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Chrisette Michele | Features



 
 
 
 
Artist Of The Month

CHRISETTE MICHELE


Epiphany

Chrisette MicheleSurrounded by music since she was a small child, singer, songwriter and composer Chrisette Michele has been blessed with an old soul and this Long Island bred songwriter and vocalist has a deep appreciation for the harmonic foundations that includes gospel and jazz. "I did my first solo when I was four years old," Chrisette remembers.

Her first album 'I Am' can be described as an artistic exploration that fuses Chrisette's diverse musical interest into a wonderland, the young artist couldn't be more pleased. "I realize that I'm new to the music world, but I've been preparing for this moment for long time."

Even before signing on the dotted line of her Def Jam contract last year, the multitalented soul sister had toured with more established artists like Kem and India Arie. "India saw me singing at the Village Underground in New York City. She came backstage that first night and graciously offered me a gig as her opening act."

Working hard in the studio writing songs and recording demos, Chrisette finished an album worth of material before even trying to get signed. "I've been creating songs since I was twelve, so I knew I needed the right musical blend in order to stand-out from the many other performers trying to get a deal."

While not hung-up on genre labels, Chrisette Michele says, "I'm excited about finding my place amongst young composers like Alicia Keys and Jill Scott. My goal from the moment I was signed by Antonio "LA" Reid, Chairman and CEO, Island Def Jam Music Group, was to create a seamless album that mixes soul and pop in a way that will have people coming back to again and again." Favorite contemporary artists that are in high rotation include, Beyonce, Kanye West and NAS.

Days after giving LA "goose bumps" during the audition, the young singer found herself in a California studio called Brandon's Way having a creative conversation with Babyface.

Over the course of a few days, the duo recorded seven tracks, four of which will be heard on her upcoming release. "Babyface and I got into a conversation about the love he has for his children," she says. "So, the first song I penned was called 'My Joy.' It's a song about a child speaking to his or her father, and I think it's quite special. Observing the artistry that Babyface possesses has hopefully made me a better performer as well."

Chrisette MicheleHaving grown-up in the suburbs of Long Island, Chrisette didn't spend much time planted in front of the television. "My parents had me in girl scouts, tap class and piano lessons," Chrisette says. "It wasn't like I was cut off from the world, but there just wasn't a lot of media influence in my life during those early years."

Chrisette Michele has always been true to herself. "I don't feel as though I was the typical deacon's kid, because I was taught early on to speak my mind and not be afraid to think," she says. "To me, that is one of things that helped keep me focused as an artist who is trying to do something different in music."

A self-described "girly girl" Chrisette says, "I have definite older child syndrome. I helped my mom raise my brothers like they were my own children, but I also had the pleasure of being daddy's little princess."

In addition to her own relatives, Chrisette was blessed with an extended family that included the many folks that her mother allowed to room in their house. "If my mother saw a homeless pregnant woman on the street, chances are they would soon be staying with us," Chrisette laughs. "I learned so much about the world listening to these folk's stories, and to this day their experiences can be heard in my material."

Though already a fan of gospel and classical, it wasn't until Chrisette Michele was seventeen that she also developed a passion for jazz. "When I was still in high school a teacher introduced me to jazz singer Astrud Gilberto, and afterwards my life was all about jazz," she remembers.

Majoring in music at 5 Towns College in Long Island, Chrisette cites the nurturing sway of her teachers for where she is today. "Although I did have talent, often that is not enough," she says. "My professors taught me how to a professional and to be serious about my music. They taught me how to put the music that I dream about at night on paper in the morning."

Chrisette MicheleWhen it came time to begin recording her follow-up, the aptly titled Epiphany, she realized the need to challenge herself. “I felt like I was a little too shy and laidback my first time out,” confesses Chrisette. “On my new project I wanted to raise the bar and step-out of my comfort zone. I wanted to make songs that were more edgy, youthful and urban.

