Home Arts & Entertainment Interviews & Reviews An Interview with Ingrid Michaelson

An Interview with Ingrid Michaelson

Ingrid MichaelsonAt 30 years old, Ingrid Michaelson is a woman of her own. She knows what she wants and she knows how to get it. Although she has been approached by major record labels and producers, Ingrid Michaelson is holding her ground as an independent recording artist. In a competitive industry often driven by big money, national trends, and record sales, getting noticed as an indie-pop artist is no easy feat. However, with her smooth vocals and catchy, upbeat lyrics, Ingrid Michaelson is staring success in the eye from behind her trademark specs, making it all look too easy.

Born December 8, 1979, Ingrid Michaelson grew up in Staten Island, New York with dreams of one day practicing comedy as a musical theater actress. She never thought of becoming a musician, let alone a songwriter. Her passion for the arts and performing was nurtured by her parents from an early age. At four, she was learning to play the piano and later learned to play the guitar and ukulele. She attended various music schools in Manhattan and Staten Island and spent much of her youth honing her acting skills  performing in a musical childrens theater group called "Kids on Stage". Throughout high school, Ingrid Michaelson worked closely with a vocal coach  and graduated from Binghamton University with a degree in theater. After college, she pursued an acting career in NYC while writing music on the side. And then something changed... Ingrid found music and song-writing to be liberating in ways that her efforts in acting were not. As she puts it, she found something that made her feel "special". She was 23 and at an important crossroads. She relinquished a career in acting to follow her new found love as a singer/songwriter. 

Since then, there's been no turning back. In 2002, Ingrid Michaelson began promoting her music online via My Space where she developed a virtual  platform to showcase her music and talents that would attract a growing fan base and eventually capture the attention of current manager, Lynn Grossman. Ingrid continued writing, performing at local clubs, and working toward the release of an album. In late 2006, she independently released Girls and Boys and by 2007 she was on tour and her music was being aired on well known television shows such as  Grey's Anatomy and in Old Navy commercials. Since then she's released two more independent albums, Be OK  in 2008 and Everybody in 2009, on her own record label, Cabin 24. She's made the charts with hits like The Way I Am, Be OK, Maybe, and Everybody. Not a bad start at all!

Ingrid Michaelson is excited to be touring New England this fall and took some time to speak with me about her life and musical endeavors...


An Interview with Ingrid Michaelson


ATNE: How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard you perform?

IM: I am a singer/songwriter and I play piano and the ukulele. I sing about LOVE... isn't that so original?


ATNE: How would you describe yourself as a child growing up in Staten Island, NY?

IM: I didn't really live in an area where you could play around outside so I tended to stay inside a lot. My best friend and I used to make up skits and video tape them. We'd record radio shows and did a lot of creative things like that. I took piano lessons in the city... acting lessons...vocal lessons. I was always doing something theatrical or musical.


ATNE:  Who were your musical influences growing up?

IM: I grew up watching a lot of old movies like Easter Parade and Shall We Dance. I was a big Judy Garland fan so I feel a very deep seeded sense for melody and a beautiful voice...Not to say that I don't enjoy other kinds of music, but for me, personally, I feel that if I'm going to make something, it has to have a  very beautiful melody with a nice voice...that's very important when I'm writing.


ATNE: Who are you listening to now?

IM: These days I'm listening to Jesca Hoop who I really like. I just bought the new Brandon Flowers (The Killers) album...I like that a lot...Sufjan Stevens, Regina Spektor, Bon Iver...


ATNE: How has your acting experience influenced your career as a singer/songwriter performer?

IM: I guess I'm really comfortable in front of an audience. My training has helped me there. I like to have the audience feel like they're part of the show. I like making people laugh...that's almost as important as the singing...I love it...just making people laugh. 


ATNE: What do you enjoy most about performing live? What is the overall feeling you get at the end of a show?

IM: I love performing live when the audience is into it. If they're not getting it then I have a horrible show. It doesn't matter how great my vocals are. I'd rather play a show and have awful vocals... missing notes...and forgetting things and have the audience be into it than playing a show that's straight on vocally, but the audience doesn't seem to be getting it. So for, me, it depends on the audience. When I have a great show, it's like a high.


ATNE: What has been your most memorable performance thus far?

IM: At this point, there's so much that it's hard for me to take one apart from the other. I can remember very early on when the audience sang my songs back to me...it was really weird. As we were playing, they were singing and we were thinking..." Oh...wow... man...really? You know it?"That was a good feeling.


ATNE: How do you unwind after a show?

IM: As soon as I can, I get into my pajamas and go to the bus. I usually eat dinner because normally I don't eat before a show. I have to wait until 11:30 or whenever we go off stage. Most of the time we take out from the place we are in so that we can say we experienced a little bit of the town we're visiting.


ATNE: What's something you can't live without on the road?

IM: My phone. It keeps me connected.


ATNE: What do you do when you are not touring or practicing music?

IM: I've been very healthy for the past few months. I get up. I go to the gym. I come home. I take a shower and go online and answer e-mails. Maybe I'll go for a walk or go to the piano and play around...watch some tv...have dinner. I just bought the Golden Girls Season 2 & 3 on DVD...so I've been watching a lot of that.


ATNE: You have dreams of one day opening a small cafe...tell me more about your vision?

