Published on May 29th, 2018 | by Darren Paltrowitz0
Exclusive: Chrisette Michele On Her New Album “Out Of Control” & What Is Coming Up For Her
New York native Chrisette Michele first became nationally-known in 2007 with the release of her debut album I Am. Recorded for Def Jam, I Am spawned four charting singles, including “If I Have My Way” and “Best Of Me.” Michele’s full-length follow-up, 2009’s Epiphany, debuted in the number one spot of the Billboard 200, while 2010’s Let Freedom Reign yielded more hit singles and Billboard charting. Michele also had notable collaborations with Drake, Rick Ross, Kanye West, Nas, Jay-Z and The Roots.
Michele’s 2016 album Milestone was her first as an independent artist. Although it was released through her Rich Hipster label — as distributed by Caroline Records — it still reached number five on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart of Billboard. Out Of Control — as released last month via Rich Hipster — is the latest from Michele and it features the popular singer/songwriter in fine form.
After seeing Chrisette Michele perform at the Pure Grenada Music Festival, I had the pleasure of interviewing her at the Four Kings Boutique in Valley Stream, New York. Michele is set open up her own yoga studio, RH Yoga, next to Four Kings. More information on all things related to the Grammy-nominated artist can be found via following Michele on Instagram and/or Twitter.
As someone who is no longer on a major label and has their own businesses, so you are no longer on a forced timeline, what is ahead career-wise for you?
Chrisette Michele: I’ve always been someone who’s able to juggle a lot of things. When I got into the industry there were 360 deals, and instead of taking that, we decided to start a touring company. We learned how to promote shows, and the promoting of shows and creating of tours is really fun for us. I plan to get into some more of that this year.
Also, cultivating new artists, a mentorship program. I have a lot of fun and am reignited by new talent, people who are excited about the industry still. Giving as much information as possible to people.
I sing all the time. It won’t leave me. I dream songs, so I’ve got to wake up and record them. I think the exciting part of being independent is that I can release music as often as I want without having to worry about waiting for a timeline. I think that will be the difference. People saw me release an album once a year, maybe once every other year, now I might release four in one year. That feels better to me.
In terms of writing, what kind of process is it for you? I ask because some artists prefer to write on the road, others will never write on the road. I assume that you have a home setup for recording, but how do you usually do your writing?
Chrisette Michele: Thank you for asking. Essentially, most songs just come to me. I say that and I always hope that it’s understood. My husband sees me wake up in the middle of the night and get up and have to record something in my iPhone so I don’t forget it. Music literally comes to me. It’s usually an answer to something that I haveh been asking.
I’m fairly-spiritual and I’m always asking questions. I’m always asking God questions, I’m always asking society and culture questions. I’m always writing questions down. (takes out a book) I’ve got this book with me everywhere I go and I’m writing all the time, just whatever thoughts.
That’s a colorful notebook.
Chrisette Michele: I have a lot of Tombo pens. (laughs) I’m pretty nerdy. Those concepts, ideas and thoughts are always with me and the answers to those concepts and thoughts come to me all night long. I’m almost embarrassed about it, but I have to keep reminding myself that I have a gift and it’s okay.
Does that lead to writing for other artists? Is that something you want to do more of in the future?
Chrisette Michele: Yeah, I’m really surprised at how [easy] writing for others comes to me. I just started promoting a new course for mentees. I’m shocked at how afraid people are of the truth. It’s really fun for me to coach people to articulating their truth and then putting that into lyrical form. That’s very rewarding to me.
Another thing I find very interesting about you – after seeing you perform live in Grenada a few weeks ago – is how well-structured your live show is, with dancers and a big backing band. Was that the plan from day one to be such a driving live performer, or something you evolved into being?
Chrisette Michele: From the beginning of me being in the music industry and signed, I’ve never had big marketing dollars behind me. So there was a man named Thomas Lytle, he repped me and took me to all of my radio interviews, also for all the other artists at Def Jam. His advice to me was always the same, he said, “Chrisette, you may not be the biggest media frenzy… But the one thing you always have to do is take it to the stage.” That stayed with me.
Leaving every single part of me on the stage, my grandfather called it “delivering your soul” — I come from a family of preachers – until it’s out of you and it’s transferred to the audience. That’s what I do because I know that is how I explain myself. I need a guitar and I need the guitarist to be seen and understood and I need him to be felt. I explain that to my band all the time. Sometimes the band feels like they’re backing you, but I try to explain to them that they are collaborating with me every night. If they’re not as available as I am onstage, then I can’t be my best self. My band is very important to me.
Are you also a part of this business as well?
Chrisette Michele: I’m actually finishing up a collection. My brand for clothing is the RH Collection. I’m just finishing up a collection called the Urban Luxury Culture Collection. It’s just a capsule. What it is is my interpretation of “urban luxury,” and what that looks like as illustrations.
If you remember back to the 90s, when you matched your shirt to your sneakers before you went to school. If there was a red check on your Nikes, then your shirt should be red. It’s inspired by the first day of school, fifth grade, where you match everything together.
It’ll be very 90s-inspired. Clean streetwear, no new interpretation, just my idea of female luxury. You see a lot of masculine luxury on urban clothing right now, but on this one you might see Cardi B’s fingernails.
In a way, you can’t be easily defined if you have all these creative projects, except that you are a creative force to be reckoned with.
Chrisette Michele: I like to be creative. It’s the only place I feel alive, you know? It’s very difficult for me not to be creative.
Does that creativity also lead to cooking or other facets of your life?
Chrisette Michele: I play a little too much in food. Yesterday I put a little curry powder in the fried chicken. (calls out to her husband to ask if it was good) He’s like, “You just play all the time. “
Is there something you wish more people knew about you?
Chrisette Michele: Lately I’ve been a big fan of talking to who’s listening and spreading less wide and going more deep. I think there are people who do understand me, but we are thrust into a culture of popularity rules, and you begin to think that the more popular that are listening is the better. So you just talk as loud as possible, hoping as many people are available, you just don’t know if they’re getting your message.
But I’d rather have 100 people who know all the lyrics from beginning to end on the new album, than 80,000 people who know the one single on the radio that the record label chose. Right now I’m about speaking to the people who are listening and saying everything I need to say without making them feel like they’re not enough, under big corporation ideas… I’m excited about that one percent getting to know me, one person at a time.
With “Out Of Control” on your latest album, did you have the vocal hook first? Or did you write it and then the hook came about?
Chrisette Michele: That album, I was in a broken-hearted space. You hear me go from the broken-heartened space to “okay, I got everything off my chest.” “Out Of Control” was one of the first songs that came out of a series of prayer meetings with me and God… The lyrics “I’m out of control, look after my soul, this world is working me,” that’s what I’m saying to God. “God, I’m losing it, can you hear me?” There’s so many words that I took out of the album that were really too personal between me and God that I thought were too personal, that maybe the world didn’t need to hear. So “Out Of Control” was much longer than the album version. The chorus came first.
So in closing, any last words for the kids?
Chrisette Michele: Yeah, go for this new collection. I’m really excited about it and I think that you can really do anything you put your mind to. You can be an entrepreneur, you can be a doctor, you can be anything you want to be. I hope that this new album Out Of Control, I hope the new clothing line, shows people they can do things their way. Everything I do is youth-friendly. That’s important to me, you can be in your 30s and still think about young people. I hope that young people know that you don’t have to conform to be successful.