No one knows you better than your best friend. Lea Michele and I have shared some pretty unique experiences since we met eight years ago. We've simulated sex more than 1,000 times onstage in Spring Awakening. We've performed everything from show tunes to "Like a Virgin" on Glee. I've watched her sing for the President and accept Billboard's first-ever Triple Threat Award, and I've seen her laugh so hard that she peed her pants. Since Glee, she has inspired people across the world with her unapologetic ambition, insane talent, and astonishing grace. Me, especially. I sat down with Lea in Venice, California, at one of her favorite restaurants, Gjelina, to talk about her life and her debut album, and to ask the questions only a best friend is allowed to ask.
JONATHAN GROFF: Sitting here in Venice, it's a far cry from when we met in that dark building in Chelsea, auditioning for Spring Awakening.
LEA MICHELE: It's so crazy. If you told me then that now we'd be here doing an interview because I was on the cover of Teen Vogue for my album and you have your show Looking, I would be like...
LM & JG: [Simultaneously] You are crazy!
LM: You were literally raised on a farm in Pennsylvania, and I grew up working in the city. The fact that we became best friends is so strange.
JG: What do you expect, when we had to be so intimate with each other in Spring Awakening during such formative years?
LM: If I had to kiss you right now, I most certainly could not.
LM: I don't think I could. I really think I would laugh too hard. Whereas we used to make the hell out.
JG: Especially onstage. There was that one time—well, maybe I shouldn't talk about it while we're eating....
LM: You were sick!
JG: Yes. During the hayloft scene, where we always open-mouth kissed. I had the stomach flu and I was going to vomit in your mouth. You opened your mouth and I was like, "Nuh-uh."
LM: At intermission you were vomiting so hard! I was laughing hysterically.
JG: It wasn't funny! I was in so much pain. Ugh.
LM: It's so true. At the end of the day I would most certainly give up Spring Awakening, which was the greatest experience of my life, to have met you. In this lifetime, if there is anything you need, it's a best friend. It's so crazy to talk about Spring Awakening because I feel like we've lived 10 lives since then. I was the one always saying to you, "I'll never get that part. No one will ever hire me." The biggest limits are the ones you make for yourself. You believed in me a lot.
JG: And now your debut album is about to be released. It's kind of incredible, huh?
LM: During Glee, I felt like I was scratching that itch of being an artist. I was at a great place in my life and I was so unbelievably happy—my relationship with Cory made me feel like I could reach for the stars and more. So I was like, "I'm going to challenge myself and do this record now." It's obviously pop, but I think it shows me off as a singer.
JG: I feel like I've never heard you sound this way before.
LM: It's me. It's Lea. It's not Rachel Berry. It's not Lea on Broadway....
JG: Why is it called Louder?
LM: Louder is like me. I'm loud, I come from an Italian family, I don't stop talking.
JG: Oh, I know! What's your favorite song on the album?
LM: My favorite song is, 100 percent, "You're Mine." I listened to it the other day—it was the one song I had the most emotional reaction to, just because that's my relationship with Cory.
JG: What was Cory's favorite song?
LM: He was such a fan, you don't understand. He would be like, "You're going to be a pop star! What are we going to do? Are we going to, like, go on the road?" He would say, "This is going to be big!" And I'd be like, "I don't know." He heard every song and gave me his notes on everything. He loved "Battlefield." I'm getting chills thinking about it. I would say "Burn with You" was his favorite. He came into the studio that day.
JG: I feel like the world has been
LM: I somehow feel the insane love Cory and I had for each other morphed into this strength that I have right now. There's just something about knowing he's watching everything I'm doing and feeling like I have to do everything now not just for me but for him. I also have a safety net below me—if I fall or if it's too much, my friends and family will be there to catch me.