Since 2005, Ingrid Michaelson has skillfully blended pop, acoustic, indie, and folk influences into a sound so distinctly her own that it’s impossible not to recognize one of her whimsical yet heartfelt songs (“You and I”, “Girls Chase Boys”, “The Way I Am”) every time they play. But if you ask the energetic, New York-based singer/songwriter how she does it, she honestly couldn’t tell you. Since her first songs became viral MySpace hits, Ingrid Michaelson has only “done what she loves” – and the rest just happened. We got the chance to sit down with the artist herself in anticipation of her June 25th “Summer Night Out Tour” stop in Ann Arbor.
1. How has performing on the “Summer Night Out” tour been different from any other shows you’ve done before?
a. Because this is the last one I’ll likely do for a while, I decided to go all out. We reached out to set designers, lighting designers, anyone who could make “A Summer Night Out” an experience more than just a concert. It’s definitely more of a production. I’m not trying to be a pop star, but it’s my show and I like it to be fun. I have so much fun on stage and when the show is that exciting too, it allows the audience to join in the fun I’m having. That’s what “A Summer Night Out” is all about.
2. Among your catalog, where does “Lights Out” rank for you personally?
a. It’s my favorite album right now. It’s hard to explain, but I just had a great time in the studio! I let my walls down in terms of co-writing, and awesome things came out. It’s still me, it’s still my style and my influence and my music, but in its own realm entirely.
3. In what ways did your artistic family and upbringing affect your early life? How did that contribute to the artist we see today?
a. Well my brother is a math teacher, so it’s not like being artistic was set in stone! I grew up around artists and music, and I don’t want to generalize, but I just feel like artistic people are very open and understanding as a universal. That really fostered this belief in myself and confidence to do whatever I wanted to do. My parents didn’t push me, they just supported me. They knew I had to do it, whatever I wanted to do. When I was directing, they knew I had to direct. Then when I went into singing, they knew I had to sing. On top of it all, there was always this amazing outpouring of support from mother. She had pride in me. Real pride – not “Dance Moms” false pride. She called me on my shit when she knew I could do better and I’m just so lucky to have had her there.
4. Your big “break” on MySpace is, in my opinion, one of the true modern success stories of undiscovered talent getting a deserved opportunity because of the internet. What advice do you have for singer/songwriters of all kinds looking to really break out into music, specifically through social media?
a. It’s about getting good at what you do. Do the work, perform a lot, get comfortable on stage, be disciplined, and be as great as you can be. Success is rare. I never went into this to be famous – you gotta do it because you love it. The rest is luck. I’d still be doing open mic nights if that’s what it took for me to do what I love.
5. Finally: what inspired the song “Far Away”? It’s such a beautiful, wistful daydream and is honestly the song that got me hooked on your music.
a. “Far Away” came from a poem I wrote about being in Maine. My parents had recently bought a summer home up there, and visiting made me wonder about what other life I could be living. It was inspired by this melancholy feeling about being on tour, and realizing I’ll never have that simple, romantic life living in a cottage because of what I do. I love touring, I love living in Brooklyn, but sometimes, I just wonder. I’d love to time travel, go back, and live a whole other life in Maine just to experience everything it had to offer. Like in Ann Arbor! Really, I love your town – it’s exactly where I’d want to live. “Far Away” is a fantasy of what could’ve been.
Ingrid Michaelson performs with special guest Jukebox the Ghost at the Power Center on Thursday, June 25 as part of her “Summer Night Out” tour. The show starts at 8pm EST. Tickets are sold out on a2sf.org, but still available through resellers.