The Kaje talks happiness to Ingrid Michaelson

Ingrid Michaelson is happy again. That much is apparent from her latest release, the sensational “Human Again”. Having clearly hit a low-point during the pre-production period of 2009’s strangely uplifting “Everybody”, “Human Again” sees Michaelson return to record with open eyes and a new found optimism. With lead single “Blood Brothers” a statement about human interaction, here at The Kaje  we have fallen head over heels with the touching introspection of “Ghost”. With such diversity of subject matter covered, we caught up with Ingrid Michaelson to found out what has triggered her new approach to composing her material.

It has been a few years between albums, but the general tone this time feels very different. While “Everbody” was a very personal break-up record, “Human Again” feels a lot broader in its subject matter. Was this a conscious decision?

That is basically what happened. I got married last year, so I met the love of my life a few years ago, I think that influenced my writing. With my previous records, whether they are break up records or not, they may have had happy undertones, with the music being happy, it was always me feeling sad, wanting to be happy again. This record is me having been through the darkness, having had the pain and now I am coming out the other side and I am ok. Even the songs that are from the present point of view, there is always a glimmer of hope at the end. I think I just have a more positive outlook on love than I had in the past. That is kind of where the title came from, it is that feeling of being whole again, not feeling empty anymore. It is a celebratory record for me in so many ways.

Given that your compositions are deeply personal, do you ever look back at a song and wish you had not said something so publicly?

I am thinking about it now and I am cringing. The very first record I ever wrote, which I took off iTunes, I just hate it. I was so young and I had just got out of school for musical theatre, so it was very theatre-y. So there are a few songs that I wish I had not written, more than a few probably. It is like looking back at photographs, seeing a hairstyle you had in the 80s and being embarrassed by it. It is just evolution, we change and we find bits embarrassing. I can take it down off iTunes but it is still going to be in the ether. People will still get it. There is no way I can erase my past work. The idea is to just keep it in the present, to keep creating things you like. It all comes out in the wash.

Are you ever surprised by how a song is received?

I think the public make the song in to what they want it to be. One of my songs, “Be Ok”, is incredibly sad when you listen to the lyrics, but everyone says that is the happiest song in the world. They say it is about being ok, but I tell them it is about needing to be ok, it is about being so broken down and sad. But people will see what they want to see, they transform it, and that is the great thing about music and the great thing about art. It is great, but maybe also egotistical, you take it and see it how you want to see it and you let it affect you how you want it to effect it. While I do feel that I am “baring my soul”, I never feel nervous.

At the very beginning, when I decided to be a singer/songwriter, I was scared as I knew I was going to be singing about my emotions and if people don’t like it, then they really don’t like me. But at this moment, I don’t feel anything that other people don’t feel, I am just saying it. If half the people hate it, then fine, half the people will love it. I don’t care about that anymore, I just say what I want to say now.

Would you ever be tempted to return to your Musical Theatre  roots?

It would have to be a certain kind of musical theatre, because a lot of it is so funny to me now. It is so strange to just break out in song. But certain musicals are pretty rad. I went to see “Peter and the Starcatcher” in New York, it just got a load of Tony Awards, it’s sort of a musical. It is just so interesting and amazingly well done, that I would love to be part of something like that.

I would also like to explore elements of writing. I wrote a pilot with a friend of mine and we are in talks about getting a full pilot produced. The acting thing is definitely there, but the musical thing, I am not sure as it just feels so disconnected. I think it is because I come from a singer/songwriter world where I am singing about my heart, so to go and pretend and sing someone else’s words might seem a little odd to me. Then to break out into a dance would be even odder.

You must have written a wealth of material over the years, how do you decide what warrants release?

I have a team of people around me who help. My producer, David Kahn, he was one of my team mates, my manager, my A&R guy at my label, my friends, my band mates. I just try to surround myself with people that I trust. There are some songs I did not want on the record that made it, and some I did want on the record that didn’t.  But I am in the middle of it, so it is really hard for me to separate myself from them, so I do need other people to step in and help. We came up with the perfect amount and looking back now, six months later, I am really happy with the songs that made it and those that didn’t.

“Human Again” is out now.

Interview and Photographs by Jeremy Williams.

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