This week, "Glee" star Lea Michele releases her debut album "Louder," an 11-song set of club-ready dance anthems and soaring ballads that showcase the 27-year-old actor's voice in a whole new light. The album delves into a slew of different ways of thinking about relationships, from good ol' fashion pining, hooking up with someone who you know isn't right, as well as the grief she experienced after Cory Monteith passed away last July. And it's something she hopes will let her stand out in the pop landscape.
"I didn't want to find songs that I had to change myself for," she says of the tracks on "Louder." "I wanted to find songs that would only highlight my sound and were unique to me. I didn't want to fit any mold. I wanted it to be something that couldn't be replicated by anyone else."
Billboard spoke with Michele about the emotional aspects of "Louder," how music is therapeutic for her, and the TV show she's begging to be on after "Glee."
The pop world is dominated these days by Katy, Miley, Taylor and Gaga. What's unique about yourself as a pop singer?
I love all of those women. They were all inspirations for this record and I just love and respect women who make great music and focus on the vocals. For me as a performer, I really rely on my emotion coming from an acting background. I really use the performance aspect of it in conveying the emotion in my sound. Everything that I sing on this album is incredibly personal to me. It's all things I've experienced. Sharing a part of yourself in your music is really important and that's just what I'm trying to do.
Did you have any studio rituals when you were making "Louder"?
When I started out, my only prior experience to being in a recording studio was for "Glee." The "Glee" process is so fast-paced. You go in, you have to record three songs in two hours. It's like jumping out of a plane, making "Glee." Before you hit the ground, you have to learn all your numbers and sing all your songs and film and entire episode. At the beginning [of recording "Louder"], I would get into the studio and I would say "we gotta do this, come on, lets record three songs today!" By the end, I was coming in, taking a nap, ordering food.
You co-wrote and recorded "If You Say So" after Cory's passing. Did you find that therapeutic or pretty difficult?
It has both sides of the spectrum. Listening to it, it's therapeutic and difficult. It will always represent the most devastating thing that's every happened to me in my whole life. But at the same time, music is therapy. It's been therapy for me in the entire grieving process and in my entire life. I'm grateful that Sia collaborated on that song with me and it's a moment in my life ... music has just been so important and so helpful to me this whole year.
It was important to me that the album began with "Cannonball" and ended with "If You Say So." I have to acknowledge what I've been through this year. It was really difficult, which I think is represented in "If You Say So" and a song like "Cannonball" represents finding strength and hope. These are the two sides of my life right now. The grief, but also the search for strength and hope. I really wanted those two songs to bookend the album. Really let everyone know where I'm at.
A lot of the "Louder" tracks are very club-friendly. What do you look for in a dance song?
Right now, I can't stop listening to the "Cannonball" remix [by Dave Audé]. I'm obsessed with it. For me, I really want songs that I can work out to. I love songs that I can roll down my window and dance to. It's also important for me that I'm not just dancing and saying "what the hell am I saying?" It's important to dance and have fun with a song but also say something important. Which is why I love the song "Louder." It's such a fun song, but it's a nice message.
Did you ever consider getting any rap verses on these tracks?
I don't know . . . coming out of the gate, we were really finding who I am as an artist. Finding what felt right. I think it will be interesting in recording my second album to sorta see what form that album takes. When I look at a song like "Dark Horse" by Katy Perry, where she has Juicy J rap in that – I think that's such a great song. I could see myself doing something like that. But I don't know! I don't think I'm going to be rapping any time soon, but if anyone wants to come and drop a beat, I'm down for that.
Have you started thinking about a follow-up to "Louder"?
Absolutely. I know we're releasing "Louder" right now but I finished this in June, with "Cannonball" and "If You Say So" added over the summer. I haven't really worked on it for awhile, so I'm definitely thinking about a second album. I'm already thinking about what I want it to sound like, what I want it to look like. This record is such a strong representation of what the last two years of my life were like and I don't know what's next for me in my life. But I can't wait. Making music is so incredible; you tell the story of your life through music. I plan on it being very happy, very bright. Maybe not as dark.
What's your post-"Glee" life looking like?
I feel a little weird talking about that. It's still so far away and we have to finish this season ... to get through a day at "Glee," it's so intense and fun and hard. I still have 30 episodes of the series to shoot. But, I really want to tour this album. I have a small window between season five and season six. Definitely when "Glee" is over, I'd love to have the opportunity with the new freedom I have to tour the record.
Have you ever spoken to Ryan Murphy about appearing on "American Horror Story"?
I've basically talked to him about it every day. If I could get my fans to start working on that for me, that would be great. I've been literally begging him. But it would probably have to be for their season five or something like that. I think it would be a great opportunity for people in the acting world to see. I moved to L.A. after working on Broadway and immediately got "Glee." People were introduced to me as Lea Michele, but really as Rachel Berry. Outside of "Glee" and outside of this record will be continued opportunities for people to see me as an actor and as a singer.
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