mysterious name to generate buzz. Hagood built a following that included famous fans Tori Kelly and Kacey Musgraves, gaining notoriety with his debut single “Goodbye” and the follow-up bop “Boys Like You” featuring pop superstars Meghan Trainor and Ariana Grande.
While the songs captured who Hagood was in his early 20s, when he was focused on chasing chart success, his cartoonish secret identity recalled a dark time he had put behind him. “It was a weird thing where I felt hidden again,” he explains of the pseudonym. “When you come out of the closet, you don’t really ever feel like that’s going to be your life again. It was damaging to me because I felt hidden and I felt like who I was as a person and as an artist wasn’t good enough to be shown to the world. That’s something I never want to go back to.”
Staying true to this proclamation, Hagood parted ways with Braun and Big Machine, returning to Nashville with the mission of sharing his story truthfully through song. “When I was on a major label, I was told me being queer, being from the South [were obstacles]. I think leaning into those things that make me unique and make me different and finding the sounds that no one else is really experimenting with, I call that queer Southern pop,” Hagood explains. “I’m tired of apologizing for being exactly what I am, and I am queer and I am Southern and I’m a pop artist. So why not make my own lane and celebrate all these things that in my career have been obstacles.”
His newfound liberation begins with “Don’t Blink.” A stark contrast from his LA-produced work, the soothing song backed by a guitar melody was born after Hagood sparked a romance with someone an ocean away in London. Though the relationship didn’t last, it did teach Hagood about the kind of love he desires, as conveyed in the lyrics, “Oh, when you’re looking at the sky/Oh, so am I/Don’t blink or you could miss it/Oh, when you’re wishing on a star/Know I’m there in your heart.” Meanwhile, “Another Lover Says” finds him in the “difficult” position of breaking someone’s heart for the first time, serving as an anthem for moving on. The tracks symbolize a fresh start for the eclectic singer-songwriter, one forged from honesty and ingenuity that he channels into his upcoming album, Southern Curiosity.
“It felt like the first time in years I was creating something that actually made me feel fulfilled,” he says of the “candid” album. “This record and this chapter in my life is more about telling a story and showing up completely, wholly myself and allowing people to learn who I am and what my journey has been like and share my stories. Before I think I was just chasing success. When you realize you’re not chasing anything and you’re finally just creating from the heart, I feel like that is when dots start to connect and things start to move in place and it feels a little bit more free. That’s what I’m all about – feeling free.”
Freedom is the cornerstone of Hagood’s identity not only as an artist, but as a human, with “Fancy” serving as the symbol for his ever-evolving artistry. With the forthcoming arrival of Southern Curiosity, Hagood hopes that listeners find freedom in his work and view it as a “bridge” and “unifier” to change hearts and open minds. “I hope that people can hear it and be set free by anything that’s holding them back from being their true self. I’m hoping it can be liberating for people who haven’t yet been set free,” he says.
“For me, ‘Fancy’ is a state of being. It’s where my confidence comes from, knowing that no one can make the rules for me. I make the rules for myself and I show up every day as myself,” he adds, noting that there’s “shame” and “rejection” attached to birth name. “With Fancy, I don’t have that. I don’t carry that shame. I’m not worried about the things I used to worry about,” he continues. “Fancy really set me free and it helped me find who I am as a person. It’s not just a name for me, it is a lifestyle, and I’m super thankful to have been able to take a little bit of a jab and turn it into a mantra. Being fancy has nothing to do with the way I look. It has everything to do with the way I feel.”