Singer-songwriter Ingrid Michaelson's tremendous success almost reads like a storybook. Without being on a major label, the indie artist from Staten Island, N.Y. got a huge career boost when 'Grey's Anatomy' used her song 'Breakable' about five years ago. Since then, Michaelson's songs have also appeared on television shows such as 'One Tree Hill' and '90210.' Her last two records made it into the Top 40 of the Billboard album charts, and Michaelson has been on the major talk shows such as 'Ellen' and 'The Tonight Show.'
This past April, Michaelson stopped by at the AOL Music offices to perform a mini-concert while barefoot. It was part of TOMS' 'One Day Without Shoes,' a campaign that brings awareness to the plight of those around the world who don't have shoes to wear. After the performance, the singer spoke to us to talk about her upcoming album-in-the-works (which is possibly to be released this late summer or fall) as well as how her career is so far.
How important is this for you to be a part of One Day Without Shoes?
My music has allowed me to help the world in ways that I wouldn't have been able to beforehand. I'm affiliated with a charity called Stand Up to Cancer and give a percentage of a very specific song to them. I've donate money, ukuleles and whatnots to auction. I don't think I would have been able to do any of that if I wasn't in this position. I was asked [to do One Day Without Shoes] -- it's obviously important. It makes me feel I'm not just sitting around eating and helping myself. I'm very thankful that I was asked to do this.
You're currently recording your next album. How's that coming along?
It's coming along really well. We were hoping to have everything done by now, and we're not at all done. I keep writing more songs, so that's kind of a good thing, because I keep creating new things, and that's what's halting the process, because we have to go in and record that song. It's been a long, arduous process, but the harder you work on something, the prouder you are of it.
Can you tell us what the new songs are like?
I played a few of the songs for my father that we've been working on, and he asked me where are all the peppy songs were. Evidently, there aren't any peppy songs on this record. But that's OK, I'm not a little kid anymore. I love singing my little ukulele songs. But I feel like it's time to stand up and really sing. [This record] is fiercer and not as childlike. Not to dis my old work, but I feel like I've done the whole barefoot singer-songwriter thing [laughs].
Prior to the making of this new album, you released a song called 'Parachute.' Did the style of that song influence the upcoming record?
'Parachute' was a lot poppier, kind of darker. The next record isn't going to sound like that, but I think in the way that 'Parachute' sort of pushes out the limits of what I've been doing in the past; it's stepping across a boundary. I think that's what I'm doing with the record. I don't think the record sounds like 'Parachute,' but I think it's a bit stronger. There are some similarities in that it's different from my previous work. I'm singing harder, I'm pushing more. Hopefully that will be evident.
The last couple of years in your career have been pretty amazing with your independent rise. How are you taking all of this?
It definitely was very exciting at the beginning. I just keep wanting more and more, so I'm kind of at the point where I'm like, "Alright, let's go, let's go." So I'm very thankful, but I'm ready for more.
Does it seem surprising in some respects?
Oh God! Yeah! I live my life in constant surprise. For the first two years, I was convinced that everything was going to stop and I was going to have to go back my old job working with children or waiting tables. Finally, I settled into the idea of maybe this isn't going to go away so easily if I work really hard. And so I just worked really hard.
What has been the highlight for you so far in your career?
I sang at the tree lighting [in Washington, D.C.] with Sara Bareilles in December. I got to meet President Obama and shook his hand and took a picture with the First Family. I was so happy just to be there, that I had this really stupid grin on my face. So in the picture, I looked like a complete goon and I'm all wrapped up in my winter coat. It was pretty awesome.
Your music has also been featured in TV shows. Do you remember where you were the first time you heard your song used on a TV program and what was your reaction?
It was my song 'Breakable' and it was used on 'Grey's Anatomy.' I was at my apartment in Brooklyn, which had cockroaches and mice, it was very unsavory. I had my TV in the living room on and a TV in the bedroom. And I was pacing back and forth, back and forth, just waiting for the moment when my song would come on. I was so anxious that I developed a huge hive on my cheek, so I had to walk around with ice on my cheek. Finally I hear the little piano part, "That's me! That's me!" I was like, "Oh my God!" I was just screaming the whole time.
Have you been approached by the 'Glee' folks about having your song on the show?
No, but I was in musical theater as a kid and in college. And I was in an a cappella group. I just want to be on that show. I would love it if they use my song. Use my song, 'Glee!' I want to be in it -- a nerdy-dorky girl who takes off her glasses and becomes a swan. [In] my acting roles, all I want to do is to be an uncomfortable awkward person.
Aside from recording the new album, are you planning to do any shows this year? Are any other projects you are working on?
Yeah, touring in the fall for the record. This is an important one for me in my career. I think we're gonna put a lot of muscle into this, into this record.
I love her. She's amazing live and a total sweetheart. Can't wait til her next album! :)