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
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."
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.
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."
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
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
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”).
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.