Interview with Chrisette Michelle at her Joe’s Pub show

Interview with Chrisette Michelle at her Joe’s Pub show

You just got a deal with DefJam and immediately got on Nas’ and Jay-Z’s albums. How does it feel?

It feels really good. It’s a lot of fun. Jay-Z is on Def Jam as is Nas so it’s really cool to be working with these two. Nas just gave me the CD and let me write to it. I wrote another song for his wife, Kelis, while I was just freestyling in the booth. Another song that I was freestyling, Hope, made it onto the album. Another song I just had to sing over Diana Ross singing Still Dreaming. So it was really easy-going type of an event, while Jay-Z we sat and wrote together. I wrote 5 hooks before he liked one of them. So he is much more of a perfectionist.

What is it like for you, coming out of the gates big and keeping that flow going?

Well, it’s pretty scary, because there is a lot of expectation in the industry right now and on the street. So I’m making sure that I listen to every person that I speak to and everyone who contacts me on MySpace. I make sure to listen to their ideas of who they think I am and making sure that I match what people expect from me and trying to stay true to who I am at the same time. So it’s pretty scary.

Besides what people think, in your opinion, who are you?

I guess musically I’m a mix, a lot of people would say, between Jill Scott and Ella Fitzgerald may be meets Lauren Hill and I don’t know, Sarah Vaughn. I play the piano and sometimes that show is very different from my show at the venues.

How exactly did you get the deal at DefJam?

LA Reid signed me. Shalik Berry was the A&R who found me. He saw me at Village Underground and had me come to his office about 2 weeks later and a little later had me audition for LA Reid who signed me on the spot.

What is your experience there now?

Oh my goodness. Well, the past year has been recording maybe every day, every other day in the studio all the time. As soon as I got signed I went right to the studio with Babyface and they just decided that Chrisette was gonna right every song on the album. So I worked with a lot of great producers. will.i.am, Babyface, John Legend, I produced some of the music. Salaam Remi as well as gentleman named Keltam and Joe. But I wrote every song, so it was a little exhausting doing more subjects and more context. But it’s been an exciting challenge and it’s been a lot of fun. So we finished [the album].

What are you doing in terms of your own album now?

My first single drops April 9th, it’s called Dream to Me and my album drops June 5th. You have Babyface with the guitar and maybe 6 or 7 guitars underneath it. Then you got John Legend on the keys. Then after that you got will.i.am going crazy with his Hip Hop style. And then you got my raspy soulful voice on top of all of that. There’s lots of live strings, a real soulful album.

Do you feel like a Hip-Hop performer, an R&B singer or do you even define your genre at all?

It’s hard to define it but I decided to just go ahead and call it R&B. Why not? Everybody else can decide when they get it, but I used to around saying ‘It’s kinda Hip Hop, kinda soul, kinda jazz, kinda pop’. I don’t know…

What are your views on other music genres infused in today’s pop music, like jazz, blues, soul and so on?

Well Ella Fitzgerald, Billy Holiday, Sarah Vaughn are my idols. So those are the people I look up to when I’m singing. When I’m writing it’s kind of important for me to melodies that are singable for the pop culture. That’s where I am right now. And I just love Hip Hop. I was raised in a sort of a Hip Hop culture. I used to rap. So I always try to infuse that into my music. I would use Hip Hop infused beats.

Is any of that (rapping) on your new album or are you only singing?

Well, I’m definitely not rapping on my album. The song Good Girl is very Hip Hop oriented. You can play in any Hip Hop gathering, any Hip Hop fellowship. And I’m getting real rowdy towards the bridge or whatever. So it definitely has a lot of Hip Hop vibes. will.i.am’s actually rapping on the album as well so there’s a lot of Hip Hop stuff involved.

When making music, what inspires you nowadays?

You have to say nowadays, didn’t you? A lot of changes have transpired and you know what? John Legend is amazing, Robin Thicke I love him, like adore him. There’s a few people out there that inspire me. And then Beyonce. Her excellence is just wonderful. She’s just very well rounded. As far as what inspires me, I listen to a lot of Broadway musicals, go to a lot of Broadway shows. So you hear my music and you realize that it’s very similar, it’s very theatrical. In the middle of the song I’ll just break down and go (starts singing dramatically). It’s very theatrical, the music. So Broadway definitely inspires me. And then I love the drums of old school Hip Hop. Piano inspires me a lot.

What are the main themes in your music?

There is a song about me and my father and the kind of relationship we had when I was younger. How great of a man he is to me and how much he inspired me. There’s a song Good Girl that talks about the fact that its OK to make your own money, its OK to have your own things. Its OK for your man to feel that he doesn’t have to pay for dinner every night. And there is another song about a beautiful relation, so there is a lot of love songs on my album.

Do you have advice for other up-incoming artists who are hoping to get to where you are?

Yeah. First of all they should go to my MySpace and read my blogs every single day so they can know what they are about to encounter. And also don’t be afraid to be who you are. I don’t really feel that it’s true that you have to be what everybody else thinks you are. You can really be yourself and be amazing. Don’t be afraid to be excellent and don’t be afraid to listen to good advice. And keep family very close. Cause if anything helped me get through the craziest periods of my life… you see my mom standing next to me. My dad is on the way here. Family first before anyone else.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

Moms do know something.

Being an entertainer it is more difficult but do you see yourself making your own family anytime soon?

I’d definitely like to have my own family one day. I don’t know how G-d’s gonna work that out but I’d definitely like to have a family one day.