Official Biography (courtesy Chrisette Michele)
It has been two years since sultry voiced singer Chrisette Michele released her stunning gold-certified debut I Am. Blessed with a gorgeous instrument and described as a "soulful songbird" by Entertainment Weekly, the Long Island native proved to the world that she could live up to the hype. Nominated for a BET Award for Best New Artist as well as two Grammy's, I Am was both a critical success and a fans delight.
Still, when it came time to begin recording her follow-up, the aptly titled Epiphany, she realized the need to challenge herself. "I felt like I was a little too shy and laidback my first time out," confesses Chrisette. "On my new project I wanted to raise the bar and step-out of my comfort zone. I wanted to make songs that were more edgy, youthful and urban.
Recruiting talented collaborators that include Ne-Yo, the singer/songwriter has infused her jazz vocal style with more pop. Marking a transition away from her traditional leanings to a fuller integration of hip-hop soul, Chrisette Michele was clearly conscious of the next level. Yet, as can clearly be heard on her newest single "Epiphany (I'm Leaving)," the 26-year-old has expanded her musical palette.
Constructed by Ne-Yo and Chuck Harmony, the title-track is a beautiful broken-hearted song that reveals the emotional misery behind Chrisette's lovely smile. "Ne-Yo took out time from his crazy schedule to talk about direction for some of the songs, including the pain of break-ups and the joys of new love," says Chrisette.
Opening with spacey keyboards and girl group backgrounds, Chrisette's bold declaration of fly girl independence ("It's over," she sings) on "Epiphany (I'm Leaving)" sets the tone of most of the disc. "That word â€˜epiphany' just meant so much to me, because it was during the time that I was preparing to record that something clicked in my spirit."
Chrisette's coming back much tougher! Nowhere does that toughness come across more than on the soulful "Blame It on Me." An awesome ballad that colors itself with a little Muscle Shoals soul, there is red dirt earthiness that is just completely raw. "You can say whatever you want, as long as its goodbye," Chrisette wails coldly.
That song is an amazing collaboration with Claude Kelly and Chrisette's writing with Chuck Harmony producing. A producer/ songwriter who is part of Ne-Yo's production collective Compound Entertainment, Chuck has worked on projects with Mary J. Blige, Janet Jackson and Celine Dion.
Since the release of her I Am, Chrisette has always toured endlessly with her band: the Truth and other R&B singers, Raheem DeVaughn, and Solange Knowles. "To me, nothing is more important than touring," she says. "Communicating with the audience through song can be magical. Singing in the studio is one thing, but you must be able to bring it to the stage too."
Citing Japan and Barbados as two of her favorite spots, Chrisette explains, "In Japan, it is just about the music, and an artist is judged by the material, not the latest gossip. While, in Barbados audiences just show such a passion, like they can pick-up what is going on in your heart." In addition, Chrisette also found time to record with The Roots ("Rising Up") and The Game ("Let Us Live").
"Honestly, I was anxious when I went to work with Game, but he turned out to be one of the nicest people I've ever met, and now he calls me â€˜cuz'" Chrisette admits.
As if that was not enough, Chrisette also started working on her acting chops after appearing on an episode of Girlfriends. Playing herself in "What's Black-A-Lacking," an episode directed by series star Tracee Ellis Ross, she says, "That experience was amazing, because they allowed me to have so much input and let me to write my own scenes. Truthfully, there is no feeling like seeing myself on TV."
Ne-Yo and Harmony were inspired to write "Another One." Opening with a lovely acoustic guitar and Chrisette singing quietly, "Another One" slowly builds to the point of explosion. "That is my favorite song on the album," Chrisette admits. Mixing rock guitars with hip-hop drum patterns, the track is an obvious winner. "Nobody captures New American music like Ne-Yo and the Compound crew."
Chrisette Michele worked with Rodney jerkins on the first album. "Anybody who thinks they can go into the studio with Rodney and not work is kidding themselves," she laughs.
While angst and heartbreak is part of Chrisette Michele's persona on her sophomore project, the power and strength of her material gives Epiphany the sound of a future classic. Without a doubt, this is the first great album of 2009.
To listen to the HoneySoul.com interview with Chrisette, CLICK HERE