Thursday, August 20, 2009

Exclusive: Interview with Ingrid Michaelson

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(Ingrid Michaelson, Me)

Whether it’s humming the catchy beat to Be Ok, clapping along to the quirky and romantic The Way I Am, or singing along to the unforgettable and somber Keep Breathing, people across the country have undeniably fallen head over heels for the music of Ingrid Michaelson. The Staten Island raised folk-tastic songstress has fortified quite a name for herself in the industry. Her music has been highlighted on a large variety of television shows such as “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scrubs,” and “One Tree Hill,” as well as in feature films, including Sex And The City: The Movie.

After selling out shows worldwide and having had appearances on Live With Regis And Kelly, The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, Late Night With Conan O’Brien, Good Morning America, and Last Call With Carson Daly, Ingrid won America over with her sexy librarian glasses and charmingly addictive music and lyrics. Now, nearly half a decade after the release of the album that shot her to indie stardom, the reigning queen of college radio will be releasing her third full studio album, “Everybody,” on August 25th. While promoting the upcoming record, Ingrid took time out to talk to me about everything from the new album to her Twitter to the hot teacher she never got to take a class with in school.

AN: Your first release, “Slow The Rain” was mostly piano driven, whereas your second album, “Girls And Boys” strayed away from that for more of a folky, multi-instrument layered sound. What kind of musical evolution can your fans expect from “Everybody”?

IM: “Everybody” is more fully produced than “Girls And Boys.” I don’t really ever play songs from “Slow The Rain” because I don’t like that album very much at all. It was sort of my first attempt at making music. I went to school for musical theater and was studying how to have those kinds of vocals which I feel like was very influential in my writing - and while I enjoy musical theater, I don’t want it in my music. The second record “Girls And Boys” was really about finding what I felt comfortable with and where I felt my strongest in terms of good songwriting, but I still didn’t really know quite what I was doing. That record is about five years old now, so I’ve had a lot of time to be inspired and learn and grow. I think “Everybody” is way more thought out. There are string parts and bigger, more intricate, full band songs. There are still some small songs that have delicate and simple instruments, but I feel overall the record is just a lot more thought out and much better.

You’re quite the internet savvy girl. You constantly update your Twitter and your blog, which makes your fans feel like they’re really connected with you. You even tweeted asking for suggestions for album titles and advice on the ones you were contemplating choosing. Why do you so firmly believe in having your fans so updated and involved in your recording process and why do you think most artists choose not to include their fans on such an intimate level?

I think it just depends on your personality. If you’re a really introverted person or if you don’t really care about that type of thing and are turned off by it then you’re not going to do it. I feel like, though, since I was discovered on MySpace, I’ve had a lot of help from my fans and I owe a lot to the internet – it’s where I got my start. It’s a hard business and the people that are keeping me afloat are my fans, so obviously I don’t want to piss them off. I want them to feel thanked.

So why did you ultimately decide on “Everybody” as the title of the record?

Well there’s a song on the album called Everybody so I like that it’s taking something from the record. I’m singing about a loss of a connection between two people that still love each other, which I feel like is something that a lot of people, if not everybody, have gone through. It just kind of felt like a good way of summing up the album – it’s something that everybody can understand.

I read that this record is shaped like a story. You said it’s the tale of a relationship that consumes two people to the point that they are ripped apart. Can you talk to me a little bit about precisely how this story is structured through your music and why it is something that you feel you need to tell?

Well, they just happened to be the songs that I was writing. I didn’t sit down and think to myself “Ok this is going to be the first song, and this is going to be the next song, and so on and so forth.” When I sat down and looked at all the songs I had to choose from, it just seemed like they were a progression if I arranged them a certain way. It starts out kind of uplifting going into a new situation, and just how quickly it takes a turn and falls apart. I just arranged the songs that way because that’s the natural way things go.

Going off of that idea of telling a story - as a songwriter, what do you believe is the relationship between literature and music? Do you feel they feed off of one another or are they completely unrelated?

