10 Questions with ... Michelle Chamuel
January 26, 2015
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
From the moment Michelle Chamuel made her television debut on season four of The Voice, the bespectacled singer from Massachusetts charmed audiences and pop stars alike with her soulful covers.
According to Chamuel, "I went to the show looking for a teacher and it turned out Usher was looking for a student" says 28-year-old Chamuel." I was craving the challenges and rewards of being part of a top musical community, and I found that on The Voice."
Look for Michelle Chamuel's debut album is set for release in early 2015.
1) You studied piano and violin very early on in your life. Was there ever a moment when you thought you would do something unrelated to music? Or has this always been the goal for as long as you can remember?
There was a good amount of time before I latched onto music as my life's passion. Starting around age three, I envied the people who got to push the squishy looking buttons at the supermarket and vowed to accomplish squishy button pushing. By age 10, I really wanted to be an author and a secret agent. Then I think I wanted to be a chef-waitress and commercial maker. It was around 7th grade that I really started to hone in on music exclusively.
2) You've been on The Voice, a member of the band Ella Riot, a producer and much more. How have all these different roles made you the musician that you are today?
That's a great question. And a fairly complex answer! To try and simplify it - there are many parts of my artistic personality and they don't all fit neatly into one category (band member, solo artist, producer, songwriter, etc). In order to realize my artistic vision, I find myself constantly needing to learn new things.
For example, when I was in 9th grade, I attended a performing arts summer program for songwriting (thanks Mom!) At the time, I knew I loved to sing and I was really interested songwriting, so I figured "Ah! This is it! I'll study to be a singer-songwriter!" But when the program came to an end and I was handed a CD containing my singer-songwriter work, I took one listen and my face fell. "Why does it sound like this?" I asked the producers, "The instruments and arrangements are so different from what I heard in my head." They looked at me, shook their heads, and said "Honey, if you want to do that, you have to get into production!" And so my quest continues on to learn about many of the dimensions that go into creating music.
3) Please tell us about your experience on The Voice. Would you go back and do it all over again if you could? How did you go about picking your blind audition song, Katy Perry's "I Kissed A Girl"?
I learned so much from being on The Voice and met many wonderful people. Regarding song choice - it was a collaborative effort between The Voice and me. To backtrack a little in my mind, the whole show is like one fluid action. Like touching your ear or walking. It's hard to break up into smaller segments, because looking back it just seems continuous. That said, overall, it was a very important, formative, and valuable experience. The people I worked with on the show are phenomenal and I would absolutely do it again.
4) What was it like being on Team Usher? What made you ultimately decide to be in his camp? Do you two keep in touch still?
When I auditioned for The Voice, I was really looking for a compassionate teacher and a team to be a part of, which was what I found and then some! I chose Usher based on what he said during my blind audition. When he spoke to me, I had this undeniable feeling he was the right coach. I followed my instinct. And we do keep in touch every now and then, though regardless of how often we talk Usher and his team feel like extended family to me.
5) What do you think it is that sets you apart from other singer-songwriters out today?
I tend to have a hard time with this question, because I want to blurt out, "I think everyone is different and stands out and leave it at that" But to expand on this, I believe that when a person listens to themselves and expresses that vision this automatically sets them apart, because the unique combination of our realized passions and talents comes together to make something new.
6) Let's talk about your "Turn It Up" Tour. What can your concert goers expect from your shows?
I'm really looking forward to being live in a room with an audience. For the last year, with the major performances I've done, I've connected with audiences through a screen. This tour has so much care, thought, love, and work put into it and I can't wait to share it with the people who come out in all the cities! Also, I have a few surprises up my sleeve (insert smiley face). :)
7) Your debut album, "Face The Fire," will be out early next year. How does that feel to release this album? What songs are you most proud of and excited for fans to hear?
Yeah! It feels great! I can't choose!! That's like asking a parent to pick a favorite child! What I can say is that there are many different sonic influences on the album that all come together.
8) How is the music on "Face The Fire" different then the music you previously released under "The Reverb Junkie"?
"Face The Fire" is a more "pop" sound than "The Reverb Junkie" album. Also, "The Reverb Junkie" is experimental and modeled after artists like Daft Punk, James Blake, Burial, and SBTRK who are somewhat self-effacing in the way they put their music between themselves and the audience.
With "Face The Fire," my personality is intentionally fore-fronted, the words are clearer, and it's crafted so that people can sing along. Thinking about it now, it's sort of a paradox. A pop album like "Face The Fire" takes more people to make. I worked alongside my collaborators like Theo Katzman and Tyler Duncan to make this album, and I think my personality is quite accessible in it. While "The Reverb Junkie" is just me, and oddly enough, I think my personality is somehow more obscured. It takes more patience to decipher the artist behind "The Reverb Junkie."
Additionally, I think part of the beauty of pop music that I hope to bring out in "Face The Fire" is that good pop is so well crafted, you don't even realize how much work went into it to get it to sound so effortless. It's magic.
9) More times than not, influences tend to bleed through. What bands are currently inspiring the music that you're making?
Wow! So many!! I love this question! I will start listing: Sohn, Burial, Apparat, Robyn, Benny Blanco, Bloodshy and Avant, Jenny Lewis, Ben Gibbard, Jimmy Tamborello, St. Vincent, Mary Lambert, Ella Fitzgerald, Feist, Chilly Gonzales, ODESZA, Tyler Duncan, Theo Katzman, Vulfpeck, Wye Oak, Imogen Heap, and Max Martin. Just the tip of the iceberg here.
10) Is there anything in particular that you'd like people to take away from listening to your music?
I'd love for people to be able to make a home in the music I put out. Music has always been good company for me, and I write music to keep myself company. I hope people will find company in this music too.
Thus far, what's a favorite memory or something quirky that's taken place with you (in-studio, onstage, or elsewhere)?
Well, one time that stands out is the time Ella Riot was on the road and our short bus that ran on waste vegetable oil started leaking oil inside the bus. So all this garbage grease was rolling down the aisle and under our feet. We pulled over in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night, and we had no idea what to do to clean it up. All of a sudden, I shouted, "we have to put dirt on it to clean it up!" and everyone looked at me like I was nuts. We did it though and it worked. We threw piles of dirt into our already oil covered bus and the dry, dusty dirt soaked up the oil. Afterwards, we all laughed at the absurdity of the situation we were in.
*Thank you to Leah Adams who contributed to this article.