Recruiting talented collaborators that include Ne-Yo, the singer/songwriter has infused her jazz vocal style with more pop. Marking a transition away from her traditional leanings to a fuller integration of hip-hop soul, Chrisette Michele was clearly conscious of the next level. Yet, as can clearly be heard on her newest single “Epiphany (I’m Leaving),” the 26-year-old has expanded her musical palette.


Constructed by Ne-Yo and Chuck Harmony, the title-track is a beautiful broken-hearted song that reveals the emotional misery behind Chrisette’s lovely smile. “Ne-Yo took out time from his crazy schedule to talk about direction for some of the songs, including the pain of break-ups and the joys of new love,” says Chrisette.

Opening with spacey keyboards and girl group backgrounds, Chrisette’s bold declaration of fly girl independence (“It’s over,” she sings) on “Epiphany (I’m Leaving)” sets the tone of most of the disc. “That word ‘epiphany’ just meant so much to me, because it was during the time that I was preparing to record that something clicked in my spirit.”

Chrisette’s coming back much tougher! Nowhere does that toughness come across more than on the soulful “Blame It on Me.” An awesome ballad that colors itself with a little Muscle Shoals soul, there is red dirt earthiness that is just completely raw. “You can say whatever you want, as long as its goodbye,” Chrisette wails coldly.

That song is an amazing collaboration with Claude Kelly and Chrisette’s writing with Chuck Harmony producing. A producer/ songwriter who is part of Ne-Yo’s production collective Compound Entertainment, Chuck has worked on projects with Mary J. Blige, Janet Jackson and Celine Dion.

Since the release of her I Am, Chrisette has always toured endlessly with her band: the Truth and other R&B singers, Raheem DeVaughn, and Solange Knowles. “To me, nothing is more important than touring,” she says. “Communicating with the audience through song can be magical. Singing in the studio is one thing, but you must be able to bring it to the stage too.”
Citing Japan and Barbados as two of her favorite spots, Chrisette explains, “In Japan, it is just about the music, and an artist is judged by the material, not the latest gossip. While, in Barbados audiences just show such a passion, like they can pick-up what is going on in your heart.” In addition, Chrisette also found time to record with The Roots (“Rising Up”) and The Game (“Let Us Live”).

Chrisette Michele“Honestly, I was anxious when I went to work with Game, but he turned out to be one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, and now he calls me ‘cuz’” Chrisette admits. As if that was not enough, Chrisette also started working on her acting chops after appearing on an episode of Girlfriends. Playing herself in "What's Black-A-Lacking," an episode directed by series star Tracee Ellis Ross, she says, “That experience was amazing, because they allowed me to have so much input and let me to write my own scenes. Truthfully, there is no feeling like seeing myself on TV.”

Ne-Yo and Harmony were inspired to write “Another One.” Opening with a lovely acoustic guitar and Chrisette singing quietly, “Another One” slowly builds to the point of explosion. “That is my favorite song on the album,” Chrisette admits. Mixing rock guitars with hip-hop drum patterns, the track is an obvious winner. “Nobody captures New American music like Ne-Yo and the Compound crew.”

Chrisette Michele worked with Rodney Jerkins on the first album. “Anybody who thinks they can go into the studio with Rodney and not work is kidding themselves,” she laughs.
While angst and heartbreak is part of Chrisette Michele’s persona on her sophomore project, the power and strength of her material gives Epiphany the sound of a future classic.

Epiphany
2009
Chrisette Michele - Epiphany Track Listing:
01. Epiphany (I'm Leaving)
02. Notebook
03. What You Do featuring Ne-Yo
04. Blame It on Me
05. All I Ever Think About
06. Playin' Our Song
07. Another One
08. On My Own
09. Fragile
10. Mr. Right
11. Porcelain Doll
12. I'm Okay
I Am
2007
Chrisette Michele - I Am Track Listing:
01. Like A Dream
02. Work It Out
03. Best Of Me
04. Your Joy
05. Good Girl
06. Be Ok
07. If I Have My Way
08. Mr Radio
09. Golden
10. Let's Rock
11. Love Is You
12. In This For You
13. Is This The Way Love Feels

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