IM: Well, I'm really into baking and at some point down the road I want to have a little bakery, cafe type of thing.That's where my next life will be. I want to serve really delicious, non-processed foods ...sandwiches and soups and salads and gelato...vegan options. There'll be brick walls and oriental rugs...yeah


ATNE: Let's talk a bit about Cabin 24 and what it means to be an independent artist in the music industry today. What are some advantages?

IM: Cabin 24 is my own record label and publishing company. I do partnerships with labels. Right now I'm in a partnership with Mom and Pop Records in releasing Parachute which is my new single. We're going to put out two more records with them...that's what the deal says...and probably more because they're really great people. As for advantages...I have a bit more control...I guess I would see more money than I would if I was with a label...then again I never know because if  a major label puts a lot of money into me then maybe I'd be HUGE and have made more money that way...I guess the main advantage is control...I have a lot more say in what I do, how I look, what I put out there, and how I put it out...and that I like. 


ATNE: Where does the name. Cabin 24 come from ?

IM: It comes from the picture I took of a cabin in Maine. I thought the cabin number was 24, but it was actually cabin 22...So It's all based on a false memory. I love Maine. My parents  have a house on an island that's half way up the coast...I go there every summer.


ATNE: How important of a role do you feel the Internet and various social networks play in recognizing and establishing new talent? How are you marketing yourself today? 

IM: I use Twitter to make direct connections to people. I feel it gives people a little peek into my life and lets me still keep my privacy...but it is a DIRECT connection. If I had Twitter as a kid I'd be obsessed trying to talk to Luke Perry all the time. I think the heyday of My Space and musicians on I-Tunes is over because now there's so many that it's become inundated with artists. I was lucky enough to squeak in there when everything was blossoming. But I still think it's an amazing way to connect directly to your fans. Now there's this Kickstarter stuff...that campaign where you can connect directly to your fans and say I need $20,000 to make my record and if you pledge $500 I'll serenade you via Skype...If you pledge $1000 I'll put your name in the liner notes...If you pledge $10 you'll get a digital download. All my friends are doing this and they're all making records because they're connecting directly to their fans..their fans are paying for these prizes...so it's definitely a major way to connect to your fans.


ATNE: Explain your process of writing and composing songs? Are your songs mostly fictional or autobiographical?

IM: That's something I don't like to look into too much because I feel if I try to define it, it will fly away. I just sit down and I try to write and either something comes out or it doesn't come out. If it doesn't come out, then I just walk away. My last album (Everybody) was really autobiographical. My first album was sort of a mixture of autobiographical and stories. The stuff I'm writing now is about life lessons and more stories. I'm starting to shy away from autobiographical because I've written so much about myself that I feel kind of grossed out and I want to write about the human mind and human nature.  I mean I'm always going to write about broken hearts and loving and not being loved and all that stuff...but I'm trying to open my mind to the human plight.


ATNE: So does that mean there is a new album on the horizon?

IM: I've got a lot of songs, but it's probably not going to come out until the middle of 2011.


ATNE: How have you grown as a musician and an individual since you first started touring in 2007?

IM: I've changed a lot since then. I went from having a normal life to having a life of a non-stop touring musician. It was zero to sixty. I went from being home every day to being gone for long periods of time. It was very exciting at first, but tiring. It's all part of the deal. It makes you appreciate home life and your friends and your family a lot more because you're away from them a lot. I feel like I've grown up...I've grown up on the road...I've experienced a lot more...I've seen the world and the country dozens of times over and I've seen parts of Europe and the UK...I'm going to Australia at the end of our tour in November and I think all that changes you drastically...seeing other countries and other people.


ATNE: What do you appreciate most when you are home now?

IM: My Bed! My bed, my family, and loved ones.


ATNE: Tell us an interesting piece of trivia your fans would be surprised to know about you.

IM: I'm not a party person at all. Everybody thinks I am, but I'm not.


ATNE: Tell us about your involvement with Musicians on Call and Stand Up To Cancer.

IM: I haven't approached people, they've approached me. When I feel connected to a cause then I say, "Yes, of course, let's do something together". How can I not? If I can do something to better this world, I have a responsibility to do so...and do right by the world...I have power to spread information. It's always in my heart to live life with as much kindness as possible.


ATNE: Something overrated?

IM: Beer. I hate beer.


ATNE: Favorite junk food

IM: Chocolate Chip cookies !!! 


ATNE: Define a world without music.

IM: There are times when I think to myself that I am doing a very selfish job. And I think "what's the point? I'm just getting up here and singing about my life." But then I'll get an e-mail from someone that is just so touching and so sweet and really makes me thankful that I do what I do.  You know I'm not saving any one's life with a knife and medicine, but people have told me that my music has saved them and I don't think of it as real because it's me...I have a stony exterior when it comes to my own music and I'm like, "okay, whatever...sure, I've saved you." But I know that certain pieces of music for me have really drawn emotion out of me that needed to be drawn out of me, so I guess I can understand my music doing that for other people. It's kind of crazy.  I feel there would be a lot of anger, a lot of untapped emotions, a lot of sad, tense, unjoyful people in the world. Music has been around as long as humans; it's a guttural, innate, human behavior. Although there's a lot of horrible music out there, there's also a lot of amazing music out there...and we'll always have the music that already exists.The world would be a very dark and awful place without music.


To learn more about Ingrid Michaelson and tour dates visit her website www.ingridmichaelson.com 

Written By : Jessica Layne


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