The Kaje talks Cheryl Cole to Ingrid Michaelson

Ingrid Michaelson is so much more than the songwriter behind Cheryl Cole’s “Parachute”, yet in the UK she is far from a household name. The New York based singer/songwriter is currently on the world’s leading independent artists and though her heartbreaking 2009 release “Everybody” received a modicum of attention in the post Cheryl Cole single release period, Michaelson is probably best known to UK audiences who have searched for the wealth of songs she has had featured in the background of everything from “Grey’s Anatomy” to “Scrubs”. However, that should all be about to change as Michaelson prepares for the UK release of her fifth studio album “Human Again”. With the irrepressible “Blood Brothers” heading up the release, The Kaje though it was time to finally close the Cheryl Cole chapter…

While you are a celebrated artist in your own right, you are best known on these shores for writing Cheryl Cole’s “Parachute”. How do you feel about it?

I love it. The whole Cheryl Cole thing was amazing for me.  I didn’t really know who she was. We don’t really know who she is  in the States but she is gigantic here. So I came here on the heels of that to say ‘hey, I am the one who wrote it.’ I was able to play a few shows, and did a few radio appearances and played my own version of “Parachute”. I love it.

I think it is so interesting to hear somebody else sing the words that you wrote. I am not used to it as I’ve only written for one other person, one other song and it was a co-write too. This song was written with a friend of mine, then somebody else took it and sung it. Cheryl Cole didn’t write any of it. But it was so cool, and the video was really good to. I was just really flattered and excited. I love seeing people do it.

It was an opportunity that came up, but I have been meaning to do it again and do more of it. It is just that life gets in the way. I think the older I get and the more I want to stay at home and not travel, then I might try get into the writing for other people thing a little more. I think as I get older I don’t want to be touring nine months out of the year. I love touring and I love performing, I think I will always tour, but I will just lessen the amount. But that will leave more time for me to write for other people. I am looking a long way down the line.

Cheryl Cole aside, you are one of the most successful independent musicians in the world currently. What is the secret to your success?

Timing. I had my song on a commercial in the States just as I started getting placements on television shows, so people started buying my record and the radio started playing it, all without a label. It was only then that labels came around and asked if I wanted to sign with them, but I just didn’t want to as I didn’t really need to. But it was just the timing followed by a lot of hard work which meant I was able to get my foot in the door and get this profile so quickly. Because we never signed to a traditional record label, we had this strength and control. I feel very fortunate that I got found on MySpace when it was not inundated with artists. It was just the right time, as it was also the beginning of commercial placements, I had this perfect storm happen. We just made the right decisions, so now that  I am established and successful, I do not need to cower to a major label. I work in tandem with a smaller label, which allows me to maintain control of it all. It is amazing.

I would never  say that is the only way to go. If you are an artist and a major label comes up to you and are willing to put $500,000 behind you for a record and video and you have nothing, then do it. I am very fortunate but it is not a formula to get where I am. I do not even really know how I got where I am.

I think you should just go with your gut and do what you love. Don’t expect anything but be ready for everything. If you go into music and want to be a  rich, famous rock star then the chances are it will not happen. It is a very hard thing to succeed in. I play for 2000 seat theatres in the States and I play for 500 when I come here, or Budapest and play for 3 people. It is an ongoing struggle to find success, or what you gauge as success. I think of everything as tiny successes and focus on doing what I do because I love it and not to be Lady Gaga. That is probably not going to happen.

With each release your commercial success has increased. Do you think you have managed to channel new fans with each release?

I think so. I think I just keep slowly building on what I have already built. My bandmates and I put on a really great show. In the States it is really fun, there are six of us and it is  big rock show. My live show is really important to my records and my career. I think it drives a lot of my record sales. Always being present, particularly online, being very close with my fans and personal. I try to maintain this connection with them.  You can’t just go into hiding for a few years, then come back and expect everything to be the same. It is a constant thing. It is work. it is being honest with your fans, being grateful and thankful and giving them what they want to hear.

I don’t think I did that particularly with this last record, they wanted to know where my ukulele was, or complained that it was too loud or with too much production, bur hopefully I will make some new fans to replace those other ones. The ones who say ‘well at least I have her other records!’ I mean, come on! Anybody who is afraid to travel with an artist  isn’t really a true fan anyway.

You are heading up the UK release with the single “Blood Brothers”. How did you settle on this track?

I just love the song. I feel like it has a universal feeling to it. It is the idea that we are all in this together, that we are all one unit. There are three songs on the record that we thought were potentials for singles; “Ghost”, “Blood Brothers” and “Black And Blue”. We have done “Ghost” and “Blood Brothers” already in the States and it just seemed like the right fit to start here with “Blood Brothers”. It is just universal, upbeat and catchy but not too catchy or poppy.

Do you still recall what inspired “Blood Brothers”?

I was recording my record in the city. Out of all the songs on the record, there are thirteen, only the first one “Fire” did I come to my producer with a ready-made  song. Everything else I wrote the year I recorded, which was pretty amazing and something I had never done before. With “Blood Brothers”, I was in the studio one day and someone came over and shoulder checked me, I got this surge of  New York anger. I just thought, we are all in a rush, we are all going somewhere, can we not co-exist in a kind way. It was just “listen dude, don’t be an arsehole. Just say excuse me.” I feel like, in major cities especially, we are just in this cellphone world, without any grace or kindness.

The Dylan Steinberg & Shervin Lainez video is brilliant. Are the artists you portray your own inspirations?

Not necessarily. I wanted to pick iconic musicians, so that people would know who they were right away. I wanted to do Judy Garland, as I love Judy Garland, but no one is going to know that it was her. I wanted to do Elvis but it didn’t look right. It was very dependent on me being able to pull off the looks. I didn’t want people to think I was wearing a costume either. I really wanted to transform. That is why I picked who I picked.

It is kind of an obvious concept, in that it goes along with the song. We are all the same thing, just painted differently. I had the idea for the video for a very long time, not necessarily with the icons, but more a shape shifting face in real time. You get to see the make-up coming on and off. Then when I wrote the song, I thought it would be perfect for “Blood Brothers”. Then  I took it further and wanted to do it iconic. I wanted to then take it further to iconic musicians.

With your career already soaring in the States, would you say your aims with the record differ on the differ continents?

I think it is the same at the core, it is to get people to hear about you and fall in love with your music. You want them to buy your records, come see your show and become a fan. You try your best with the song, the video and provide a package and just hope people will like it. There are definitely English people in the video, we have Bowie and Amy Winehouse, so it just felt like the right fit. It is just trying to get a little splash and next time we come back we can take it a stage bigger.

“Blood Brothers” is out now.

Photographs and Interview by Jeremy Williams

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