Singer/songwriter Ingrid Michaelson first came to prominence seven years ago after “Grey”s Anatomy” used her song “Keep Breathing,” followed by Old Navy appropriating “The Way I Am” to sell sweaters during 2007″s holiday season.
But fans of those songs who delved deeper found that Michaelson had much more to offer than songs that licensed for TV placements. Her confessional, vulnerable lyrics, delivered by her crystalline vocals quickly caught on with followers of such artists as Sara Bareilles, Tori Amos, Regina Spektor, and Rachael Yamagata.
Next Tuesday (April 15), Michaelson will release “Lights Out,” led by the soaring, fun first single, “Girls Chase Boys.” The song caught fire not only for its catchiness, but also for its gender-bending video, which pays homage to Robert Palmer”s “Simply Irresistible” iconic clip. Her last album, 2012's “Human Again,” debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard 200.
Michaelson appeared at the Grammy Museum earlier this week to talk about her new album, choosing the independent path, and two albums that changed her life. She closed the evening with a six-song set that included new songs, “Home,” “Girls Chase Boys,” and “Afterlife.”
Here are eight things you need to know about Michaelson:
*She relates to “Seinfeld”s” George Costanza: By her own admission, she”s “control freaky.” That”s why she has written every song by herself on her previous albums and only used one producer. For “Lights Out,” she switched it up and worked with six producers and 11 co-writers. “I felt really stagnant and had a lot of health problems,” she said. “I got really sick, and was really sad and I wanted to do it differently. It”s like that episode of ‘Seinfeld” where George does everything differently.”
*She”s not going to repeat herself just because you want her to: “Lights Out” is her most adventurous album, or as she says, “You can”t wear the same dress over and over again.” But she knows there are fans that would like for her to remain the same as when they first heard it. The ones who say, “‘I miss you when it was just you and your ukulele and you were fatter”,” she joked. “Well, I”m not skinny, I just started eating healthier. Everyone wants to hear ‘The Way I Am” and I get it. When I love an artist and hear a song that doesn”t sound like the song I like, I”m like, ‘What?” So I”m a hypocrite.”
*She”s learned to be careful what she tweets After incurring her fans” wrath after tweeting “my best-selling songs are my least favorite songs,” she realized it was time to have a rethink about what she posted. She didn”t mean to sound ungrateful: “I was just frustrated [being known] for two songs when I”ve written 50.”
*Musicals were her life… her early life. She grew up performing on stage and listening to musicals like “Rent” and “Miss Saigon.” “I was SO into musicals,” Michaelson said. She started piano lessons at 4 and singing lessons at 9.
*Two albums changed her life: Around 2004, a friend gave her Regina Spektor”s “Soviet Kitsch” When she heard Spektor, “my brain exploded,” Michaelson said. “She wrote about pickles and I realized you can write about more than love.” Then she bought Death Cab for Cutie”s “Transatlanticism,” and was further transformed by the mind bending album.
*Old Navy did not like “The Way I Am” the way it was: The career-altering placement of her tune, also referred to as “The Sweater Song” in an Old Navy commercial in 2007 could have been radically different. “Old Navy”s [ad agency] wanted to use a techno version of ‘The Way I Am.” “I was like, ‘This makes no sense,” said Michaelson, but she agreed. However, after the ad agency took both the original and the techno version to the client, Old Navy picked Michaelson”s original version. In addition to paying her, Old Navy also gave her a $200 gift card, which she did not use on sweaters.
*She loves her Twitter followers and the closeness it allows her to feel with her fans. “I felt less alone somehow when Twitter came around,” she said. “I loved the amazing web of connection” it created. However, after revealing too much and having a “few scary moments” with stalkerish fans, Michaelson joked that she”s learned to keep her tweets to “fart jokes and music.”
*Sing loudly at her shows. She LOVES that. Really. On “Lights Out” she has a new song where she encourages everyone to sing along at the end in homage to her concerts. “One of my favorite parts of my show is when I have people sing along. I love that!,” she said.