Ingrid’s Anatomy – Interview with Pop Artist Ingrid Michaelson
Ingrid Michaelson is one of this year’s music revelation. All she can do is keep teething. This season’s most listened to unsigned artist continues to sharpen her teeth on song placement after song placement. Her single, The Way I Am, featured in the season finale of Grey’s Anatomy became a hit over the summer and was even one of iTunes Top 10 downloaded songs. Find out exactly what Ingrid Michaelson will and will not bite into.
Interview by performer and songwriter Mario Spinetti for movmnt magazine.
Mario Spinetti: What’s it like to write under the gun for a show like Grey’s Anatomy? You were asked to write for the show’s finale, correct?
Ingrid Michaelson: They actually didn’t ask me to write anything specifically. I found out they wanted original music on the soundtrack while I was already working on a song. So I tailored what I was working on in a different way than I normally would, went to my producer’s house and played it for him. Two weeks later, I had a fully produced track. The rest is what happened.
You’ve had four songs on the show: Breakable, The Way I Am, Corner of my Heart, and Keep Breathing. When I first heard Breakable, it sounded almost custom tailored for the show, with all its body and medical references.
That’s a funny thing, because I wrote that before I’d even seen the show. I remember when everybody was suggesting that I put the music on Grey’s Anatomy, I was like ‘Yeah! You know ‘Breakable would go really well, with all the talk about bones and whatnot.’ I was just joking around, but a few months later when they actually called and said, ‘Yeah, we want to use it.’ I was like, ‘Holy shit!’
Is placing your music in television something you’re aiming to do more of in the future, or do you see your career moving in different directions?
I mean, I’m not going to sing at someone’s wedding, but in terms of television, movies, touring, and writing for other people, I’m completely open to just about everything, as long as I’m being true to myself when I’m writing.
I admire that. Do you feel like it’s easier or harder to be honest these days? You know, with the major label hierarchy deteriorating.
Well with things like MySpace and iTunes, and getting placed in television, it’s easier for independent artists to get their work heard without major labels. I’m gonna see how far I can take it before I need to ask for help. It’s a new world in music. There are no rules anymore and it’s kind of scary but kind of awesome at the same time. We’re just trailblazing and figuring stuff out as we go along.
I heard somewhere that it was actually theater that opened you up to performing.
Yeah. I studied theater in college. That’s what I was going to do. I went to see a friend of mine in this group called Kids on Stage when I was nine, and I guess I told my parents I wanted to do it. I was very, very shy as a kid but I joined up. Funny enough, I ended up teaching for the same group after I graduated college, up until about last month.
Wow! So you only recently left.
Yeah! I couldn’t fully commit to playing shows and working with the kids on theater. I had to choose between the two, and obviously I’m going to choose the one that’s less definite.
So many artists set a goal to quit their day job. Happiness is just being able to sustain a life in the arts.
Yeah, it was really kind of momentous. It wasn’t really a day job, though. I got to dance around with kids, and put on plays, and make costumes and stuff. So I can’t really complain, but I had to make the decision. I can always go back to teaching theater, but I can’t always go back to where I am right now in music. This is the moment to grab I figure.
Amen. Shifting gears: I went to your MySpace page the other day and checked out your publicity photos. In both photographs you’re eating something.
[Laughs]] That’s intentional!
Well, yeah. The hamburger one was intentional, then we did the watermelon one to follow up on the theme. I love to eat food [laughs]]! It’s kind of silly and fun and human, and it shows me in a realistic light; with food in my hand. The ‘sexy shot’ like riding a horse or something? That’s not me.
I think they make you look really personable less intimidating.
[Laughs]] The funniest thing: I was getting some shit for eating a hamburger from the vegetarian portion of my fan base. They were like, ‘Don’t eat meat.’ That was probably half a year ago. And I actually did stop eating cows and pigs about four months ago. So I have this picture of me eating a hamburger even though I don’t actually eat meat anymore! But it was good. It was a bacon double cheeseburger.
It was, I must say. I ate the whole thing. So, that’s going to be the theme. Pictures of me eating different things, depending on the season. There’s an infinite amount of food, so we’ll never run out of ideas!
Is there one season that inspires you most?
Sometimes I’ll be in a dry spell, then I’ll write eight songs, then I won’t write for a while. I don’t think it’s seasonal. It’s more situational. Like an argument I’ll have with my boyfriend.
So you’re in a relationship?
I am! I have been for a long time. Well, not a long time. Two years [laughs]].
Two years! Congratulations, that’s not common by any measure. I’ve seen marriages last for less. [Ingrid laughs]] How’s your boyfriend dealing with all the traveling? Does he travel with you?
No, no! I just go out and come back. It’s very undramatic.
[Laughs]] I’m not a rock star. I don’t go out and get drunk and hang out with hookers. I pretty much do my thing, then I go to wherever I’m going to sleep, and I sleep. My touring schedule is going to get much more arduous in the months to come, though. So who knows what my life’s going to be like. Maybe I will become a rock star, but I doubt it. It doesn’t really attract me. My bandmate is married; she’s been married for a really long time. We’re like old ladies. We drink tea, we watch movies. That’s the way we are.
Maybe the rock star lifestyle is going out of style. Artists have much more responsibility these days. You’re responsible for getting yourself up, getting over to the venue, waking up for the magazine interview [Ingrid laughs]]. No one else is there to make it happen.
Yeah! I love that, though. I like planning things, and organizing, and being ready. We’re early for every date. I’m trying to be smart about everything I do. You know? I’m not going to mess this up.
If you could have lunch with anyone, alive or dead, who would it be?
Cuz she’s awesome, and I feel bad [about]] the way her life ended. I would just want to hug her. I grew up watching lots of Judy Garland, Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, and Ginger Rogers. My idols weren’t Tiffany, and Debbie Gibson, and New Kids. They were people who were born 50 years earlier. I’ve always had a slanted view of pop culture.
Interview by Mario Spinetti
First published in movmnt magazine “Got Fame?” Fall 2007 issue