Indie queen lets it all hang out
Ingrid Michaelson's album recalls her darkest days, writesBarry C Chung
She made her name in indie; now, slowly but surely, New York native Ingrid Michaelson is gradually shedding those ties. Her debut album Slow the Rain was self-released in 2005, after she promoted it heavily on her MySpace page. Her follow-up, Girls & Boys, also released independently, prompted a music producer from the hit TV medical drama Grey's Anatomy to come knocking on her door. Her music ended up appearing in a handful of episodes.
From there her music made the leap to other TV programmes, including American Idol, Parenthood and So You Think You Can Dance. TV commercial producers also jumped on board, associating her melodic music with popular brands such as Old Navy, Chevrolet and Google.
More recently she released an extended version (with four extra tracks) of her most personal and sophisticated work - Human Again - which reached number five in the US charts.
"The album is called Human Again, because it's taken me a very long time to be happy," reflects Michaelson. "I am writing about a really dark time in my life even though I'm not there."
On Human Again, Michaelson moves beautifully from orchestral to percussive, brilliantly flaunting her vocal range. The album also gave her a chance to, as she says, physically "sing out". She explains: "Usually that's set aside for divas, and the rest of us kind of have to whisper and be precious. I figured, 'Why don't I just put that out on at least one record in my career - let it all hang out?'"
And let it all hang out she does. The first single Ghost reflects on a past romance, while Blood Brothers is more poppy and comes from, as she says, "a place of annoyance".
Of all the tracks, Fire is perhaps the most precise in capturing the her crash-and-burn feeling when discussing a "dark time", which she says is a common "thread that runs throughout the record".
Michaelson comes from an artistic family. Her father, Carl, is a classical music composer who urged her to take up the piano at the age of five; her mother is a sculptor. After studying musical theatre, she embarked on a career in music, starting out by performing at small venues like coffee houses.
Human Again is an audacious move for Michaelson. Even her parents are a little perplexed at the depth of the album. When her father asked about what he called ditties, Michaelson replied: "Well, I think I'm past the ditties, Dad. I'm done with that part of my life. I'm ready to think a little bolder."