When she walks into a store in her Brooklyn neighborhood, Ingrid Michaelson is rarely recognized. But once she hands over her credit card to pay, the clerk often pauses, brightens up, and enthusiastically offers a bit of trivia: 'Did you know that there's a singer named Ingrid Michaelson?' This reaction is fitting because Michaelson has earned both acclaim and a loyal following due to her knack for crafting beautiful, idiosyncratic songs ('The Way I Am,' 'Maybe,' 'Keep Breathing') that just nestle in your head. Her new single 'Parachute' is a perfect example of that, showcasing a seamless stylistic growth in melody and beat while nurturing the sound that Ingrid's fans have come to know and love. Image has never been her priority, but let the record show that her librarian-chic style has nonetheless received a shout-out in The New York Times.
Michaelson's grassroots sensibility has worked like gangbusters: Her music, often about love and relationships, has been steadily wafting out of your television set for roughly four years now, be it in an Old Navy ad or in handfuls of Grey's Anatomy episodes (not to mention countless other series such as One Tree Hill, Ugly Betty, and Scrubs) or on VH1 as an artist You Outta Know. The New York Times marveled at how she was 'singing her way from obscurity to fame.' Billboard trumpeted her as the face of the new music business. NPR declared, 'Ingrid Michaelson is everywhere.'
The release of the soaring, blissful 'Parachute'a one-off track available only as a downloadis milestone of sorts for Michaelson. After turning 30, she found herself itching to grow as a songwriter. 'I feel like I've exhausted so many possibilities of writing, as a female singer-songwriter,' she says. For a year and a half, Michaelson had a big, hook-laden song playing out in her mind, so she recruited writer-producer Marshall Altman to help her hash out what would become 'Parachute.' Its fantastical video, directed by Adria Petty (Beyonc, Regina Spektor, Duffy), features the singer as latter-day Amelia Earhart who flies through space rescuing dying planetsa nod to her lyrics' increasingly optimistic bent.
'It didn't feel like something I could put out because it was so poppy,' Michaelson says, happy to give it to another artist. 'We shipped it off for people to take a gander and see who would pick it up.' It took producer, Dan Romer, who worked with Michaelson on her second full-length, 2009's Everybody, to convince her to record it herself. Says Michaelson: 'He kind of jumped on the project, did this really interesting, funky production, and sent it to me. It was rad and cool and different. We put some new vocals on it, and I was like, 'I love it!''
Such serendipity has graced the singer throughout her whirlwind career. The Staten Island-raised daughter of classical-music composer Carl Michaelson, she took piano lessons from the age of five and starred in plays during her grade-school years. Michaelson went on to study musical theater at Binghamton University in upstate New York, where she sang in an a cappella group. After graduating, she cultivated her interest in music by performing at a coffee house where she worked as a barista. She was teaching theater to kids when she got a fateful call in 2006 from a music manager named Lynn Grossman who discovered Michaelson's homegrown music on her MySpace page.
Within a few months, Michaelson's music could be found sound-tracking the romantic-surgical debauchery Grey's Anatomy with songs such as the cascading 'Breakable' and the melancholic lullaby 'Keep Breathing.' A music supervisor for Old Navy just happened to catch the episode featuring the latter and snapped up the cooing, calypso-inflected 'The Way I Am' for one of the company's commercials. (The song ultimately went platinum.) Radio play followed, just in time for the release of her 2007 full-length debut, Girls and Boys (out on Cabin 24, her own imprint). This all happened in about a year. 'We really had a lot of luck, and then we worked really hard to be in the position we're in nowadays,' says Michaelson, who has since released an EP, 2008's Be OK, and a follow-up album, Everybody (both via the Cabin 24 label)each proving fertile resources for music licensors.
Michaelson has spent the past three years on the road and will head out again this October and November on headlining jaunts through the U.S. and Australia. Upon her return, she'll work on her third full-lengthdue in 2011 on Ingrid's own Cabin 24 in partnership with Mom+Popwhich will explore the themes of life and death. (One song is tentatively titled 'The Battle of Brooklyn,' about a Revolutionary War skirmish.) Sonically, the upcoming album will fall 'somewhere between Judy Garland's music and Beyonc and St. Vincent,' the adventurous Michaelson says excitedly, before adding, 'not that I'm gonna come out and have an alter ego!'
For tour dates, news, and merchandise, head to IngridMichaelson.com