I think it really depends on the writer as well as the listener. I personally love Regina Spektor. I think she tells fantastical and magical stories in her music, but they’re not really stories about her at all – they’re ones she made up in her crazy, brilliant mind. And I enjoy that. But for my own personal writing, I like to write about what I know and what I know has happened. I never set out to do a concept album or anything, it was like I said - it just made sense that the songs I liked the best fit into that kind of specific category, so I don’t think it’s an imperative thing to have a songwriting story line.

The first single off the album, “Maybe” has a very Carole King/Joni Mitchell feel to it. While writing this record, what musicians and albums were you listening to the most and how much of an impact did they have on your songwriting?

That’s hard to say. In the past year, I’ve listened to the Bon Iver record a lot. I really, really like him but I don’t think it influenced my songwriting. I don’t know what influences my songwriting, but I don’t really hear other people and think “I want to write a song like that.” I hear other people and think “wow, that’s really amazing, and now, maybe I’ll make something of my own.” I definitely get inspired to up my game … but that’s kind of a tricky question.

You’ve self released all of your albums on your own Cabin 24 records. After the critical and commercial success of “Girls And Boys,” did you ever feel pressure to completely switch over to a major label? What made you decide to stay independently releasing your material?

Well, I’m able to work with Universal/Motown now through a smaller label called Original Signal. They get me my distribution and radio and retail, so I have a lot of the muscle of a major label, but I have all artistic control over everything. It’s sort of like a hybrid of the two worlds, so I don’t really see why I would ever switch completely over. I think that what a major label can do is invest a lot of money to get you to a certain point, but I think I got to that point on my own. Now I just want to slowly work my way upward from where I am. I don’t need a million dollars to shoot myself out of a cannon to the top of the Billboards – I just want it to happen kind of slow and steady, you know?

You’ve become the official “Grey’s Anatomy” season finale theme song girl, having been heavily featured in the finales of the past 3 seasons. Do you yourself watch the show?

I occasionally do. Sometimes I buy it on iTunes, especially when my songs are on it because I want to see how they use them. But I’ve fallen so behind on almost every television show that I used to watch, so if I don’t buy them on iTunes, I usually miss them. I do like the show though.

So do you have a McDreamy in your life?

(laughs) Well, who’s my character? Am I Meredith?

Well that’s up to you!

Are they married now?

I think they’re still engaged.

Ha, well … I have a McSomeone. I’ll say that. A McSomeone Special.

Speaking of crushes and boys - all the artwork that’s been released thus far for “Everybody” portrays you as a teacher by a chalkboard. Was there ever a teacher in your school days that you had a crush on?

(laughs) Hmm … well … not really, no. I never had the hot teachers that everybody loved. There was one in my school but I never got him, unfortunately … meaning I never took his class!! (laughs) I had to clarify.

If you could only perform in only one outfit for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?

I mean I pretty much do perform in one outfit. I just wear my skinny jeans tucked into boots and a t-shirt. It’s my go-to outfit. I like to be comfortable, but I still want to look decent. Sometimes I’ll wear skirts or shorts with tights, but for the most part I’m a jeans and t-shirt kind of girl.

You’ve already collaborated with a number of artists such as Joshua Radin and Sara Bareilles, so I was curious as to who you would choose to duet with if you were given the opportunity to sing with any musician, alive or dead?

Well I’ve always said I would want to sing a song with Judy Garland because I grew up watching all of her movies. The story of her life is just so interesting and sad. I have such a love for her so I would definitely pick her.

What are you most excited about and what are you most nervous for with the release of “Everybody”?

I’m excited to perform new songs and have new music for people to listen to. I feel like I’ve been performing the same songs for a while now. I’m nervous, obviously, that it won’t do well and people won’t like it.

Aw, well I’m sure it’ll do well and people will like it. You have a very loyal and dedicated fan base.

Yeah, I hope so! I always prepare for the worst so I won’t be disappointed. I hope it’ll do well but I don’t expect anything.

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1 comment:

Francesca said...

omg when she's talking about teachers... i need to know whether or not she's talking about Mr. Scavo from Tech! lol (awesome interview Alex, nicely done!)